Study finds using a treadmill while working can boost employee productivity

Mar 04, 2014

Walking while you work may not only improve an employee's health, it may also boost productivity, according to new research from the University of Minnesota just published in PLOS ONE.

Carlson School of Management professor of Work and Organizations Avner Ben-Ner and his coauthors studied employees using treadmills instead of office chairs as they work. The subjects were 40 employees of a Twin Cities financial services company. Their offices were refitted to have a computer, phone, and writing space on a desk in front of a treadmill to be operated by the employee at up to two mph. The walkers were studied for one year and data on and work-related activities and events were collected through surveys of the walkers and their supervisors. Additionally, each walker was given an monitoring device a month before their treadmills were installed. These devices were to be worn continuously during waking hours.

The results of the study were encouraging – the treadmills had a significantly favorable impact on both physical activity and work performance. As would be expected, walkers were burning more calories than before the study began – by about 7 to 8 percent a day. "It's not a lot, but if you take a sedentary office worker and you spread it around the day, that's a good outcome," Ben-Ner says.

'Substantial Increase' in Productivity Observed

More interesting is the marked increase in . After an initial decline as employees learned how to adjust to walking while working on their tasks, productivity went up. Production measures were derived from employee and supervisor surveys of quantity of performance, quality of performance, and quality of interaction with co-workers. An overall performance measure was on a 10-point scale.

"For the duration of the study, productivity increased by close to a point," Ben-Ner says. "That's a substantial increase." Ben-Ner calls the outcome of the study a win-win situation. "It's a health-improving option that costs very little. I think there will be an increasing number of employers who will invest $1,000 or $2,000 in outfitting a persons' workstation," he says. "The employer benefits from the employee being active and healthy and more smart because more blood is flowing to the brain."

Ben-Ner suggests that future research could examine various circumstances that could affect employee performance. It may be that less physically fit employees or those who have more cognitively complex tasks may gain relatively more from the use treadmill workstations. Generational difference among also may play a role.

"I'm willing to bet my hat and my boots too that millennials will be more open to something like this because they grew up and came of age in a time concerning these types of things," he says. "It will be easier than trying to break in someone who is 50 years old and a lifelong sedentary person and get them to start walking."

Explore further: Do consumers think products are better when companies donate to charity?

Related Stories

Warning: Your open-plan office can make you ill

Feb 25, 2014

Don't blame other commuters if you catch a cold this winter: blame the people who designed your office. According to a study published in the current issue of Ergonomics, workplace layout has a surprising effect on rates ...

Recommended for you

Outside CEOs could rejuvenate struggling businesses

10 hours ago

CEOs hired from outside a company tend to spend more money on research and development, while CEOs hired from within are likely to make large, strategic acquisitions, new research from the University of Missouri ...

Do government technology investments pay off?

Mar 30, 2015

Studies confirm that IT investments in companies improve productivity and efficiency. University of Michigan professor M.S. Krishnan wondered if the same was true for government.

Study finds assisted housing works, but it could be improved

Mar 30, 2015

Two researchers from the University of Kansas Department of Urban Planning have just completed a study on the locations of assisted housing units and assisted households across the nation. It examines one of the key issues ...

Economist probes the high cost of health care

Mar 27, 2015

When Zack Cooper arrived at Yale as assistant professor of public health and economics, he gained access to a first-of-its-kind dataset. Working with the non-profit Health Care Cost Institute, Cooper and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.