Treadmill desks help boost job performanceNews added by Benefits Pro on March 5, 2014

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By Dan Cook

The treadmill was once a derogative reference to the world workers faced every day from 9 to 5. But when a Minneapolis company actually added treadmills for their employees to use, their experiences began to redefine the term.

The company, Salo, has long had a culture that emphasized the health of its employees. In 2008, it acted upon an article from the Mayo Clinic about the benefits of workplace treadmills by inquiring into ways it could integrate them into workers’ daily routines.

That started Salo’s treadmill experience. Learning of Salo’s use of treadmills, a University of Minnesota team decided to use the company’s employees as lab hamsters. The team wanted to find out whether treadmills contributed to higher productivity.

What it found was that, once employees figured out how to do all their work on a treadmill, their productivity improved. It took some getting used to, because keyboard manipulation while strolling along at two miles an hour on a treadmill can be difficult.

But, the researchers said, most employees mastered even the most difficult tasks while milling about, and then their productivity jumped, by an average of nearly 10 percent, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Avner Ben-Ner, a professor of Work and Organizations at the Carlson School of Management, set up the study so that it focused on just 40 employees in order to tightly control the number studied and to be able to study them in depth.

Workers had a computer, a phone and writing space on a desk in front of a treadmill set to go no faster than 2 miles per hour. No one was forced to use the treadmill all day long, and they had other options, such as standing at their desks or sitting on an exercise ball.

The year-long study concluded that the product of workers who spent most of their day working while walking on the treadmill benefited the most of the various options. Ben-Ner said that, overall, the study suggests movement contributes to better work results, particularly for “brain workers” who usually sit all day. He told the newspaper that investing $1,000 to $2,000 to add a movement component to a workstation would more than pay for itself in productivity gains.

“The employer benefits from the employee being active and healthy and more smart because more blood is flowing to the brain,” Ben-Ner said.

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