Can Anthro “Walk the Talk”?: Employees embark on a 30-Day Sit-Stand Challenge
Monday, October 11, 2010
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Web Site: www.anthro.com
For decades now Anthro Corporation, a maker of a wide variety of adjustable height desks, has been preaching that ergonomics can improve workplace productivity, absenteeism, and morale. But when they were profiled in a New York Times article about the benefits of standing on the job, it inspired the Portland, Oregon-area firm to really put their principles – and products – through the paces.
Co-founder Cathy Filgas, who drives most corporate culture initiatives, issued a company-wide 30-day Sit-Stand Challenge. “The typical employee spends eight hours a day chained to a chair, which isn’t healthy for the mind or body -- or the sluggish American economy,” she says. “We committed to get 30% of the company to stand during 30% of the workday, for 30 days," she says.
By encouraging employees to toggle between sitting and standing, rather than staying in one position, Anthro bet it could help employees be even more productive and creative. And after one month, and 2,250 hours logged standing, the firm’s Wellness Committee says “the proof’s in the pudding.”
Results of Anthro’s survey of employee participants echo the findings of many of other researchers, such as Microsoft:
-Nine out of ten linked the setup and design of their workstation to personal productivity.
-Two-thirds tied the fatigue they experience during the week to time working at a computer.
-Most reported performance increased up to 25% when using an ergonomic workstation.
-100% would repeat the 30-Challenge, and in fact, would like it expanded to include stretching, stationary biking, light weight lifting, etc.
Standing, shifting, and puttering eased muscle tension, aches and pains, as well as “brain strain” among folks in all departments. Then their bodies and brains returned the favor by doing better work, and much more quickly.
Here’s how Anthro stood up to the challenge, and how you can, too.
Exit the hot seat
Adjust your desk or other work surfaces. What's comfortable for one person may be torture for another. The Rolls-Royce solution, of course, is an adjustable surface that moves up and down in seconds with the touch of a button. (Stay away from cumbersome crank-operated lifts, warn ergonomists – they rarely get adjusted.) Another option: an L-shaped workstation with one side low, like a standard desk, and the other high for standing, so you can toggle back and forth. At Anthro, the sit-stand solutions ran the gamut from A (Adjustable Laptop Cart) to Z (Zido Cart).
The best posture is the next one. No one position is sustainable for long periods, so change positions often. Optimally, you would shift through a range of motions, mainly sitting, standing, or perching on a high stool. Maybe you'll decide to hold one position for emailing, another for paperwork, and still another for phone calls. Or, mix it up with one type of setup at work, and a different one at home.
Create an active routine. Habits can stubbornly resist change. Remember to stand by associating it with an activity (checking email, etc.) or time of day. Popular times are first thing in the morning when you're fresh or after a sluggish period, such as a desk-bound lunch break. Standing at your desk allows you quick access to technology – walking past your computer you can send an email on the fly – without ever slowing down to sit.
Feel the burn
Expect your feet to ache at first. Be kind to your tootsies and wear supportive shoes with cushioned soles. Kick off high heels, and if that's not possible, sit it out that day. Foot injury happens slowly and silently - you may not be aware of a developing problem until it's too late. Consider getting a gel mat to stand on if your workspace has hardwood or concrete floors.
Standing may be psychologically uncomfortable, too. Some staff will feel antsy after a few minutes of standing, sure they need to be on the move. To those with a retail or restaurant background, say, standing may even have a negative connotation. Be persistent. Your subconscious mind will soon register that standing signals a state of relaxed concentration.
Be creative about getting your blood flowing. In addition to shifting and stretching, you may want to try yoga poses during the day. Or make up your own moves. A standing position that has taken off at Anthro is called the Flamingo; employees balance on one leg for short stretches. At all times make a special effort to keep your knees slightly bent and relaxed. Occasionally elevate one foot by placing it on a footrest, low shelf or drawer, or even a waste basket.
Half way there
Set up reminders. Schedule a reoccurring email reminder or set a clock application to buzz every so often as a reminder to stretch, shift, and stand. Go low-tech and put up notes on your computer. Or use an auditory reminder by playing standing-themed songs (“Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown is a favorite track on the Anthro Challenge playlist). Best of all, join with others who are also trying to work in a healthier manner and egg each other on.
Keep a couple of different style chairs around. It's easier to sit, stand, or perch when you have a varied set of seating options. Consider adding a spare height-adjustable stool or a reclining chair so you can relax during those long phone calls. Also, with additional seating, groups can huddle around a computer for ad-hoc meetings.
Chair-sentenced workers can still find relief. Even if you can't revamp your fixed desk-height workstation, you can still shake things up. Instead of emailing coworkers, walk over and talk to them - while standing. Take a brisk walk during your lunch time. Climb the stairs, rather than riding the elevator. Every hour, on the hour, stretch up and down. Perch on a stool or lean against a credenza during staff meetings. Put your phone on an elevated platform and reach high to answer it, or stand up for some conversations.
Never gonna give you up
Recognize how far you've come. It can take a while for you to build up to standing comfortably for more than an hour. That's fine. You'll learn to shift your weight, lean on surfaces, perch half-way on a seat, etc. One day soon, you'll be amazed at how conditioned you've become; while working a trade show booth from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm without a sitting down once, say.
Retraining yourself to sit and stand during the workday can be, well, a challenge. But at Anthro we believe it's worth it -- especially when you're powering through those super-productive 10- to 12-hour days on a great project! Remember that old maxim, and the Anthro rallying cry: One man on his feet is worth two in his seat!
5 Ways a Sit-Stand Challenge Can Go Gangbusters
We conducted weekly surveys and employees commonly reported these “wins”:
“Sometimes all I need to get over a creative hurdle is to change my position from standing to sitting, or vice-versa.” – Michael Morris, Graphic Designer
“I now do more strategic work at the keyboard, versus getting bogged down with routine tasks, like email.” – Nichole Stutzman, Marketing Manager
“I got rid of achy neck pain after hours of sitting.” – Cathy Filgas, Co-founder
“Now that I’m working standing up, anyone coming to see me stands too; meetings are much quicker now.” – Shoaib Tareen, President
”We gather as a team around a stand-up height monitor, without jamming our chairs around a desk to see a table-height screen.” – Michael Mullin, Industrial Design Manager
5 Ways a Sit-Stand Challenge Can Go Sideways
During our month-long Challenge, we learned a few lessons about what can go wrong, too:
1. Sandals are never a good idea. Wear supportive shoes for stand-up work.
2. Don’t forget. Set up reminders until the stand up habit is ingrained.
3. Sometimes sitting is best. Don’t insist on standing if it doesn’t fit the task.
4. Not everyone enjoys standing. Don’t force folks to participate if they don’t want to.
5. Do it right away. If you wait too long to stand you may not have the energy. Or the opportunity. (You may feel awkward as the only person standing at a late-day meeting, say.)