Study finds height adjustable workstations help workers be more productive, concentrate better, and improve overall health after leaving the office
ATLANTA, GA—A new study finds that adjustable workstations—commonly known as “sit-stand desks”—may be beneficial in reducing sedentary behavior and supporting health outside the workplace. Study results were recently published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management (IJWHM). Funded by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation’s Transform grant, interim study results were announced on the ASID website last year. The final study, “Stand Up to Work: Assessing the Health Impacts of Adjustable Workstations,” found that sit-stand desks are linked to increased productivity, better mental concentration, and improved overall health in employees who used sit-stand desks over a 12-month period. Most employees reported that the sit-stand desks had a positive impact on their health outside the workplace.
“What makes this study different from any other sit-stand desk study—which is also what made it worthy of peer review and publication—is the combination of its long duration and its inclusion of complementary qualitative data,” says lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Garland, associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Most studies conclude after just a few months. Ours lasted a full year. This allowed us to assess both the objective and subjective health impacts of sit-stand desk usage, from perceived stress and well-being to measurable changes in sedentary behavior.”
Garland collaborated with a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Center for Active Design (CfAD), global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, and furniture manufacturer Steelcase to carry out the study. Perkins+Will and Steelcase are both committed to advancing healthy buildings and products as Advisory Board members and Champions of Fitwel, a healthy building certification operated by CfAD.
The team evaluated sedentary behavior changes in office workers who received adjustable workstations that allowed them to shift between standing and sitting, and compared their behavior to that of workers with traditional desks. Half of the participants—randomly selected from one floor of Perkins+Will’s Atlanta studio—received Steelcase adjustable workstations, while participants on other floors maintained traditional desks. Polling measured sedentary behavior, and participants reported perceived stress and ongoing behavioral changes before installation and at three months, six months, and 12 months after installation. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analyzed.
Compared with participants using traditional desks, participants who received the adjustable workstations reported that, at both three months and six months after installation, they sat for significantly less time. In all, 47 percent of participants with AWS reported decline in upper back, shoulder, and neck discomfort. After twelve months, 88 percent of participants who received the adjustable workstations reported that they were convenient to use; 65 percent reported increased productivity; and 65 percent indicated that they positively impacted their health outside of the workplace. Participants with adjustable workstations also reported better concentration and would recommend them for their worksite.
“As a research-driven design firm that’s committed to health, well-being, and sustainability, ‘Stand Up to Work’ was a particularly important project for us,” says John Haymaker, director of research at Perkins+Will. “The results validate many of our workplace design decisions, and provide the concrete proof points that data-driven clients are looking for when choosing design solutions.”
“As the operator of the Fitwel Certification System, we see the continuous demand for research and data to support and drive the implementation of healthy design strategies,” says Abbie Watts, senior researcher at the Center for Active Design, “The ‘Stand Up to Work’ study is an important piece of research that grounds our workplace initiatives and contributes to the larger body of research that supports how we make the connection between health and the design of the built environment.”
“The health of any organization is dependent on the wellbeing of its most important asset – its employees,” said Lynne Sullivan, director of Steelcase Wellbeing consultants at Steelcase. “This study proves that adjustable workstations are an essential part of a workplace that considers the physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing of its people.”
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About the Center for Active Design
The Center for Active Design (CfAD) is the leading international non-profit organization that uses design to foster healthy and engaged communities. CfAD takes a multi-disciplinary approach to translating research into practical design solutions. CfAD guides the creation and implementation of initiatives that respond to unique community priorities and result in measurable outcomes. For more information about CfAD, please visit www.centerforactivedesign.org and follow CfAD on Twitter @active_design.
About the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is committed to the prevention of diseases with environmental origins and encompasses the allied fields of occupational and environmental medicine, biostatistics, and behavioral science. Since its creation nearly 50 years ago, the department has been at the forefront of environmental health research, education, and clinical practice, leading to discoveries that have made a positive impact on millions of lives. Learn more at http://icahn.mssm.edu/about/departments/environmental-public-health.
About Perkins+Will’s Research Program
Perkins+Will is dedicated to innovation and the advancement of design through original research and collaboration. The firm believes that it can improve the performance of buildings and the health of our environment by taking a more in-depth look at the issues facing the design profession. The firm’s research group is led by Director of Research John Haymaker and includes a fellowship program and partnerships with academic and research institutions. In November 2011, Perkins+Will launched a new nonprofit organization, AREA Research, for the purpose of advancing design through dedicated research. The formation of this organization represents a commitment to continued long-term research efforts by Perkins+Will.
About Steelcase Inc.
For over 105 years, Steelcase Inc. has helped create great experiences for the world's leading organizations, across industries. We demonstrate this through our family of brands - including Steelcase®, Coalesse®, Designtex®, PolyVision®, AMQ™ and Turnstone®. Together, they offer a comprehensive portfolio of architecture, furniture and technology products and services designed to unlock human promise and support social, economic and environmental sustainability. We are globally accessible through a network of channels, including over 800 Steelcase dealer locations. Steelcase is a global, industry-leading and publicly traded company with fiscal 2018 revenue of $3.1 billion. www.steelcase.com