Stand Up

Too much sitting isn’t just bad for your health. It’s bad for your work, too.

That’s the conclusion of a 2014 paper out of Washington University in St. Louis by professors Andrew Knight and Markus Baer. While “standing meetings” have gained attention in some circles for their efficiency, the researchers’ work sheds new light on why standing makes employees more productive.  

The researchers studied teams tasked with making a university recruitment video. The groups worked in rooms that either had chairs around a table or no chairs at all. As it turns out, the participants in the standing meeting were more physiologically engaged, as measured by a small wrist sensor. They were also less territorial, the researchers found, or likely to wall things off as “mine” when working together.

“Together, the physiological activation and reduced territoriality led people to come up with ideas in a more collaborative way,” Knight said, adding that the process of building off one another and suggesting improvements tends to yield better ideas and more effective groups.

Of course, this isn’t to suggest throwing out every chair in the office. Instead, think of the physical space when organizing a meeting or project.

Knight and Baer said the most relevant finding for talent managers is that physical space can have a tremendous influence on how people generate ideas in groups. “Seeing changes in the way people view and respond to one another because we took the chairs out of the room is fairly remarkable,” Knight said.