Future Friday: Technology and Employee Fitness


Could this be the standard desk of the future?
Could this be the standard desk of the future?

I was reading an interesting post on technology that started with the words “I’m writing these words at 2.5 miles per hour.” Well it was obvious this was not someone riding either a train or bus to work. Even in bad traffic 2.5 mph is a bit slow. Delving into the article revealed a piece of technology that may improve employee fitness.
Walking at work
We have all seen them, the treadmill desk. Some people have been using them for years. The author of the quote above, Lex Friedman, says he has been using his for a while. He was writing a review of something called the Fitbit Flex wristband. But his use of the treadmill desk got me thinking. Another friend, Dwane Lay, mentioned on Facebook that he had converted his desk to a standing desk. More and more people are starting to take a look at these in order to improve their personal fitness.
My thought however, was what if companies start thinking about this? What if companies start installing treadmill desks as the “normal” piece of office equipment? Would the increases in employee health and subsequently productivity offset the cost of such equipment? Indeed, would this equipment be all that more expensive than regular desk setups?
What would the advantages be of having this sort of equipment? How about:

  • Fitter employees
  • Reduced healthcare costs and issues
  • Higher productivity
  • Ability to attract candidates that were interested in this
  • A “cool” factor

Naturally there is a potential downside. These might include:

  • Having to have alternative equipment for people with disabilities
  • Having to have alternative equipment during rest periods
  • People hesitant to walk that much in “dressy” work clothes

Of course you don’t have to have a treadmill desk for every employee. What about having several desks like this on hand that would allow people to use them as they desire? Give them an alternative workstation that would allow them to get out of a chair for a part of their workday.
It is something to think about. Anyone currently doing this?

5 thoughts on “Future Friday: Technology and Employee Fitness”

  1. Mike, Yes!
    Knowing that we sit for 9+ hours each day (for work alone; includes commute time) and that this sitting is linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, earlier death—not to mention the productivity and creativity movement spurs, as you mention—companies are starting to pay attention.
    Lots of companies are doing this as well as offering adjustable-height desks, facilitating at-work breaks, and doing a variety of other things to put movement back into our day.
    I sat on a panel at SXSW about sitting disease and how technology can reverse what it’s wrought. I also presented recently at WorldatWork’s Total Rewards conference about the innovative ways companies are approaching the issue.
    Here are links to slides and posts that may interest you and your readers:

  2. Almost 1 year ago, I built a stand-up desk from an antique door, a sheet of glass, and some cedar posts. Less than $300.
    I haven’t incorporated the walking element yet, but immediately noticed the change of standing much of the day [which is sad, really, that simply standing engaged so many muscles]. When I want a break, I pull up the barstool–which is just the right height.
    I easily see the scenario where an employer provides standing workstations–for individuals & small groups that gather for collaboration.

    • Bill,
      I think lots of people are hacking solutions like you did. I haven’t purchased a treadmill or adjustable desk (yet), but I also stand at a counter and try to otherwise vary my sitting/standing routine. Plus, I inject 2-minute activity breaks into my day with the help of an app.

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