The Next Revolution in Office Fitness: Sit-Stand Conference Tables

August 16, 2020

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boring onference meetings
Add insult to injury by consuming sugary snacks while enduring long, metabolism-stunting sitting sessions around a conference table.

Among the few things I think we can all agree on without any reservation whatsoever is that there isn’t a soul alive who relishes sitting in long meetings. Everyone who has ever been sentenced to attend an hours-long meeting has complained about the lack of movement, sore back and legs, and difficulty staying focused on the conversation. It’s dreadfully hard to not become distracted by emails, texts, and other buzzings on our devices, or the view out the window. Not to mention the temptation of high-carb snacks, donuts, and bagels to complement excessive amounts of carbonated and caffeinated beverages that are standard fare for long-endurance meetings.

Going beyond standing desks, treadmill desks, and desktop risers – all of which are workstation solutions – there’s a new weapon in the fight to vanquish sitting disease in the corporate environment: the adjustable-height conference table. You haven’t seen many of these yet because up until now they’ve been exorbitantly expensive, but in the next few months there’ll be several new models introduced that are eminently affordable and sure to become popular with progressive organizations that care about employees’ health. We’ll let you know about these as soon as we review them at the WorkWhileWalking labs. Sign up for our free newsletter if you aren’t already a subscriber, so you don’t miss these upcoming reviews.

According to research that Dr. James Levine expounds upon his brilliant new book Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, standing meetings are more productive, and consume on average 15 minutes less than sitting meetings. Multiply those 15 minutes by the average number of attendees, then multiply that by the average number of meetings your organization holds in a year, and the financial impact quickly adds up to an impressive figure. But that’s only one of the many cost justifications for replacing your staid, old conference room table with one that can move up and down with the push of a button.

American office workers are simply spending too much time in their chairs, leading to a near-epidemic rise in metabolic syndrome (obesity and diabetes), poor leg circulation, lower back pain, and a host of other maladies generally encapsulated under “the term sitting disease” – not to mention the worst effect of all, a reduced lifespan. The increasing cost of health care is a very real thing, and three-fourths of that cost is absorbed in battling chronic issues like diabetes and muscular pains. So, sitting bad, standing good. Walking even better, but that’ll be the subject of another blog post later on about using treadmill desks configured for walking meetings.

We’ve long felt that the focus on upgrading your sitting desk to a sit-stand or treadmill workstation was the right thing to do first. That said, addressing the problem of long sit-down meetings should be treated with more urgency than it has been. Introducing standing meetings can have a significant force-multiplier effect on workforce health by simply reducing the sheer number of hours that employees typically spend sitting in meetings, especially executives and senior managers who are already overly-chairbound. Just like ergonomic chairs that enable you to spend more time sitting are not really an solution to sitting disease, a conference room full of comfy Aeron chairs is also not really a solution to sitting disease.

A SCRUMptious New Twist on Team Huddles

Scrum meetings are named after the scrum maneuver in rugby, honoring the notion of teamwork

There’s another new trend in corporate America that is dovetailing with the new interest in height-adjustable conference tables, and that’s the “daily scrum” meeting. Most popular within technology companies, but finding widespread adoption across many industries now, these meetings are typically held in the same location and at the same time each day. Ideally, a daily scrum meeting is held in the morning, as it helps set the context for the coming day’s work. These scrum meetings are strictly time-boxed to 15 minutes. This keeps the discussion brisk but relevant.

iMovR’s soon to be introduced Synapse Scrum Table

Daily scrum meetings are generally “departmental,” usually held in a room, open area or hallway within that department’s general vicinity. What you often see in these meetings is people struggling to take notes on their smartphones, tablets, or laptops while standing. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a standing table available for these meetings, where employees can bring their devices and computers with them so they can take notes without all the gymnastics? Well, iMovR is bringing out just such a table in the next couple months, and we can’t wait to review it for you.

Some Tips for Holding Effective Standing Meetings

Standing meetings are more productive than sitting meetings by nature. People find that they are able to speak with more confidence, and that others pay more attention to what they have to say, when standing. This subtle virtue of the standing meeting can help meeker members of the bunch feel more equal to their peers.

If you’re going to have a lunch meeting, make it a standing one. Metabolically it’ll help shave the peak off everyone’s blood glucose and prevent that post-lunch sugar coma that overcomes many employees who go back to their desks after lunch. Standing will help them burn off all that newly converted energy (blood sugar) instead of letting their bodies store it as fat and turn their brains into mush.

If you are going to have a sitting meeting, try mixing it up with a refreshing standing session, perhaps alternating from sitting to standing every 30 to 45 minutes. Sure, you may have the occasional protest from a chair lover, but the vast majority of your employees will eagerly embrace the opportunity to get unseated.

An Umbrella Stand Full of Mogos

focal mogo extended product imageWe’ve been testing adjustable-height conference tables here at WorkWhileWalking for the past six months. One of the things we’ve noticed is that people love bringing their Mogo kickstand seats to meetings, as they are perfectly adjustable for both sitting and standing meetings. For that matter, Focal Upright’s new Mobis seats were designed to surround a sit-stand conference table. The Mogos are so compact that they’re easy to take with you to any meeting, and trade out the back-stiffening chair for the healthier, happier leaning stance of one of these “active seating” options.

Consider putting a large bucket in the corner of all your conference rooms, filled with collapsible Mogo kickstand seats. Or, leave them assembled and ready to go, hanging on towel hooks just inside the door to the conference rooms.

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