The Next Revolution in Office Fitness: Sit-Stand Conference Tables
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If you’ve ever felt like you just wanted to pass out…
Among the few things that everyone in corporate America can agree on these days is that there isn’t a soul alive who relishes sitting in long meetings. Everyone who has ever been sentenced to attending 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 going off on our devices, or the view out the window. Not to mention the temptation of high-carb snacks, donuts, and bagels to be washed down with excessive amounts of carbonated and caffeinated beverages. All standard fare for long-endurance meetings. Don’t even try to bring carrot sticks and hummus if you don’t want people going on excursions for junk food and coffee.
Going beyond standing desks and treadmill desks – 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.
If you haven’t seen many of these yet, it might be because they’ve been exorbitantly expensive up until recently. But nowadays there’s a plethora of adjustable-height meeting tables that are eminently affordable and sure to become popular with progressive organizations that truly care about employees’ health. (And more keep coming, so be sure to sign up for our free newsletter to stay abreast of the latest office fitness gear.)
A spectrum of options, from purely utilitarian to prestigiously luxurious
We’ve been testing sit-stand meeting tables for years here at the WorkWhileWalking labs, and have been huge fans of the concept within our own organization. You can check out all those reviews in our comprehensive round-up of the Best Height-Adjustable Conference Tables.
When height-adjustable meeting tables first came to market they were mostly on the utilitarian end of the spectrum, with simple tabletop materials and basic colors, and a very limited number of sizes. These tables rarely found a spot in the law firm’s glass-walled conference room that can be seen from the elevator lobby, but they continue to increase in popularity elsewhere in the building.
All that has changed recently with the introduction of some stunningly beautiful solid wood sit-stand conference tables that come in sizes as large as 42″ x 89″. For example, in iMovR’s Lander Collection you can outfit an entire executive office with state-of-the-art, matching solid wood furniture. Not only can the standing desk and conference table both be height-adjustable, but there are an increasing number of matching accessories like mobile file pedestals, credenzas, book cases, and fly decks to pull the entire room together.
The medical science behind standing meetings
According to research that Dr. James Levine expounds upon his brilliant 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 chair-bound. Just like ergonomic chairs that enable you to spend more time sitting are not really a 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
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.
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.
What’s the best kind of sit-stand table to use for scrum meetings? It doesn’t need to be fancy, and probably doesn’t need any power outlets in the center. iMovR’s Synapse tables are super popular for scrum meetings in the tech community, usually in smaller sizes for accommodating small work groups of 4-10 people.
Being much less expensive than formal conference tables, companies can afford to sprinkle these smaller tables throughout the campus. Often, these are found in “cafe” areas or within departments to make it easy to have a quick and efficient huddle with your colleagues, without having to bother with scheduling a conference room elsewhere in the building.
Some pro tips on 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 longer meeting where some will want to sit, 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.
We’ve installed several sit-stand meeting tables at the WorkWhileWalking offices over the years, and definitely have some staff favorites when it comes to accessorizing the conference rooms for maximum comfort and productivity.
Probably the single most important accessory is going to be to pick up a handful of portable 18″x22″ Ecolast anti-fatigue mats to pass around the room. These make a huge difference in comfort, easily tripling the amount of time participants are going to be able to stand in comfort (whether in shoes or barefoot; these mats have an anti-bacterial surface). And they come in several colors so everyone can pick out their favorite.
Next, some people will prefer to keep the table at standing height but to sit on a height-adjustable stool from time to time to take the load off their feet. We have at least two dozen different standing desk stools around the offices and lab, but our staff favorite is hands-down going to be the Energy Stool, which many also have at their personal workstations.
Lastly, when it comes to bringing charging ports up to the user, some desks offer power modules that mount underneath the table top at various points around its circumference. We’re talking AC outlets, USB-A and USB-C. This is the new way of doing things, rather than having big, expensive power modules cut into the center of the table that just result in having a bunch of cables and power supply bricks cluttering the beautiful surface.
Learn about all the options in our round-up of the best sit-to-stand meeting tables.
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