Telecommuting and Treadmill Desks – a Perfect Pairing for the War on Sitting Disease
According to a 500-employee study described in this report podcast from Freakonomics and NPR, the 250 control employees who switched to telecommuting experienced a 15% boost in productivity compared to the other 250 who continued to drive to work every day. OK, not too surprising given the many noisy distractions in a typical office environment.
Another study by Washington University looked at the health effects of commuting and determined people who live more than 10 miles from their work are more likely to have high blood pressure than people with shorter commutes. People who commute more than 15 miles each way are much more likely to be obese, perhaps because people who commute that distance don’t get enough daily activity and are on the path to sitting disease.
“Most of the findings were fairly intuitive,” says Christine Hoehner, the lead author of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. “But this is the first study to show that long commutes take away from exercise and lead to conditions that are strong predictors of diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.”
So what does this mean for corporations looking to improve the health of their employees and lower health care costs? With the advent of modern computing and communications advancements, telecommuting has become a viable alternative for many employees whose jobs include sitting much of the day. Call Center employees are ideal candidates for working from home. In fact, several companies have already tested the deployment of treadmill desks in their call center departments and documented tremendous improvements. In as little as six months, workers registered better health, reported greater satisfaction with their jobs, and delivered significant productivity gains.
The obvious conclusion here is that offering the most sedentary workers and those with the longest commutes the opportunity to work at home on a company-supplied treadmill desk will yield the highest ROI on the equipment. Companies should see a reduction in real estate costs, payroll (through higher productivity and reduced attrition) and health care costs.
To identify the employees in your company who would benefit the most from treadmill desking and telecommuting, look no further than those who live the farthest away and those with roles that are both sedentary and predominantly solitary in nature (i.e. they don’t require face-to-face team collaboration time throughout the day). Allowing these employees to work from treadmill desks at home will drive improvements in their productivity, their health, and their job satisfaction while driving down your long-term costs for everything from health care to retention.
That last point is worth repeating: employees using treadmill desks and telecommuting are happier and healthier and companies offering telecommuting and treadmill desks to employees enjoy improved productivity (numerous studies cite a 15% improvement while walking) and reduced costs through reduced turnover among their happier and healthier employees.