June 22, 2014

Standing During Meetings Could Increase Creativity, Productivity

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Companies looking to engage their employees and improve their productivity levels could benefit from having those individuals stand during meetings, according to new research appearing in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In that paper, assistant professor Andrew P. Knight and associate professor Markus Baer of Washington University in St. Louis set out to test theories pertaining to non-sedentary work configurations -- those that encourage employees to be active rather than seated during the course of an average work day.

Such arrangements, they explained, “are becoming increasingly prevalent in organizations,” which inspired them to probe “how non-sedentary arrangements influence interpersonal processes in groups performing knowledge work -- tasks that require groups to combine information to develop creative ideas and solve problems.”

Knight and Baer recruited a total of 214 students and asked them to work together in 54 separate groups of three to five students each. According to Reuters, each group was asked to spend 30 minutes producing a university recruitment video that had been recorded by a research assistant. The environments for each group were identical, with one exception: some of them had chairs around a table, while others did not.

During a solitary session before the meeting, and then again during the group activity, each study participant wore small wrist sensors that detected electrical activity in the skin in order to gauge the individual’s level of physiological arousal, the news organization added. The study authors discovered that working in the room that did not have chairs increased group arousal levels, encouraged the sharing of ideas, and decreased territorial behaviors.

“A workspace that encourages people to stand up is going to lead to more collaborative and more creative outputs,” Knight, who was the lead author of the study, told Reuters via email. “Typically when people are seated at a conference room, they own their own space in the room, they probably have their own paper, their own notebooks that they're working on and these things create a very individually-oriented mindset.”

“Our study shows that even a small tweak to a physical space can alter how people work with one another,” he added in an interview with Time’s Martha C. White. The findings build on previous studies, which reported that employees perform their on-the-job duties more effectively and efficiently when they’re not sitting still, added White.

While weekly meetings have their advantages, Laura Vanderkam of Fast Company points out that they have their problems as well. Since employees are involved in multiple projects, they can spend a considerable amount of time in different meetings, and an overabundance of them can prevent people from actually working on those various tasks. Plus, holding too many meetings causes them to “limp along, zombie-like, sucking the life out of people’s schedules.”

Knight and Baer discovered through their research, however, that not only can meeting while standing up increase the flow of ideas in a group setting; it can actually improve the overall group’s performance. As White explained, members of both the sitting and standing teams rated how well they and their colleagues performed on the university recruitment video, and the results were that the standers turned in a better performance than their seated colleagues.

“Your posture influences psychology, and that influences behavior,” Andy Yap, a post doctoral associate and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study, told Time. He added that the one disadvantage to standing is that a person’s physique tends to stand out in that position, which could lead shorter team members to be intimated by their taller counterparts.