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Boost productivity in the office through motion

Date posted:  5/10/14 11:30:00 AM A treadmill in the office can help boost productivity.

Walking at work is a great way to boost productivity, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota. Avner Ben-Ner, a professor at the university's Carlson School of Management, conducted the study by following employees at Salo, a finance, accounting and human resources staffing firm based in Minneapolis.

Why did Ben-Ner choose to follow employees at Salo?

Because the forward-thinking company had already replaced many standard desks and cubicles with working stations placed on and around treadmills. There, employees walk no faster than two miles per hour and have work stations that include a computer, phone and writing space.

Ben-Ner found that the employees who worked on treadmills had a 10 percent productivity surge compared to those who sat in chairs, a substantial increase in his eyes.

To walk or not to walk?
Maura Howard, a business developer at Salo, likes to check emails and talk with clients by phone as she walks on her treadmill at work.

"I try to do three miles every day," said Howard, who also teaches fitness classes outside of work.

Howard thinks that walking regularly helps her avoid drowsiness that used to come at her after eating lunch.

"The employer benefits from the employee being active and healthy and more smart because more blood is flowing to the brain," Ben-Ner said.

Workers at the company are not forced to walk, as exercising on the treadmill throughout the day is completely voluntary. Still, the majority of employees select to work from their treadmill because of the health benefits. Ben-Ner believes that a body in motion is especially good for what he refers to as "brain workers" - those that need premier cognitive skills to perform their delegated tasks.

Investing in bodies in motion
Ben-Ner said that companies willing to invest $1,000 to $2,000 in outfitting a workstation with treadmills and other motion-related means - such as using an exercise ball instead of a computer chair - will help productivity and be beneficial to the employer.

Other major corporations are taking note. Companies such as Best Buy and Great Clips are setting up treadmills, standing desks and other equipment to spur employees to be more active during their work day.

"It's detectable on the radar now," Ben-Ner said of an active workplace. "You sit long, you start dozing off because you don't do anything other than thinking."