For the majority of us, work can seem like trudging through molasses. We feel like time never moves, yet at the end of the day there is never enough time. This is a strange contradiction that could possibly be explained by the fact that we are just not as productive as we think. A survey of nearly 2,000 UK financial workers showed that they were productive 2 hours and 23 minutes out of their 8 hour day . If this is the norm, could we shorten the work day to 3 hours and be done with it? That is a discussion for another time and potentially another writer, but it does bring up the idea that if most of our time is spent not being productive at work, does increasing productivity help? Are we increasing the productivity of those few hours or are we reducing the reset time between them? The ideal is to reduce the amount of time we spend on unproductive tasks and be rewarded for it appropriately. Unfortunately, most productivity improvement is for productivity sake and there is little to no reward.
When it comes to the topic of health and longevity, standing at your desk has a huge impact on productivity. A study on call center workers showed an average increase of 45% in productivity when sit-stand desks were incorporated. This was the average over a 6 month period with highs of 53% increased productivity . This is important for two reasons. Firstly this shows that as we engage our body we are able to be more effective at our jobs due to improved physiology and focus (find more on this in the article The Truth on Sitting and Your Health). Secondly, this shows that there needs to be a drastic redesigning of the current desk work model. It is not enough to give flexible work hours, as most workers tend to go beyond 8 hours of work when this is implemented. The standards for what productive work truly looks like needs to change.
In terms of desk work, it is no longer optimal to sit for the majority of the day. Standing desks are only a small part of the solution. The bigger picture is more movement and intention. Many employers are coming to understand this concept, but it needs to be stated again and again: asking for a task to be completed in 8 hours will take 8 hours, even if the task truly takes 4. We have many cheap and simple tools that take time and discipline which can transform our work culture. Teams that implement them now will get significantly more done in less time. Movement is one such tool that is gifted to us by nature. If you do not move, your work and life will slow and feel like molasses and you will continue to work long and hard hours. Even several 10 minute walks throughout the day can reset focus and improve productivity. Make the switch to moving more and you can, in fact, work less.
Garrett, G., Benden, M., Mehta, R., Pickens, A., Peres, S. C., & Zhao, H. (2016). Call center productivity over 6 months following a standing desk intervention. IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, 4(2-3), 188–195. https://doi.org/10.1080/21577323.2016.1183534
Ltd, I. D. (n.d.). How many productive hours in a work day? Just 2 hours, 23 minutes... vouchercloud. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://www.vouchercloud.com/resources/office-worker-productivity