Be a stand-out by standing up

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

“Whatever you choose to do, just be a verb!”

While our daughters were growing up, I must have reminded them of this idea more times than any of us would like to recall.  As a fitness professional, I naturally wanted to encourage the girls to remain active and healthy as they progressed through adolescence and the high school years. It didn’t much matter to me what sport they chose – softball, ballet, swim team or basketball – as long as they were using their bodies prudently and having fun.

As it turns out, being active can have benefits that reach far beyond mere recreation.  New research conducted at our very own Washington University in St. Louis has shed some light on the positive aspects of standing while in the workplace.  Data presented in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science revealed that employees collaborating on a project while standing reported a greater level of excitement about interacting with their teammates than those who worked while seated. In addition to enthusiasm, these participants noted that they were less defensive and territorial in sharing their ideas if they worked while moving around, as opposed to lounging in traditional desk chairs or seated around a conference table.

According to lead researcher Andrew Knight of the Olin Business School at Washington University, “Seeing that the physical space in which a group works can alter how people think about their work and how they relate with one another was very exciting.”  Standing in groups around a white board seemed to generate much more excitement about the topic at hand, leading to greater productivity. Apparently sitting for potentially several hours during a group meeting can promote lethargy, which will ultimately lead to “checking out” and becoming distanced from the purpose of the gathering.

Think back to all those team projects in middle school, where as students we would huddle and converse in small groups, sometimes jumping up and down with excitement as an idea would strike with inspiration. This was a time in life when we were not quite so preoccupied with how we looked, sitting uniformly in neat rows of desks or around a table, but more with how we were performing and thinking and sharing ideas. Clearly our minds were functioning at a higher level being “active” and on our feet than we did sitting at our desks trying to stay awake during a lesson on history or French literature!!!

Knight goes even further in his explanation of the study’s results: “Our research shows that if people are standing up in a meeting, they are less protective of their own ideas, which allows other people to build on, extend and modify the contributions that people are making in the group,” Knight says. “It makes people more collaborative.”

Seeing how this concept can even extend into being cost-effective, since there would be less of a need for expensive office furniture, experts see this novel approach to collaborative communication as being worthy of a standing ovation.  Try it in your own workplace!