His coffee consumption level hasn't changed. Nor has his sleep schedule.
But Michael McTigue feels a lot more energetic at work these days, perhaps because he stands most of the time.
Sitting at a traditional office desk, "I ended up exhausted at the end of the day," said McTigue, director of digital media for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. "There was nothing stimulating me."
About a year ago, Glaxo set up a pilot program in which employees could work at adjustable-height desks, among a slew of other workplace design changes in preparation for the company's move from its Center City offices to the Navy Yard on Monday.
Now, McTigue said, "I have a ton more energy."
The office changes -- more open space, sunlight, and incentives to move around -- have been in the works for more than two years and are designed to improve productivity by eliminating barriers to collaboration. They also show an approach to tackling what some scientists call a public health crisis: prolonged sitting.
Researchers have linked sedentary behavior to increased risk of several forms of cancer and blood clots, which can cause strokes and heart attacks, among other health problems. More than 1,000 studies have been published in the last year.
Companies across the country are experimenting with office designs similar to Glaxo's to try to control health-care costs, said David Trippany, senior researcher and corporate ergonomist at Steelcase, a global manufacturer of office furniture.
But no one has found the solution to the sitting epidemic, said Marc Hamilton, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., who founded the field of inactivity physiology.
"Whoever does discover something that works should get the Nobel Prize," he said. "It's going to have more of a public health impact than anything I can think of." More than a dozen global companies have sought his consultation.
Hamilton's studies have shown that prolonged inactivity can shut down genes that control cholesterol levels and prevent blood clots and inflammation. What makes those findings even more alarming is that regular exercise is not an antidote.
In one of Hamilton's studies, he instructed physically fit, regular exercisers to sit for a day. The gene that prevents clots shut down within hours, even though the participants were trim and fit, he said.
Researchers have complemented Hamilton's lab work with human behavior studies. In July, one of Hamilton's colleagues at Pennington conducted a meta-analysis of underlying studies of nearly 167,000 people, which found that sitting for less than three hours a day could increase life expectancy by two years.
In 2011, researchers in Australia found that people who spent 10 years in sedentary work -- activities that require very limited energy expenditure -- were twice as likely to contract distal colon cancer and had a 44 percent increased risk of rectal cancer than those who had never held sedentary jobs.
Companies like Glaxo are taking note: It already has some of the new features in other branches, but the Philadelphia project is the only one built from the ground up in this way, said Ray Milora, the company's project executive for its move to the Navy Yard.
The design of the 208,000-square-foot Navy Yard office is "180 degrees from where we are today," he said, describing the current setting as a "cubicle world" not optimal for morale, productivity, or health.
In the new office space, no one has a designated seat; desk drawers have been replaced with lockers; trash cans and printers are in centralized areas to encourage movement; phones are embedded in computers; and workers could be typing away while sitting on a yoga ball or on a chair. And there are treadmill desks, known as "walking stations."
The changes are not designed solely to address employee health. They are part of a broader plan to boost efficiency and collaboration.
Of the 1,300 employees in Glaxo's Philadelphia offices, about 400 have completed a two-week pilot program in which they worked in an office setup similar to the one at the Navy Yard.
Dozens more like McTigue have been working for more than a year on the 16th floor of one of the company's Franklin Plaza buildings outfitted with adjustable desks, yoga balls, and other equipment prominently featured at the new office.
Ron Joines, vice president and medical director in the company's environmental health and safety group, said he gets to work early to snag one of the standing desks because they fill up faster than any others.
A physician, Joines cited studies that showed the perils of sitting and noted people can burn 150 to 200 calories a day by standing at work. His goal? Four hours a day.
Not all Glaxo employees appeared convinced; most were sitting.
Media reports about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle caught the attention of employees at Susquehanna International Group's Bala Cynwyd headquarters. Last year, about 1,200 studies were published.
Shawn Hoffman, an operations manager at the investment firm, has worked there for 16 years and sat for 15 of them. Now he stands for six to seven hours a day.
About two dozen employees began using standing desks over the summer, he said, and 50 more want in. The reason? "All the research saying it's healthy," Hoffman said.
The company has looked into buying more equipment but is waiting to see whether employees remain committed to standing before they invest a lot of money in expensive desks. Two recently returned to their chairs.
Glaxo's manufacturer for the new equipment, Haworth, declined to say how much it costs.
"There's definitely a lot of people who've gone from sitting to standing," said Cathy Grimes, Glaxo head of human resources. "Whether they stay that way, we don't know."
That's a key concern for Hamilton. "We have to be careful about saying, one, 'Is it effective?' And two, 'Is it a human behavior that's feasible?' " he said. He noted practical concerns with standing: It can be uncomfortable for women who wear heels and can hurt people's knees. As for the yoga balls: "You can slouch on those," Hamilton said.
McTigue said that when colleagues who were not familiar with the new setup first saw the 16th-floor space, "it was like being in a zoo."
Moreover, no scientific evidence has emerged suggesting any of the companies' strategies will be successful.
They are great efforts, Hamilton said, "but let's not pretend like we found this holy grail of good health we're looking for until the science supports it."
[Inage from flickr user AngusMCI]
Contact Andrew Seidman at 856-779-3846, [email protected], or follow @AndrewSeidman on Twitter. ___
As a scientist, I find this idea absurd. First of all I'm up and down all day long, walking from my office, to lab, to another lab on another floor to drop a sample off, to another lab on another floor to collaborate with a coworker - a standing desk sounds like a terrible idea to me. Secondly, who are these people who have no designated desk space? Do they do absolutely all their work on a computer? I've got paper, stacks of paper that offer much quicker daily reference than the computer does. Are people really supposed to pack up all their office things every night and put them in some central locker? Well enjoy. I'll keep leaving my in-progress work conveniently spread across my desk and just lock my office door at night to protect the intellectual property.
@ThisSoundsSilly What a selfish, self-centered moron....not everyone does what you do and it is a big world out there with millions of job formats! ...so what you are saying is you don't see value...why even post?.....I have to sit and train / consult / sell from my multi monitor workstation at my home and have for 8+ years. I have pre-scheduled meetings all online from morning til night.....I can break away for a workout but for the most part I am sitting 6-8 hours a day which "science" has proven is bad for your health. This is a great idea for rme and others like me who's work does not include running test results around a lab...it is a big world out there get your head out and stop being an as$ :)
From your nick name you sond like a serious scientist... Can we maybe
get your real name, just for future references? By the way, on which
empirical data do you base the sillyness of the proposed idea above?
Maybe you should consider doing more work instead of other things
(referring to your statement, it sounds as if you walk a lot during your
"research" time). Not sure if I'm being apropriate but they don't pay
me to walk where I work, they pay me to work.
I fear that many employers will not invest in these advanced desks and walking stations until there is substantial research indicating that the investment is worth it. In the meantime, I think more businesses need to adopt some sort of micro-break program that encourages hourly movement. My boss recently installed one such program (themovementonline.net) and once an hour a video pops up, guiding me through a quick stretch break. Although at first I thought it would be disruptive, I find myself much more energized and focused throughout the day. Plus, I'm moving once an hour when I otherwise wouldn't be. Who knows, maybe those expensive walking desks aren't necessary after all!
As to there being no research, wouldn't the research that shows how changing your workout routine apply here as well? You can't do the same workout for a year, eventually your body gets too used to it and it stops being effective. You have to change your workout frequently in order to shock your muscles. To me the same principle applies here. If you sit all day long, your body gets used to it and stops being effective; and I do believe that your physical body affects your mental effectiveness. If you stand up more during your day, it is a shock to the sedentary body and it will wake up. This will also affect your mental state.
I find it quite amazing that this work environment is still being looked upon with soubt and disbelief. In Denmark this has been going on for ages but as one of the Executives from Delmas (a French competitor to the Danish Fortune 500, Maersk) said, "These Danes are completely nuts! Now instead of the coffee break they have invented these tables that moves up and down! So instead of going for coffee, they just stand up from their chair and keep on working." Well I wonder why our economy is going the way it is. It seems to me that a lot of people arround the world are pointing towards Scandinavia when they search for solutions to Political conflicts, Economical issues and so on, but when we show them the different details we work on to improve our society they look at it like they look at a monkey in a cage. I met an American soldier returning from Afghanistan, he said "I don't think democracy is for everyone" well I could have told him that... Maybe the world should be told to take into consideration the individuals narrow mindedness and reluctancy when it comes to innovation and let them stay in their seat untill they get cancer, I mean, hopefully the company takes their precausions against medical lawsuits. And who would want their employees to think they are working in a zoo?
This is wonderful to see this change. I am currently having back problems caused by sitting in an office chair for long periods of time and have been off work due to the physical pain it has caused. Because of the back problems, I am currently looking for new line of work that can work with me so I can do my job efficiently without the pain. Sitting or being sedentary for long periods of time is definitely not healthy, especially with those of us with back problems. Seriously, ergonomics is no joke. People who feel it is a joke are the one who loose employees due to medical reasons like me. :(
@Monica13 Back pain, I got you covered. You can try these free moves for the back http://GravityWerks.com. You'll get to download 3 mp3's where you'll be guided along so things like a back spasm are an easy fix. One of the moves will help with sitting for too long.
Here's a tip for the rest of you sitters:
Sit at the far end of the chair so your hip bone will lie either in line or slightly above the knee. That will position this lever ( I know that sounds way too biomechanical) in a more neutral alignment. Car seats which are notorious put you in the same disadvantaged position. If you can find an old yellow pages, that's a great tool to use to sit on if you have back issues.
If we passively remain with our hips below our knees, the line of force is similar to what happens when a skier blows out an acl from a fall. In the long run, not being mindful wears us down... but you don't have to obsess over it. Be mindful when sitting and self-adjust when necessary.
As long as jobs are tight, the open seating, cheap to change, workplace scenerios are "vogue". If you need the job you'd sit outside if you had to. I think it a rather comical that industries where a majority of their top talent may be in the introverted catagory that they still go against everything they've learned and go with all of the "Open", "Ergo" ridiculous garbage.
If the job market ever becomes competitive again, you'll see perks like "office" or "desk" in the opening's text to try to attract the top talent..
All very well for computer based work, but I still prefer to sit whilst writing the old fashioned way!
I am amazed at how cheap GSK and other companies like them continue to get. This is a joke, right? I am all for encouraging employees to get off their seat, stretch their legs and gets the blood circulating periodically throughout the day, to clear their minds and maintain their health. However, I am pretty convinced that the person that came up with this idea never worked as a bank teller. One of the many jobs I had supporting myself through school was a bank teller and, although a very young adult at the time - it caused the emergence of varicose veins - more veins popped up when I graduated and became a Nurse - although I tried minimizing the situation with those ugly but functional support hose. How about women who are expecting - really do you think this idea of standing at the desk all day for 9 months is all that great?? Where has common sense gone? If GSK can’t afford to supply decent work spaces for their employees, maybe they should make everyone work from their home office and be done with it – it seems like most of the work in Pharma and other white collar industries has gone virtual and remote anyway.
I've not seen any mention of "cycling" as an addition to sitting and standing. I've seen some very neat static cycles (with no handlebar section) which could be a third alternative. Got photos if anyone is interested.
Another thought: sit for a while stand up and go for a walk. Repeat... It's basic college study skills really: work in one hour blocks and take a break. Sedentary is the key word. We are animals first and foremost. We are not built to sit at desks all day. Modern economics doesn't care about people just the bottem line. Sad :(
Moved my drafting table to where my computer is and lifted it to standing position. Standing all day is tiring too and am quite sure it will cause problems. Did anyone do studies on whether working immoble in the standing positions has the same affect as sitting. I tend to think it is lack of movement overall that cuases the problems. The blood will pool in the lower legs either way without the pumping action of the leg muscles squeezing the veins and promoting an upward flow. The whole thing seems like a gimmick to sell more furniture. I took the bait until I thought it through. I agree with person who wrote " a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing."
You are correct. It's not good to sit all day, neither is it good to stand in one spot all day. Why not have the option to sit or stand throughout the day??? Here's how: Have a standing desk--get a regular desk with drawers for your stuff--raise it up on wood or concrete blocks to about 42-48" or whatever is comfortable for you (yes, that's fine with OSHA). That way, you can stand at the desk or pull up your drafting chair for sitting. Alternate b/t the two throughout the day. No adjustments necessary. Problem solved. If you have the funds, you could purchase a stand up desk for about $2,500, but it's not necessary.
I work for a company in Coral Gables, Florida, the name of it RELAX THE BACK as a Back Care Consultant, we have all kinds of products that are good for spinal health and one of them is the Sit-Stand Desk. This product is becoming very popular not only because you have the flexibility of working sitting or standing but we have found out that people that own them are happier at work, they feel healthier, they are more productive. The truth is that we were not meant to be sitting for so many hours a day, our bodies are healthier when we are moving.
The said thing is that at least 80 % of the population have back issues and the main reason is because we sit for too long and most of the time is on a chair that does not provide any ergonomic support to your back, so eventually people start having lower back pain, as well as neck and shoulders. Many of them still think that is because of age and not because they are not sitting with a proper posture on an ergonomic chair.
I think, viewing the issue as just "sitting versus standing" imposes certain limitations. Why not consider "sitting -standing-laying"? I am practicing that combination for years. My recommendation - TRY IT!
When you are 60-65 yo attempting to hold up your aging carcass with varicose veins and a heart condition grabbing for Social Security and Medicare being held on a stick with a longer wait every year I doubt it.
I've been using Stand Up Desks since 1993. I work for Stiefel a GSK company and have a Sit/Stand Desk and love it. It's NOT a Sit all day or Stand all Day thing, it's a stand for a while and then sit for a short period and then stand again.
The Sit/Stand is especially helpful when a colleague comes to your desk to collaborate because both of you can stand and see everything on your multiple screens.
I love my Sit/Stand and if they would let me put wheels on it, I'd move my self-contained Office all over the place at Stiefel.
Be sure to wear Sun Screen!
These idiots are following in the footsteps of UHaul and Hess Gas Stations. Check back in a year and see what their employee retention rate is!
There is always a shift in thinking that does not include a moderate approach. Changing things based on a little sicence is a dangerous thing when larger Longterm Issues are not considered. I have exerienced standing at a pharmacy counter working during internship, and seeing my parents on their feet at their own store. I spoke with pharmacists who stood all day and luckily in my career in clinical/admin positions did not have to stand all day. My dad developed peripheral artery disease. Long term health outcomes are not determined by short term studies. Vascular, Back and leg problems are exercerbated in the longterm.
Most of you seems to forget the long-term impact of stand-up job (I mean, really stand-up, when standing position prevails). It could benefit a bit in a short term, but they will have to waste much more money on medicine and surgery, repairing damaged veins in legs. Professional disease of flight attendant, anyone?... GSK -- another example of a sad but good joke about corporate way : "how to get cheaper milk from your cow? easy -- you have to feed it less and milk more!..."
I've had a treadmill desk for 1.5 years and love it. It may not work for everyone but I'm one of those fidgety people who cannot sit still. I was getting on my own nerves bouncing my knee while sitting and constantly shifting in my seat. Walking between 1-2mph leaves me more focused and I feel more alert. When I get tired of walking I may stand, but I don't find standing for long very comfortable. I do sit down to eat and I'm always happy to get back to work and walk off the meal afterwards. Also, I have a very sturdy and large desk that does not shake, plus I'm using laptops, so no monitor shake. I think the bottom line is that everyone needs to figure out for themselves whether they work better sitting, standing or walking.
Perhaps they should fiddle with the lighting. Or just study the results of the Hawthorne Experiments conducted by Mayo and others in the 1920's. From a personal perspective I'm more than happy sitting my 60 year old body down when I want to concentrate on something. I get more than enough excercise walking to the office, working on my property over the weekend and working out at the gym.ps
I tried it, didn't like it. The desk could be used sitting down or standing. It was a very expensive desk, but the mechanism to raise & lower it caused monitor shake when I typed on the keyboard, or put pressure on the desk. The mechanism was at the back of the desk and would not allow the keyboard tray to fully retract under the desk. My workspace was tight and the keyboard tray became an obstacle to maneuver around. Also, it felt awkward to be towering over my colleagues when they were sitting down. I finally asked for the old style desk and resolved to get up more & move around. I have an timer app that reminds me.
I started my career with a boss who believed in the benefits of stand up desks and as soon as I tried one, I was hooked! Then, I switched companies to a boss who was very traditional and did not realize the importance of changing posture throughout the workday. Needless to say, my body felt the impact of sitting all day as opposed to having the freedom to change positions throughout the 8+ hour days in the office.
Now, I work for myself and have researched a number of standup desks for my home office. I found the Uplift series - 700, 800 and soon to be released 900 - to be the best adjustable desk for the price. I've already pre-ordered the Uplift 900 and a treadmill to go along with it. Just because you're working doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your well-being.
@SavvyCopywriter See my comments above, stand-up desk can be healthier than classical sitting desks ONLY if they combine with some sort of enforced fitness, otherwise veins in lower legs will suffer a lot
@KirillPeskov Good Point. But there is a healthy balance between the two. Changing between sitting and standing a few times throughout the day can have its distinct benefits without the downfalls of only sitting or only standing for extended periods of time.
wow! Great article...
I am in a cube and site a lot and would love to try out this standing desk... I did raise my desk and monitors (3) so that I am not looking down or being hunched over. I think all these little things can help company/employee moral and in the end it SHOULD have some health benefits.... if you think logically.... sitting for so long cannot be good for your body...nuff said :o)
Until such time when the drug giants get their own house in order on important ethical issues such as the marketing of psychotropic drugs they do not deserve lengthy favourable comments on anything else, in my view.
Qui prodest? Probably, they are simply trying to expand the market for varicose veins treatment medicines.
I would love to see some followup studies and questions posed to Professor Hamilton. I sure hope they can zero in on what really matters. Is it really the actual alignment of the body changing from standing to sitting that switches off those genes? Or is really based on a slightly decreased level of activity? If I have to sit because of my work place environment, how much activity is enough to keep the genes from turning off? A 2 minute walk down the hall every 45 minutes with stretching your arms along the way? There are a lot of questions raised by these initial studies that hopefully lead to some practical advice we can actually use. My employer is so d*** cheap, they are not about to pay for a fancy adjustable desk unless they are 110% certain it will improve their bottom line. Sadly most employers are not going to spend money to improve their employees lives unless it directly and indisputably benefits the bottom line. As far as they are concerned I can still do my job with nascent heart disease and and achy back.
Posture expert Esther Gokhale was asked at a seminar about standing desks. Her answer was something along the lines of "they are great -- for people who never learned to sit properly."
I've wanted a standing desk for at least 13 years. I'd really like one with a crank to change between standing and sitting (without tilting the surface of course).
@MattBoice Here are two sit-stand options that don't require an entirely new desk or any permanent changes to your existing desk: (1) Ergotron WorkFit-A, and (2) Ergo Desktop Kangaroo Pro / Kangaroo Pro Junior.
The Ergotron Workfit-A clamps to the back or side of your existing desk and has tensioned pulleys that allow it to be easily raised and lowered; the Ergo Desktop Kangaroo sits on top of your desk and can be height-adjusted by loosening and then tightening a bolt.
Both options are pricey, however ($300-$500)... I recently bought and installed the Ergotron Wofkfit-A and I *LOVE* it. (It was worth it to me to pay for it myself.)
@MattBoice GeekDesk.com $500-800 I have had one for years and love it. Motor makes it go up and down. I bought it cheaper without a top. Top from Ikea or Lowes. Attached an adjustable Humanscale keyboard tray ($90) to the bottom (so that screen height and typing height are adjustable). Also have a Vertical Mouse ($90), so that my arm does not pronate unnecessarily. And a tenting split-keyboard by Goldtouch (you can adjust the split and angle to your natural arm position $100). I paid for it all myself over a 3 year period.
Company reimbursed me for a Humanscale chair (retails for $1200) that I got from a Craigslist guy selling dozens of them for $200 a pop. There are entire enthusiast websites dedicated to making your own walking desk (treadmill) for $300-1500. The only thing stopping you all is yourselves. Even if you think your company might not allow you to bring in your own equipment, try getting a note from a friendly doctor requiring it, or even just install the setup late one night and see if they force you to remove it. If you spend $1000-1500 over a few years in order to ELONGATE YOUR LIFE, RID OF PAIN, and MAKE YOU HAPPIER I would say its a fair trade off.
I work on a computer at home and was spending far too long sitting at my desk. I thought I would like to try the standing desk idea out before investing in a specialised desk so looked around teh house for something to try it out with and found the ironing board. It has room on it for a keyboard and the surface i suitable for a mouse so all I needed to do was lift up my adjustable screen and pop the keyboard and mouse on it.
I have found that I can do longish spells standing but not all day. It helps to have music (bluetooth headphones are handy) so I move my feet, which stops them aching. If I get the urge to sit down again I just put the keyboard back on the desk, move the ironing board aside and drag up the chair.
I would love to have an office with part of my dest at sitting level and part at standup level, so that I could change as need during the day. I truely believe I would be more productive.
I'd definitely want to give standing a try, but as other have commented I believe I'd also use a tall stool at times and increase the hours standing through progression steps. The office work space needs to change and I applaud the companies that seek to provide a more interactive and healthy environment for their employees. I don't think the standing workstation is for everyone, but what is?
As already said in other comments I also believe that the main problem is exaggerate in one way or the other. Standing for eight hours a days I do not think is not much healthier than sitting. For example how long do you think anyone will keep a correct posture before starting to curve the spine standing on one leg like in the picture at beginning of the article? Of course you have more chances to move from one position to another, but if you need to stay in front of the computer for height hours a day, there is not much you can do even standing. About those studies, are they comparing the health of worker whose job require standing all day with those one have a job require them stay sit all day? Furthermore can they say that the subjects under investigation would not have developed the same issues working in different way? I know a lot of people that stand all day for work and they have problem with weight, cholesterol and heart disease too. Despite my scepticism I appreciate that companies try different solutions to promote healthy working environment.
I clicked on this article because I'm interested in a treadmill desk or standing desk. I spend most of my work day sitting. Since I bought an excersize ball for work it's helped my back immensely; I no longer have a sore back in 3 places and numbness going down my leg. Since I use the excersize ball, I don't even do my stretching excersizes most days and I'm still better off. I think it makes me sit up straight and use the natural 'S' curve of my back. I work for the 'man' and he pays me $$ that I can use for a lot of cool stuff. I don't trust anything or anyone...not even my judgmental attitude. My interest in quantum physics tells me the physical plane is a dream illusion projected by my mind. who cares what I think? wait, don't answer that...
I've been using a standing desk both at work & at home (both improvised). My advice: work your way up to it gradually, i.e.start out standing just a couple of days a week, and keep a tall stool nearby to take breaks by sitting for a while while continuing to work. There's a surprisingly large amount of muscles being worked while standing for a long time, like in the back & shoulders. Building up gradually to full-time standing will give you time to adjust.