Apple crumble & custard. Morecambe & Wise. Long walks & the Lake District. Some combinations just work well together.
Other pairings may be worthy individually but less so when united. I would put driving & texting, Rachel & Joey, walking & typing, and cycling & mousing into the latter category.
Recent discussions and headline-grabbing stories about the adverse effects of long-term sitting have brought “active desks” back into the limelight. (Active desks provide the user with facilities to walk, cycle or even use a recumbent elliptical trainer when working at an appropriate height desk). I first saw these at an exhibition in the US several years ago and, despite the plausible sales pitch, I was sceptical from the outset.
My issue with these products is that, like physio balls and kneeling chairs before them, their application in the workplace can be misunderstood and, as a result, misapplied.
Walking and other forms of exercise are obviously “a good thing” but how can you combine this effectively with computer work (which is what the majority of us do at our desk most of the time)?
Passive audio/video activities (webinars, podcasts) are viable with an active workstation – after all, we can watch TV whilst exercising in the gym. By contrast, typing and mousing require a level of accuracy best accomplished when the upper body is stationary. Productivity will therefore decline significantly. For example, users report dramatic increases in typing errors.
Like physio balls, which are highly effective in their proper context (to strengthen core stability muscles through a proper exercise programme), use in the workplace can be counter-productive or even injury-inducing.
In my view, traditional sit-stand workstations, in combination with other exercise methods, are a better solution (and not just because we sell them!). Not only are they cheaper, they also give the user the opportunity to enjoy a mix of sitting and standing activities throughout the day. This should always be combined with training and education about other simple activities like stretching breaks, walking meetings, using the stairs, parking at the opposite end of the car park and the many other ways that individuals can improve their health and their productivity without any cost to themselves or their employer.
Perhaps my subject should be “Active desks – What’s the point?”
I hope I can look forward to some heated debate about this topic – either online or in person!