‘Active Desk’ is the term generally attributed to office desks integrated with either a treadmill unit or some sort of cycle device. In the past, I have been quite disparaging about these products and described them as a Step Too Far!
When they first appeared I thought the sales approach was too gimmicky with no clear message. It was also apparent that quality was inconsistent and that many manufacturers, especially from China, seemed to be jumping on the ‘sit less’ bandwagon. There was little concern about how the products would be used or what benefits they might offer.
Whilst I continue to be unimpressed about the cycle devices, I have recently made an about turn in my thinking about treadmill units linked to desks, but such a radical piece of rethinking clearly needs further explanation.
A Change In Attitude
In the last few years, attitudes towards seated work have changed significantly. Whilst there are still depressingly large numbers (especially amongst desk salesmen) who believe a sit-stand desk is the answer to all postural problems in sedentary jobs, a reassuringly enlightened attitude is emerging within employers who genuinely care about the wellbeing of their people.
These employers recognise the need for a diverse range of opportunities for workers to change their posture and activities, coupled with training and resources to take advantage of these facilities.
Substantial concern about mental health in the workplace is also causing these organisations to think about both physical and mental health in the same context of wellbeing.
It is well known that exercise is good for our health in a holistic way. Simple (and free) ideas like walking meetings and discouraging the use of lifts can be combined with exercises at the workstation, sit-stand desks (with proper user training) and a mix of work areas and activities. In such a context I now see potential for Treadmill Desks.
Training Makes The Difference
In exactly the same way that we only recommend sit-stand desks with proper user training, a Treadmill Desk needs to be introduced in a systematic manner with proper training and support.
In simple terms, we recommend that the location is in a general space that everyone has access to, that education is provided at installation and further information (in handouts, on posters and through your intranet) is readily available.
It is equally important to ensure the unit is not distracting to others when in use, but is presented in a way that attracts the biggest possible audience. Quality, durability and maintenance must also be considered.