I couldn’t believe my ears this morning when I heard NPR report the successes and failures of the treadmill desk. If you are like me, you probably first thought of a metaphorical conveyer belt that keeps dropping piles of paper on your lap that you struggle to keep up with. But, it turns out there is an actual treadmill desk, which seeks to combine the need to exercise with the need to work!
The treadmill desk is available at Wal-Mart.com for a starting price of $619.99. As you can imagine, the price only goes up from there, depending on the quality and features you desire. Most standard models have a treadmill below to walk on, and a desk at chest level with enough space for a monitor, keyboard and mouse. The most common complaint is sweating while working and coworkers complaining about heavy breathing.
Workers’ health has long been known to have an impact on productivity, and the treadmill desk is just one of the latest attempts to encourage workers to stay healthy. The State of South Dakota encourages its employees to take two fifteen-minute breaks throughout the day, and to use the time to take a leisurely walk outside. Some places pay for or subsidize a gym membership for their workers. These strategies may have just as good of results as the treadmill desk, without some of the craziness the invention will likely introduce.
For those of us that work in cubicles, I think mental health is also important. Working in a cubicle means being confined to a drab space without natural light and with limited privacy. I like to think I have a colorful personality, and I like to surround myself with pictures of landscapes and my family. That way my cubicle doesn’t depress me, but feels more like a place I hang out to get some work done.
When starting in a new office, I am always surprised to see how little cubicles are decorated. I usually decorate my space, and afterwards, I find many of my coworkers start to bring in pictures of their family or other decorations as well. It’s nice to see a good trend catch on!
When working in a cubicle, I think it is important to get out and get some natural light at least once a day. I have always found my lunch break works well for this. It feels good to go outside, no matter the weather, to have a break in the feel of the office environment. Even sitting down for a cheap lunch away from the office feels like a nice way to step away from everything momentarily and collect your thoughts.
While the treadmill desk may seem like a clever solution to improving office health, it is reported to have a mixed success rate. I would be surprised if it were any more successful than conventional ways employers encourage better physical health. Although less discussed, employees need to make an effort to keep their mental health in good standing too. Taking regular breaks and finding time to clear your mind can do a lot to increase both your physical and mental health, which in turn should improve your work performance all around.