Standing Up Gets Employees Pumped for Meetings: Study

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By Keith Wagstaff

Everybody get up.

Managers tired of their watching their employees slump and struggle to keep their eyes open during meetings might want to consider taking away their chairs.

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Not only will it make employees more excited when collaborating, it will also make them more open to their colleagues’ ideas, according to a new study from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

Standing up gets your body going,” said Andrew Knight, who co-authored the study along with fellow assistant professor of organizational behavior Markus Bauer.

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No, that does not mean pacing around the office like a maniac. Even standing still involves “micro-movements” like shifting one's legs, said Knight, which causes “greater physiological arousal.” That term is totally SFW, by the way: it simply means subjects were more excited during meetings, as measured by small sensors worn around their wrists.

The study looked at people tasked with creating university recruitment videos. Those who stood during meetings created videos that were rated higher than those from the people who sat, the study found.

They also were less territorial about their ideas. Usually, Knight said, people walk into meetings with ideas of their own and spend their time defending those ideas instead of listening to others.

Why does standing make a difference?

“When people are standing, they have not claimed their own place, like they would at a conference table,” Knight said. (Appropriately enough, he talked to NBC News from a standing desk).

There is something about carving out personal territory that can make people more focused on their themselves, he said, making them less open to the ideas of others.

Next up, the researchers will look at whether — like in an Aaron Sorkin drama — walking while talking can make employees even more productive.

If managers want to boost excitement and cooperation, they need to ditch the chairs and create new social norms that make it clear that sitting is not the only option, Knight said.

“It’s about unlocking people from the shackles of their chairs and making them feel free to stand during meetings.”