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Information & Communication - Stand Up for One Another

Working together requires us to get together – so meetings remain an inescapable part of workplace life. But too often they’re counterproductive, wasting more time than they save. How do we stop people from just sitting around talking to no end? One way is to keep them from sitting in the first place. Turns out that – in addition to numerous health benefits – standing makes a big difference in how we think and collaborate as a team.


Refocus your meetings around standing to boost teamwork and use time more productively.

What is Stand Up for One Another?
Digital connectivity in a screen-based society has transformed the workforce, but it has a hidden cost: it’s terrible for our bodies. We end up spending almost all of our days sitting down; according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, “excessive sitting” – over eight hours a day – increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10–20%. And Forbes claims the average US office worker in 2019 sits 15 hours a day! All this talk usually centres around workers’ physical health, but the surprising thing is that standing has benefits for how we think as well. It’s particularly useful when we gather in groups. Meetings boring to sit through? Don’t sit through them! When trying to make your meetings a more effective use of time, one change that makes a big difference is simply changing the office environment and how we interact with it.

How does Stand Up for One Another improve employee engagement and culture?
Stationary living has a detrimental impact on mood, creativity and even teamwork – all things we want to draw on in the workplace to be our best selves. By making small changes to your meeting spaces, you can influence your organization in unexpected ways, unleashing extra potential and making your team feel happier, healthier and more focused on the task at hand. Science shows people who stand interact differently: standing more makes us feel better at work and more engaged in our jobs, even when no other factor has changed. By encouraging standing, you’re looking after your colleagues; as a result, they’ll do better at looking after your organization.

What are the benefits?
Sitting slows blood circulation and even brain functions – the more one sits, the thinner the regions associated with memory become. Standing primes our bodies for engagement. Talk about putting your best foot forward.

How do you conduct Stand Up for One Another in the workplace?
To avoid pushback over sudden, unilateral redesigns, form a committee to think through possible options. Have the group review your office as a physical setting and discuss whether it’s an environment encouraging passive body language or active engagement. In any space that doesn’t need to be desk-based, reorganize to allow standing when possible. Just remember that standing requires effort and not everyone is equally fit or mobile. Be sensitive to those who can’t participate, and, as you implement changes, focus on communicating the time-management and group dynamics of upright meetings – physical fitness should not be the goal.


Keep Your Colleagues On Their Toes

Here are some ways standing can help avoid the pitfalls of meetings and supercharge your team for better collaboration.

Standing keeps meetings shorter. Organizations often default to, say, 30-minute increments for planning schedules, but in fact making meetings shorter may make everyone pay more attention and get them back to their day more quickly. The general wisdom is that 10–18 minutes is a good range for attention, and after that people need a change of pace to keep focus. TED talks are capped at 18 minutes for just this reason! Some companies use actual timers – just like in school, when the bell goes, everyone is dismissed. Just by keeping everyone standing, you eliminate a lot of the inertia that can drag down meetings. It sends the message that there’s something that needs to be done quickly and encourages people to jump in. Remember, little changes add up: just five minutes saved in a meeting of 12 participants is an hour gained for your organization’s workday.

Standing gets people away from their devices – and that’s important for focus. Studies show only 53% of meeting time is spent on agenda items and that 73% of people do other work during meeting times. Getting people upright will keep their attention on the task at hand, rather than what they were working on before they came in the room.

Lastly, and most significantly, standing seems to help humans interact better. Research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science in 2014 showed focus group participants in rooms without chairs worked better on a task compared to participants working on the same task in a room with chairs arranged around a table. Small sensors measured “physiological arousal,” and participants answered questions at the end. The results were clear in favour of the group who had no chairs: the standing group shared more information, worked better together, were less selfish and afterward rated their fellow participants more highly than participants who worked in a room with chairs arranged around a table. In other words, the traditional meeting room environment proved detrimental to accomplishing the task.

The study proves that space, and how we move in it, can have a big impact on how we work together as a team. Replace the conference room table with open space and some whiteboards. Or, if you can’t change your existing meeting room, try shifting to another space when you want to get people more fired up. You improve everyone’s ability to communicate and work together happily, productively and respectfully.

Reference Material
Standing up gets groups more fired up for team work
9 Science-Backed Methods for a Happier, More Productive Meeting
How much will unnecessary meetings cost you this week|||

Updated on: 05/16/2024

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