Case Studies of Organizations and Organizational Communication in the Media
His coffee consumption level hasn’t changed. Nor has his sleep schedule.
But Michael McTigue feels a lot more energetic at work these days, perhaps because he stands most of the time.
Sitting at a traditional office desk, “I ended up exhausted at the end of the day,” said McTigue, director of digital media for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. “There was nothing stimulating me.”
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Robert Yale (University of Dallas) suggests some key “Takeaways” on the story:
Countless studies suggest that people who spend less of their day sitting have better moods, a lower risk of disease, a longer life span, and better metabolic health. Anecdotal evidence (and my personal experience working at a standing desk for the past three years) suggests that people who switch to standing workstations feel more energized, are more productive, and avoid the frequent occurrence of afternoon fatigue.
It’s not surprising that employees at Glaxo and other companies have begun requesting standing or adjustable-height workstations. What does seem surprising is the fact that companies are responding to the demand for these workstations so positively, even though standing office furniture tends to be significantly more expensive (at least for now) compared to traditional desks.
Although the initial costs are higher, organizations have significant incentives to acquiesce to employee requests for these trendy workstations. Consider that over time, even a small increase in employee productivity will more than balance out the initial costs of the more expensive furniture. Further, evidence suggests that providing employees with standing workstations actually produces healthier employees – those less likely to call in sick, to be sick at work and spread their illness around the office, and to be less effective in their responsibilities because of chronic or acute wellness problems.
However, the most beneficial outcome of a reimagined work space, like the one at Glaxo, may be the increased chance of weak-tie relationships producing value for individuals and the organization that would otherwise have remained hidden.
In 1973, Mark Granovetter published an article in the American Journal of Sociology about weak-tie relationships, arguing that in many contexts, these relationships are more beneficial to both individuals and groups. He reasoned that strong-tie relationships (the few people you maintain the closest bonds with) are usually with individuals that likely have access to similar information as you do. Weak-ties, on the other hand, have the greatest possibility of bringing novel information into your social or professional sphere.
When individuals from divergent divisions, teams, and areas have more opportunities to interact by virtue of the workspace design, they will bring experiences, knowledge, and insight to segments of the company that they would typically never interact with. In organizations with large numbers of employees sharing the same space, the simple reconfiguration of work areas to provide more opportunities for these weak-tie interactions can pay dividends far beyond the extra cost associated with the less “efficient” use of space.