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Standing Desk Wellbeing Analysis : Investigating Whether Standing Desks Can Affect Our Overall Well-Being Loa, Aleah; Nesbit, Russell; Pretorius, Ilze; Zhang, Yiwu 2018-04-05

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report Standing Desk Wellbeing Analysis: Investigating Whether Standing Desks Can Affect Our Overall Well-Being Aleah Loa, Russell Nesbitt, Ilze Pretorius, Yiwu Zhang University of British Columbia PSYC 321 Wellbeing April 5, 2018 Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS Sustainability Program provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student research project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Sustainability Program representative about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”.CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS 2 Take A Stand: Investigating Whether Standing Desks Can Affect Our Overall Well-being Executive Summary Many individuals develop severe mechanical back problems via the development of musculoskeletal problems from sitting at a desk. University of British Columbia (UBC) has approximately 14,000 employees, and an overwhelming majority of these people are staff and faculty members. It is a common assumption that those who experience chronic pain tend to be less productive as its effects can transcend into cognitive interference. As proposed by exercise sport science experts from the University of Queensland, “even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health” (Owen, Healy, Matthews & Dunstan, 2010). Considering the above, in conjunction with the UBC SEEDS Program, we explore the outcomes of both perceived productivity and health status amongst staff and faculty members. Currently, there are two locations on the UBC Vancouver campus that provide standing desks for staff and faculty; thus, we investigate our variables of interest via a within-subjects correlational design study in coordination with the UBC Centre of Interactive Research on Sustainability and the UBC First Nations House of Learning. Introduction  A growing body of research explores the contemporary work environment and how sedentary behaviour can be a catalyst to the problematic health outcomes we experience. As summarized by experts from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, “the workplace is a key contributor to the total time that individuals spend in sedentary behaviour…” (Olsen, Brown, Kolbe-Alexander & Burton, 2018). Moreover, Heidi M. Olsen from the University of Queensland’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences states that “physically active workers can deliver significant tangible benefits...such as reduced costs associated with absenteeism, reduction in employee turnover, and improved productivity” (Olsen et al., 2018). Following this line of research, we underline the need for further studies dissecting the relationship between sedentary behaviour, more specifically, via standing desk use and employees’ perceived productivity. Additional studies emphasize the catastrophically “...low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time within contemporary human environments” (King et al., 2016). For instance, researcher at the Weill Cornell Medical Centre, Gregory F. Dakin has demonstrated “...the adverse impact of prolonged sedentary time on cardio-metabolic biomarkers of risk” and its consequences on persons who are at a heightened risk for severe obesity (King et al., 2016). Considering these critical implications within the University of British Columbia community, we examine the use (and therefore, lack of) of standing desks within the UBC Centre of Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) and the UBC First Nations House of Learning (FNHL) and its effects on both perceived productivity levels and health status. Research Question & Hypothesis Our study poses the following research question: Is the use of standing desks associated with a significant increase in perceived productivity and perceived health status among staff and faculty members in the UBC Centre of Interactive Research on Sustainability building and the UBC First Nations House of Learning? Thus, our two variables of interest are 1) perceived productivity and 2) perceived health status. More specifically, we hypothesize that the use of standing desks will initially be correlated with lower levels of perceived productivity, and CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  3 prolonged use will be accompanied with higher levels of perceived productivity. We also expect to see a similar relationship for perceived health status, as described above. With our study, we build upon the growing body of research that emphasizes the detrimental effects of sitting for extended periods of time and the potential aid of standing desks.  Methods Participants We draw our participant sample from the two locations at the UBC Vancouver campus that offer standing desks for staff and faculty - UBC Centre of Interactive Research (CIRS) on Sustainability and the UBC First Nations House of Learning (FNHL). To assess our hypotheses, we collect our data from staff members from CIRS and FNHL who currently have a standing desk and those who do not. Collecting our participants’ demographics via a Google Forms survey, we present the following breakdown of participants according to gender and group (affiliation with either CIRS or FNHL): N = 21 (n = 17 from CIRS, n = 4 from FNHL). For further clarification, we note that only 10 participants from the 17 staff and/or faculty members from CIRS currently have a standing desk; whereas, the 4 participants from FNHL represent the 4 out of 5 staff members who currently have a standing desk. Out of our total sample size, 14 identified as female, 6 as male, and 1 as non-binary. The age range for this sample is 25 to 51+ years old; in addition, the majority of our sample fell into the age ranges of 25-30 and 51+. Our locations differ in that CIRS only supplies standing desks upon request, therefore not all staff and faculty with in the building have standing desks; FNHL on the other hand has supplied all offices with a standing desk that have an adjustable option.  Conditions Our conditions are as followed: 1) the state of individuals, in terms of their perceived productivity and health status prior to their use of a standing desk and 2) the state of individuals, in terms of their perceived productivity and health status after their use of a standing desk.  Measures Furthermore, we are interested in the variables of perceived productivity and health status. To avoid the possibility of participant biases, we organize our survey accordingly, by first introducing questions discussing physical activity levels, standing desk status (whether they have one or not), then productivity and health status; we include questions about demographics such as membership to CIRS or FNHL and preferred gender at the very end. More specifically, we aim to address the primary variables at hand and ones that may also impact one’s experience of using a standing desk. In addition, the questions implying perceived productivity also relate to how often participants utilized their standing desks. (Please refer to Appendix A for our full survey.)  Procedure Past studies imply “...a negative impact on sedentary behaviour with employees in [the] workplace [by the] increasing time spent the office” (Olsen et al., 2018). Building upon their research on worker productivity effects, we identify key variables that prove the need for  further investigation on  frequency of standing desk use, comfortability, levels of physical activity, hours of work per standard work day, etc. We focus on the variables of frequency of use, perceived productivity and health status to test the limits of our hypotheses. After CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS 4 pinpointing our variables, we operationalize such through the use of Likert-type scale questions in our Google Forms survey. For example, we ask our participants, if applicable, how their standing desk use has influenced their productivity. (Please refer to Appendix A). In our survey, we also include open-ended questions inviting participants to provide anecdotal evidence about their personal experience using a standing desk. (Please refer to Appendix B for a complete list of responses from this open-ended question). Our participants from both locations completed a brief survey via Google Forms; we circulated our survey in person by speaking to staff and faculty members at CIRS and relaying an email list. After reviewing our responses, we categorized our sample into those who do not have a standing desk and those who do. For staff and faculty who use their standing desk at work, we perform linear statistical analyses via the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) such as bivariate correlations reported as Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients. Results  To highlight the relationships between standing desk use and the key variables we mentioned above, we perform Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients calculations to accommodate for our small sample size. We realize how problematic conducting an independent samples t-test (comparing those who have a standing desk and those who do not) can be as we would obtain very skewed results from our uneven participant distributions. Considering such, we correlate our samples of 10 CIRS participants and 4 FNHL participants who have standing desks separately. Our CIRS sample reveal a small correlation of .33 r between frequency of standing desk use and perceived levels of productivity; on the other hand, we found  a  correlation of .96 r for this same correlation amongst the 4 FNHL staff. This extreme result is included to demonstrate a major weakness of our correlational study: a shy handful of participants to draw reliable data from. For one’s perceived health status and frequency of use, we see another small correlation of .12 r for our CIRS participants and r = .19 for the FNHL staff and faculty. Although our results prove to either be non-significant or too small to draw further conclusions, we stress the value in our addition of open-ended questions. For instance, we find that over 65% of our total participant sample would recommend the use of a standing desk with none saying they would not recommend. As seen in Graph 1.0 below, over 42% of our participants indicated that it has improved their quality of health. Although this percentage reflects attitudes on perceived health, it poses the critical question of how arranging our work space can have an effect on employees’ subjective well-being. (Please refer to Appendix C for Graph 1.0). We stress the importance of also recognizing the data from the open-ended question (Appendix B) from all participants, which provides further insight into those who don’t have a standing desk. Insert Graph 1.0 here. Discussion Despite our limited number of participants, we still find a bivariate correlation between standing desk usage and perceived productivity. As we were only able to personally conduct the survey during office hours, we found it difficult to collect further data without disturbing the CIRS’ work atmosphere. Having the ability to send our online survey through a larger email listing would’ve allowed us to collect more data; instead, we relayed our Google Forms link by forming an email addressed approximately 25-30 staff members. To note, in our email, we CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  5 mentioned how as researchers, we were working in conjunction with the UBC SEEDS program to review their feedback about standing desks and the potential for interested staff to obtain one. Furthermore, one participant did not have a standing desk, but had a standing monitor set up that allowed them to raise their workstation to a standing person’s eye level; they did not consider their functional monitor station as a standing desk. We also observed another participant who has a standing desk, but chose to sit while working. These examples lead us to wonder if there may be other confounding variables at play. Referring back to our research question of whether standing desk use is associated with an increase in perceived productivity and health status, our data prompts another question of whether or not standing desks are optimal for everyone. After all, everyone’s bodies are different, and one’s perception of their optimal productivity is likely to be different from another person’s. Taking these arguments into account, more in-depth research must be executed, such as the conjunction between one’s perceived well-being and the actual effects a standing desk can have on cardiovascular health. Future studies could also examine the relationship between objective measures of physical activity and how breaks in sedentary behaviour can impact one’s perceived productivity health outcomes.               Recommendations Our pool of anecdotal evidence indicates that most participants would like to have a standing desk and suffer from mechanical postural problems and lower back related chronic pain. We feel that a more functional standing desk, i.e. one that can be adjusted to a preferred height, is a more viable solution. Perhaps, standing for extended periods of time can also result in adverse effects on one’s lower back. The current arrangement of UBC office spaces present a situation that encourages sedentary behaviour. As it directly contradicts the intent of campaigns such as Move UBC, we stress the need for further funding for more standing desks for our staff and the construction of more functional shared student spaces with standing desks. Proposed by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Weill Cornell Medical Centre such as Wendy C. King and David R. Flum, “...cardio-metabolic health may be improved by low-intensity [physical activity]” (King et al., 2016). Drawing upon their research on sedentary time and cardio-metabolic health, we urge the implementation of programs amongst CIRS staff members that encourage intermittent breaks and physical activity throughout the work day.                 CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  6 References   King, W. C., Chen, J.-Y., Courcoulas, A. P., Mitchell, J. E., Wolfe, B. M., Patterson, E. J., … Belle, S. H. (2016). Objectively-measured sedentary time and cardiometabolic health in adults with severe obesity. Preventive Medicine: An International Journal Devoted to Practice and Theory, 84, 12–18.  Olsen, H. M., Brown, W. J., Kolbe-Alexander, T., & Burton, N. W. (2018). Flexible work: The impact of a new policy on employees’ sedentary behavior and physical activity. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 60(1), 23–28.  Owen, N. (2012). Sedentary behavior: Understanding and influencing adults’ prolonged sitting time. Preventive Medicine: An International Journal Devoted to Practice and Theory, 55(6), 535–539.                                    CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  7 Appendix A Below is the full survey we used to collect our data, as exported from Google Forms.  CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  8 CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  9 CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  10 CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  11   CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  12  CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  13    CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS  14 Appendix B We have included the individual responses from question 14: “Is there anything you would like to tell us about your experience with a standing desk?” below.  • “the sit stand desk allows me a little movement and adjustment while working long hours - I find that my back and shoulders are not as sore at the end of the day - when I am reading documents I often stand and do little leg raises or bends. this helps me stay relaxed. I am very productive most days but I believe the desk offers me options which allows me to feel better ... even if it is just from my mental perspective - overall enjoy the desk. - it is hard to measure if the desk has added to my productivity as I manage to do a lot in a day - but, if I stay in a healthy mind frame I believe I get more done and more importantly enjoy my time at work - the two go hand in hand.” • “Sometimes when I'm tired I sit down, I like the fact that my standing desk has an option for me to sit down” • “I find that standing is actually quite painful for me if I do it for more than 10 minutes at a time and my chiropractor has also not recommended it for longer periods of time. I also walk a lot between buildings so I find I don't need it to break up my day as much as other people who might actually sit all day.” • “Not something I would consider (unless I were to be dealing with a back issue).” • “its clunky.... annoying” • “Not all standing desks are the same. I had a desktop standing desk and I found it hard to use and restrictive in how I can use my desk. I would love a standing desk where the whole desk can be lowered or raised but I think those are only for senior staff members.” • “It's fantastic!”                       CORRELATIONAL STUDY ON THE USE OF STANDING DESKS 15 Appendix C Graph 1.0 - Proportion of total participants’ opinions on recommending a standing desk to other staff within the UBC Vancouver campus. 


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