Texas A & M School of Public Health scientists have already shown that stand efficient workstations, those in which the worker could raise or lower the desk to stand or sit as they wished throughout the day, boost productivity in office workers, aid students cognitive functioning and enhance kid’s BMI.
But, one limitation with stand-efficient desks is that people forget to change positions when they become involved in a task. Therefore, Mark Benden, Ph.D. CPE, an associate lecturer at the Texas A&M Ergonomics Centre and member of the Centre for Remote Health Systems and Technologies, and one his doctoral students have experimented the use of a computer prompt to remind people to stand at numerous times throughout the day.
“We are experimenting to see if we can break up those long periods of sedentary time during the day,” says Benden. “We think technology might be good at encouraging behaviour we want.”
Now, the scientists are taking it one step further. Using software linked to the desks themselves, Bender and another graduate student, Parag Sharma, are studying what factors and behavioural prompts affect the behaviour of about 1000 people in three offices in Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne.
“We are attempting to boost and sustain the usage of stand-capable workstations by making it as simple as possible,’ says Sharma. “A notification will pop up the screen when it is time to alter the desk position, and with a single click of the mouse, the desk will lower or raise itself.” Yes, lower, sometimes people become so used to standing that they forget to take sitting breaks, and that is not healthy for long periods either.
The scientists are monitoring the usage of the desks to determine the number of motion changes during the day. The software can determine whether the people are actually at their desks as well as much nuanced metrics of their computer usage, from number of words typed single minute and mouse clicks to where their eyes go on the screen.
At the end of the study, the group will have over 100 metrics to analyse for each person over the course of numerous months. “We all are aware that being inactive for long periods of time is bad for you,” says Benden, “and this is an instance of technology actually affecting the very furniture to prompt behavioural change and make relevant choices that over couple of years add up to good results.”
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