Standing up during a meeting at work or school is actually better than sitting down, claims a new study.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, are saying that when working on group projects, standing up makes people less territorial and more attentive.
The idea for this came during talks about creating a new building for the university and trying to figure out a new furniture design and layout, said Andrew Knight, co-author of the study.
“I had read some of the research on non-sedentary work and standing desks that was focused on individual physiological benefits, but we were really intrigued and excited to see how the physical space might alter literally how people are interacting with and relating to one another over the course of the meeting,” Knight noted.
The researchers used a group of 214 students for the study. The students were told to work together in small groups of three to five people for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, a research assistant used a video camera to record the meetings.
Some of the rooms the students met in had chairs in them, and some did not. This forced certain groups to stand up while conducting their meetings. All of the rooms had a table, two easels, and a whiteboard.
Both before the meetings and during them, the group members also wore small sensors on their wrists that were made to measure physiological arousal. They operated by detecting electrical pulses happening under the skin.
“A primary function of arousal is to signal the importance or significance of environmental stimuli and prepare the body for action,” Knight and his partner Markus Baer wrote. “In social situations, joint experiences of arousal promote affiliation and collective sensemaking, both of which are essential for motivating collective action.”
Afterwards, the researchers looked at both the videos and the results of the sensors to determine if standing up had any impact on attitudes during the meetings. They found that during the chair-less meetings, people were more attentive and more talkative. They were also less territorial and more open to ideas.
“Typically when people are seated at a conference room, they own their own space in the room, they probably have their own paper, their own notebooks that they’re working on and these things create a very individually-oriented mindset,” Knight explained.
Knight also noted that having a whiteboard, or another object of focus, increased the attentiveness of the group. It brought them closer together as well, as they all had to huddle around the object.
So, next time you are having a group meeting, try standing up. Sure it might be hard on the feet at first, but in the end it looks like it will produce much better results.
The findings were published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.