may be just the kind of place anyone would want to work. In
one area sits a foosball table, pingpong table and video golf
game to help employees break through creative blocks. In
another area, slices of birthday cake adorn plates on the
kitchen’s island counter.
most noticeable workplace feature? Treadmill desks.
a finance, accounting and human resources staffing firm based
in Minneapolis, the culture is one of movement intended to
fuel creativity and productivity. Workers pace on treadmills
while talking on the phone or sorting through emails. Others
stand at their desks or sit on exercise balls.
study by the University of Minnesota found that walking while
working might improve not only an employee’s health, but
also boost output. The study, conducted by Avner Ben-Ner, a
professor of work and organizations at the Carlson School of
Management, followed about 40 employees of a local financial
services company who regularly used treadmills instead of
chairs. Workers had a computer, a phone and writing space on a
desk in front of a treadmill set to go no faster than 2 miles
per hour. Ben-Ner and his co-authors studied them for a year.
they found was that treadmills increased productivity by
nearly 10 percent. "That’s a substantial
increase," Ben-Ner said.
were not forced, like rowers in a Roman war galley, to walk
all day. Walking on the treadmill was voluntary — as was
standing at their desk or sitting on an exercise ball. Still,
even though workers could sit all day if they wished, most did
Ben-Ner said, is good for work. Especially for what he called
"brain workers," those who need to have increased
cognitive skills to perform their duties. An employer’s
investment of $1,000 to $2,000 in outfitting a workstation
will pay off, he said.
employer benefits from the employee being active and healthy
and more smart because more blood is flowing to the
brain," Ben-Ner said.
at the company that participated in Ben-Ner’s study did not
return a call seeking comment. But Salo’s participation in a
similar study several years ago by the Mayo Clinic helped
create a culture of movement and fitness at the company, said
founders Amy Langer and John Folkestad.
seen an article by Dr. James Levine at Mayo and, as Langer
said, "stalked him" in an effort to get treadmill
desks like the ones he used. Instead, in 2008, they became
part of his study. The treadmills and other equipment, like
wireless headsets to encourage movement, have been a feature
at Salo ever since.
everyone in the office wears business attire, running shoes
are at every desk. There is even a conference room with four
treadmills for "walking meetings."
the culture attracts employees who like to constantly move or
whether the active environment created more energetic workers
isn’t really clear, Langer said. "This for us is not
abnormal," she said, pointing to workers moving and
pacing all over Salo’s sun-filled main area. Salo has about
55 employees in its Minneapolis office; in all, the company
has about 330 consultants working all over the Twin Cities.
Salo has another office in Chicago.
said that as Salo looks to expand into new space, they are
considering putting a treadmill at every workstation.
end of the Minneapolis office, Chief Financial Officer Denise
Doll-Kiefer was trying to meet her goal of walking 2 to 4
miles every day, while going over work at her desk. At the
other end, at a bank of treadmills, Maura Howard and Angie
Complin in business development perused emails and spoke with
clients by phone as their walking shoes kept up a steady beat.
try to do three miles every day," said Howard, who also
teaches fitness classes outside of work. Both she and Complin
said the regular walking helps them avoid the drowsiness that
used to hit them after lunch.
said Salo’s experience is becoming less unique as more
companies from Best Buy to Great Clips are setting up
treadmills, standing desks and other equipment to encourage
workers to get up and move.
detectable on the radar now," he said of the desire to
encourage more regular workplace activity, especially among
sit long, you start dozing off because you don’t do anything
other than thinking."
sense for companies, and sedentary workers, to pay attention,
is a very simple cost-benefit analysis here. We’re not
talking big fitness gains. We are talking a person who is
sedentary who just gets up."