Standing Meetings Improve Performance

Standing meetings are on the rise! In 2011, a survey of 6,042 tech companies found that 78% held daily standing meetings (often referred to as the daily scrum). Most of these companies hold standing meetings for efficiency’s sake, and the research supports this. A study in 1998 found that standing meetings are a third shorter than sitting meetings but have the same level of effective decision-making. And, as we all know and this blog fervently reports on, standing meetings are also better for your health.

Now there’s even more reason to lose those chairs. A new study from Washington University in St. Louis shows that standing meetings boost participants’ ability to collaborate and even lead to improved performance on team projects.

The study was led by Andrew Knight of the Olin School of Business. Knight and his colleague Marcus Baer were interested in how physical environment affects team dynamics, and analyzed teams working in rooms with chairs versus rooms without chairs. In their study, 214 university student volunteers were broken into teams of 3-5. Each team was given the same task:  create a university recruitment video. They were allotted 30 minutes to work together, and sent to a conference room with a whiteboard, notebooks, and a conference table. Half the groups found no chairs around the table, and the other half found a normal conference room setup with five chairs around the table.

Knight and Baer discovered that participants showed higher levels of physiological arousal and lower levels of idea territoriality among the standing groups than the sitting groups. Arousal is a measurement of how awake and alert our bodily system is, and was tracked with small sensors worn by the participants. Based on previous studies, it is known that physiological arousal in groups promotes collective and collaborative problem-solving. Idea territoriality is the expression of ownership over one’s individual ideas, and it was measured via questionnaires of the participants. Idea territoriality is counterproductive in a group setting because the more ownership someone feels over their ideas, the less likely they are to let others tweak, modify, and improve them.

These two findings are compelling in their own right and provide substantial support to the theory that standing meetings lead to more effective brainstorming and more collaborative teamwork. To top it off, Knight and Baer had assistants who were unfamiliar with the study judge the groups’ final recruitment videos. Sure enough, on average, the groups without chairs created higher quality videos based on level of creativity and execution.

So, in summary: standing meetings are healthier. They’re also more efficient. They lead to higher levels of collaboration and engagement, and they even result in better final products. In fact, removing the chairs from your meetings might be the lowest cost redesign you can implement at your company.

We recommend doing more than simply removing chairs from conference rooms, though. If you want to create an office that encourages teamwork, increases productivity, and promotes health, a multi-dimensional approach is the way to go. Our Healthy Office Workshop teaches employees creative solutions to be healthier and more productive at the office. Contact us to learn about our workshop as well as our Office Design services. We’d love to Fit Your Space!