Could the “fitness” furniture in your office be hurting your productivity?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests just that. According to Jen Weiczner’s article, “Falling Down on the Job?” users of treadmill/desk workstations, such as Steelcase’s Walkstation and the TreadDesk, found they incurred a greater number of typographical errors. "You quickly realize how difficult it is to type anything longer than a sentence," BBDO CEO John Osborn told WSJ.

The article also cites a study by the University of Tennessee in which some users experienced an 11 percent decrease in small motor skills – not only of typing, but also mouse clicking – as well as other cognitive skills. Not to mention potential corporate issues arising with regards to employee hygiene from the added exertion and liability. Similar situations arise with other types of fitness furniture including the combination stationary bicycles and desks, such as the FitDesk.

Liability questions also arise with the use of stability balls in the workplace, which many workers use to improve their abdominal strength while sitting at the desk. In addition to the possibility of workers hurting themselves by sliding awkwardly off the balls, the WSJ article cites a 2009 Dutch study which, while acknowledging the fitness benefits of these devices, notes they also produced "spinal shrinkage," and compression of the vertebrae in some test subjects.

Now I certainly don’t advocate everyone become "chair potatoes" in the workplace. Also, let’s not forget findings that suggest sitting down on the job can be harmful to your health. In fact, in 2011 I wrote about an American Cancer Society study that found an increased risk of mortality from people that sat more than six hours a day. Research also linked approximately 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 incidents of colon cancer annually, to prolonged periods of sitting.

So what’s a company or worker to do? Tell us how is your office handling the situation.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.