Productivity of transcriptionists using a treadmill desk

Work. 2011;40(4):473-7. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2011-1258.


Objective: Time spent sitting increases all-cause mortality. Sedentary occupations are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. A treadmill desk offers the potential to increase activity while working; however, it is important to make sure that productivity does not decline. The purpose of this study is to evaluate productivity while using a treadmill desk.

Participants: Eleven experienced medical transcriptionists participated in the study.

Methods: Transcriptionists were given 4 hours training in the use of a treadmill desk. They were asked to transcribe tapes for 8 hours both while sitting and while using the treadmill desk. Speed and accuracy of transcription were compared as were the average expended calories per hour.

Results: The accuracy of transcription did not differ between sitting and walking transcriptions. The speed of transcription was 16% slower while walking than while sitting (p < 0.001). The transcriptionists expended 100 calories per hour more when they transcribed while walking than when they transcribed while sitting (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: The treadmill desk offers a way to reduce sedentariness in the workplace and has potential to reduce employee obesity and health care costs. However, more than 4 hours of training will be necessary to prevent a significant drop in employee productivity.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Terminals*
  • Efficiency*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Occupational Health
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Time Factors
  • Walking*
  • Workplace