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Improving Employee Productivity by Demanding “No Sitting on the Job”

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Imagine a workplace where chairs are banned and alarms go off when you walk too slowly. This is not science fiction, but the reality at one branch of the Canon Electronics Company.

According to a story in Nikkei IT Pro Magazine (English Translation), an executive has made radical changes to the work environment. President Hisashi Sakamaki makes the following claims:

  • Employees concentrate better in meetings without chairs
  • Meetings have been reduced by 50%
  • Standing employees develop closer relationships and solve problems faster
  • Overhead for furniture is significantly reduced

Not only are employees denied the chance to sit down, but the plant is equipped with special sensors that measure walking speed. If a worker is crossing a hallway too slowly, they are admonished by the machine!

At first glace, Canon Electronics sounds like a nightmare; a throwback to factories of the Industrial Revolution before the creation of labor laws and workplace safety regulations. But many of Sakamaki’s objectives actually have some merit. We do waste lots of time in meetings, and standing up through them help to keep them short and focused. By taking a step back, we can recognize similar conditions in the United States as well. Many service employees such as restaurant servers and hospital workers maintain their energy through long shifts by standing on their feet. In these professions, where seconds can have a tremendous business impact, walking a brisk pace is advantageous.

Indianapolis Consultants on Canon Policy

© Flickr user sukiweb

So what is the real problem with this proposal? Why do we recoil at the story? Perhaps it’s due to the company’s president inflicting this vision on his employees. Dramatic changes at work usually frustrate employees if they come as an edict from upper management. Even if the idea is sound, no one enjoys being told exactly what to do, where to stand and how to walk. We sympathize with Canon’s employees as if they were under the thumb of a cruel master. In actuality, the company president is only trying to help.

Managers and employees often experience tension because of similar models for implementing change. If you want to improve workflow in your organization, consider first how it will be perceived by those around you. When stakeholders are engaged in the change process and have true ownership over their own work, both satisfaction and productivity improve. Reach out to our Indianapolis consulting firm today.

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