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Work Smarter: Meetings Are 34 Percent Shorter If You’re Standing Up

This Week’s Insight: No one likes sitting through an endless meeting, and one psychology study suggests how to cut them shorter: Stand up! 

Sit-down meetings are, on average, 34 percent longer than stand-up ones, according to a 1999 paper published by University of Missouri researchers in the Journal of Applied Psychology. And those longer sit-down meetings don’t necessarily produce better-quality decisions, either, as anyone who has ever been trapped in one can confirm.

The Evidence: Researchers split 555 undergrads into 111 groups of 5, and tasked them with a classic problem-solving survey used in psychology experiments: the “Lost on the Moon” exercise, which asks participants to imagine that they’ve crash-landed on the moon, and must rank the 15 most-important objects that will get them back to safety. About half of the teams of five assembled in a room with a table and chairs; the others met in a room with no furniture, and were instructed to remain standing the whole time. (Researchers were stationed near each of the rooms, inconspicuously timing the groups.)

Afterward, the researchers compared the way the groups ranked the items’ importance with expert rankings, and, to their surprise, the sitting and standing groups’ rankings were nearly identical. They’d hypothesized the opposite — that the standing group would be less comfortable, and so they’d be more likely to rush through the exercise, potentially resulting in errors. One reason this may be the case: By standing, you’ve naturally taken on a “power pose,” one of the postures that researchers like Harvard’s Amy Cuddy have found may help our brains function under stress.

Why It Matters: Who wouldn’t want to make meetings shorter, especially if the quality of ideas generated wouldn’t suffer? Besides, as most of us are now well aware, sitting is the new smoking; too much time on our butts has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions. We’re already sitting, on average, for 9.3 hours every day; let’s take back some of that time where we can.

Work Smarter: For Shorter Meetings, Stand Up