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ABQ law firm likes to walk — while working
ALBUQUERQUE — Tucked into a nondescript office building in northeast Albuquerque, a small law firm is the proud new early adopter of the walking workstation, an invention that enables the firm’s staff to work while they’re walking.
“We’re on the cutting edge for a lot of reasons, but this is one of them,” Nell Graham Sale, one of the firm’s founding partner, told the Independent.
The firm’s walking workstation — a quiet, low-vibration treadmill combined with a height-adjustable desk — sits in a small room with a single window overlooking the parking lot. It was installed on Dec. 4 in a room specifically designed for it.
Sale’s estate planning law firm — Pregenzer Baysinger Wideman and Sale, PC — purchased its walking workstation from Business Environments, the office furnishings store that is currently Albuquerque’s only retailer of the product.
The company confirmed to NMI that the law firm was its first such customer in the city and just the second statewide.
Repeating that factoid on a recent tour of the 5-month-old, five-lawyer firm, located on Louisiana Boulevard due east of the Coronado Center shopping mall, Sale was clearly proud of the accolade. “We’re pretty cool!” she declared.
Her fellow partner at the firm, Erin Wideman, however, deserves much of the credit for the fit innovation. After seeing a story about the walking workstation in the Albuquerque Journal back in April — “Walking workspace: ‘Dream machine’ combines low-speed treadmill with desk” — she had a visceral, three-word reaction.
“I want one,” she recalled.
Sale wanted one, too.
“We just didn’t know if we could afford it,” Sale added. “But then we made the decision and we put it in our budget.” Hovering over the shiny new walking workstation, Wideman explains that the idea here isn’t sweaty exercise — just movement. She expects it to become a shared workspace.
“We want everybody here to take their turn and rotate in,” she explained. “We just want everybody to feel better. So we encourage the staff to come in and use it. We may need a sign-up sheet if it’s that popular. We’ll see.”
Sale, on the other hand, gave a more personal, colorful pitch.
“It just gives you one more option. It doesn’t take any options away,” she said. “I just get tired sitting all day long. And my butt gets big. I noticed that. My eyes start to go in, and I started to have much more difficulty getting my hips under control. You just sit, sit, sit.”
Not anymore. But she mentioned that there are some limitations to the walking workstation.
“Yesterday, I brought in a file for a case I thought I could go through but the desk just isn’t big enough for that. And you probably can’t write here,” Sale added, noting that she still sometimes prefers to write with pen and paper.
Escape from the cubicle
Dr. Jim Levine, director of the Active Life research team at the Mayo Clinic, is the recognized father of what he dubs the “Walkstation.” Levine has partnered with Details, a Michigan-based company that makes ergonomic office equipment, to move from research to practical application. Albuquerque’s Business Environments is Details’ local dealer.
A paper Levine published last year — and excerpted in Medical News Today — concluded that the walking workstation can lead to significant weight loss.
“If sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure might increase by 100/kcal/hour. Thus if obese individuals were to replace sitting computer time with walking computer time, by two-three hours per day and if other components of energy balance were constant, weight loss of 20-30kg/year could occur.”
The retail cost is considerable — approximately $6,000 for the treadmill and desk not including any computer equipment, according to Business Environments. The price varies, however, with the size and features of the desk.
The idea is to encourage more active office workers, and in the process, help previously sedentary workers burn more calories while they work. The same idea has also been noted in the context of schools and the growing number of obese kids.
According to a February story in Harvard Business Review on “the board meeting of the future,” reporter James J. Medina puts the walking workstation in its proper historical context.
“If our ancestors sat still in the savanna for eight hours straight — heck, for eight minutes — they became somebody’s lunch. Our brains developed while we walked about 12 miles a day, seven days a week, for several million years.”
Medina added, “If you wanted to create a work environment in direct conflict with what the brain is equipped to do, you’d design the standard cubicle.”
The green office
“I think there’s a learning curve to some extent,” Wideman added as the brief tour came to an end. “I can respond to e-mail, talk on the phone, conference calls — eventually as your coordination increases, it’s not that hard. What I’ve found is it depends on the speed.”
The max speed for the treadmill is 2 miles per hour, relatively slow by gym standards.
Sale, couched the walking workstation as part of a broader, progressive effort she’s pushing at the office.
“We wanted to integrate as many green things as we can,” she said, ticking off a no-plastic-water-bottle policy and, perhaps her second favorite innovation next to the walking workstation, lights that automatically turn on when someone enters any room in the firm.
“It’s like going on stage,” she said with a smile pointing to an adjacent office. “Just walk right in there and take a bow!”
Another future goal, she added, is to move toward a paperless office.
Asked if she sees a marketing advantage in all this, Sale got serious for a moment.
“No, clients are interested in our legal expertise,” she said.
So why do it?
“Cuz we’re smart!” she said with a laugh.