In my "Mind Your Business" column, I try to bring you a unique entrepreneurial perspective on the sometimes strange world of academic research.
You may have seen the headlines (and foot fetish photos) last week about the benefits of shopping in high heels. The long and the short (or high and low) of it is that when people try to maintain physical balance, such as when wearing high-heeled shoes, they are more likely to make more balanced decisions — including about what they buy.
“If you’re someone who tends to overspend, or you’re kind of an extreme person, then maybe you ought to consider shopping in high heels,” said Jeff Larson, a marketing professor at Brigham Young University.
Larson and co-author Darron Billeter said that most anything that forces your mind to focus on balance affects your shopping choices as well.
This got me wondering what it might mean in the world of work. Could how or where workers sit affect the kinds of decisions they make?
Larson told me in an email interview that he believes his findings would hold true in all different decision-making situations.
“There’s no reason to think that our effects are isolated to shopping,” he said. “The basic premise of our research is that physical balance is connected in the mind to the concept of parity/equality, so concentrating on keeping your physical balance causes you to also think about equality and to interpret your environment in that light.”
Larson said his study focused on shopping, but he believes it could apply to any situation where, as he put it, thoughts on equality could change the outcome of decisions and behavior.
Larson was already considering this before I started asking questions.
“One example we’ve thought about is work-life balance,” he said. “Employees might feel that they have a better work-life balance when they are forced to balance themselves physically.”
He suggests that perhaps a standing desk rather than a regular desk better activates balance.
Although Larson’s research suggests that finding creative accommodations for workers might result in better decisions, he warns against assuming that the effect would be the same on everyone.
There are likely personality differences that influence the extremity of your decisions more than whether you have recently had to exert yourself to maintain your physical balance, he said. “But we do believe that those with chronic balance problems [vertigo, etc.] would be more likely to make ‘balanced’ decisions.”
So, maybe being “unbalanced” isn’t so bad, after all?