The Positives of Exercise in The Workplace
Friday September 25, 2015 by Alex Wood
The Rugby World Cup kicks off in the UK this weekend and it got me thinking about the role of exercise in the workplace, and of all the benefits that it brings, not only for employers but for their employees too. In an earlier blog this year I explored the benefits of promoting the well-being of employees and how companies could achieve that, and one of the key elements was exercise. So I wanted to explore this idea of the benefits of bringing more exercise into the workplace a bit further.
Research by the University of Bristol has shown that people who exercise on work days, particular before work or during breaks, suffer less stress, feel happier and are more productive than on days where they don’t.
I for one, can definitely vouch for this! I notice a discernable improvement in concentration and productivity on days when I cycle into work or pop out for a quick run over my lunch break…without question.
Too much time and money?
Many business leaders probably already realise that exercise IS important but are concerned about the costs of time out of the office as well as the time needed in order to organise the activities themselves. Other potential costs include providing facilities like showers, an exercise room or equipment.
However, if those same employers looked at the potential long-term benefits, they may come to realise that the benefits easily out-strip the costs.
The same research by the University of Bristol showed that employees who exercised on a given day took fewer unscheduled breaks and were more likely to leave work on time.
This is pretty convincing evidence to suggest that exercise improves concentration and productivity and is a good way to cut down on overtime.
There’s more evidence to show that if you have a fit and healthy workforce then you’re likely to see a reduction in the number of sick days. People who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. It also reduces the risk of work-related injuries, which in turn reduces the risk of sustained lay-offs and potential compensation claims. This means that healthcare costs and life insurance premiums will also come down – which is all good!
Team building and motivation…
Another aspect of communal exercise programs that I hadn’t really considered until recently, was that of team-building. One of my team suggested to me earlier this year that we take part in the Tough Mudder Challenge. For those of you who haven’t heard about this yet, it’s a 16km run interspersed by torturous challenges including ice water dips, high walls, rope swings and the one I’m particularly dreading…electric shocks. It may not sound like fun but it’s brought the team together before we’ve even taken part, and I’m told on good authority that we’ll need to compete as a team just to make it around the course! One for all and all for one! And it’s always been true that giving people the opportunity to interact outside the usual office environment gives colleagues the opportunity to blow off some steam together and perhaps encourage closer social ties as well.
So what’s the best approach to take to get your staff more active? I certainly wouldn’t recommend going down the compulsory, dictatorial route – no matter how sold you are on the idea – as people never like being told what to do, particularly if they see it as getting in the way of their day job.
It’s got to be done by encouragement. Get the team involved and see what they like doing, then encourage it. Are there people in your organization that already do sport? Ask if they’d like to try setting up lunchtime or after work classes for the other staff. I have a friend who recently trained as a yoga teacher and now holds weekly classes at her work place for other staff members. Despite the fact that her role means she regularly works very long hours the convenience of giving the classes on site means that this is something that she can fit into her schedule, with her colleagues benefiting as well. It can be very difficult to maintain regular exercise routines during the week, especially if you have a family to look after, so you’ll find that some employees will be very grateful for the opportunity to work some healthy living into their working day
On top of your game…
Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical activity and in the workplace these benefits are considerable.
Improved concentration, sharper memory, enhanced creativity and faster learning, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine, are serious benefits to consider. In addition, exercise has been shown to elevate mood, which also has serious implications for workplace performance. I’m willing to bet that your job requires you to build interpersonal connections and foster collaborations. Within this context, feeling irritable is no longer simply an inconvenience…it can directly influence your success.
Are take-aways always bad for you?
Those of us who have to do a lot of business travel know just what an important tool exercise can be in dealing with the stresses and strains of a nomadic lifestyle. Exercise helps keep sleep patterns in check, reduces the stress of travel and when you’re stuck away from home and your loved ones, the mood enhancing benefits are not to be sneezed at. Many hotels (and quite a few serviced apartments) have gyms on site which is great, but what to do if you’re booked into one that doesn’t? As a short term visitor in town you don’t want to get tied into a long term gym membership, but fear not…modern technology has come to the rescue with some great new apps. One of our favorites is PayasUgym.com which allows you to buy credits for one-off gym visits to a wide selection of gyms throughout the UK.
Take one for the team!
So instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s high time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself.
The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective in our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.
If you can, do think about how you might incorporate well-being and exercise into your company ethos – you might be surprised at the benefits. Many large corporates have well-being programs and I do think that a focus on employee well-being should not be limited to the large elite.
So with all that in mind, I’m off for my lunchtime run so that I don’t let the team down at the Tough Mudder next weekend!
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Posted by Alex Wood