Exercise is a personal choice for individuals. Some make it a part of their daily routine while others tend to steer clear of it at all costs. But research shows that employees who stay active are healthier, happier and more productive.
And while that’s great for an individual, it also benefits their employer’s bottom line. Reduced instances of chronic illness, increased output, lower stress and improved mood are all great reasons why you should care about your team’s overall health. So here are our top five reasons why employees who exercise thrive in the office:
1. Physical activity stimulates brain function
While physical health is one obvious benefit to getting more active, you depend on your employees to be engaged and innovative in the office. A study done by the University of British Columbia showed that aerobic exercise like brisk walking appeared to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
So it’s probably a good idea to have that brainstorming meeting after a lunchtime walk when your team’s brain cells are firing on all cylinders. And most of the conversation will likely be generated by the folks that went walking at lunch instead of moving to a different chair in the break room.
2. Employees feel more productive and handle challenges better
The Harvard Business Review cited a study by Leeds Metropolitan University that observed individual employee experiences on days when they exercised versus when they didn’t. A key finding from the study was that on days when employees did get in a work out, they reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues.
Having team members calmly handle adverse situations – either internally with coworkers or in a customer service capacity – is the best-case scenario from a business standpoint. Plus nobody likes it when there’s tension with coworkers.
3. Regularly active employees have a leg up on the majority of their coworkers
In 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported than four out of five Americans do not perform at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week – the federal government’s recommended amount for adults. This inactivity can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes and increase the risk for developing heart disease and some cancers.
That means 80 percent of your workforce is statistically more likely to develop a chronic illness, which will lead to more extended time off and possibly higher insurance premiums.
4. Activity in the workplace is on trend
In response to data that shows the importance of staying physically active (like the CDC report), some businesses are changing the culture of their workplace.
According to a 2017 article by Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes, his company has incorporated time for exercise into the workday, paying employees to get in a work out while on the clock. Holmes cited a Stockholm University study that showed employees getting active displayed increased productivity and were less likely to call off sick. Today, Hootsuite offers employees an in-house gym with showers and changing facilities, promotes group activities like hiking and cycling, and even has a Yoga studio.
At Clif Bar – a company that makes popular protein snacks found in grocers everywhere – owners Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford pay their almost 500 employees to work out as well. The business operates on an 8.5-hour workday, so at Clif Bar, you can either choose to exercise 30 minutes during your shift or pool those half hours to take off every other Friday.
With major companies like Hootsuite and Clif Bar prioritizing physical activity, keep in mind it may be something top candidates for jobs are seeking in a company’s culture. Not all companies can afford to pay their employees to exercise, let alone build gyms and Yoga studios. So challenge your team to skip lunch out at restaurants and spend it going for a brisk walk – let them eat brown bag lunches and snacks at their desk while working. Have a competition with prizes like gift cards or maybe an extra vacation day for those who are more engaged.
5. Active employees love team building
Exercise is not for everyone and some may resist the push to participate. So how can you make physical activities appeal to those in the office that may appear uninterested and also be inclusive? Make it fun.
Take the group out for a company day trip or employee appreciation event that incorporates physical activity. Places like Elevator Alley Kayak in Buffalo offer group outings with various levels of physical challenge for those who are more or less fit than others. And a kick-off event like a group outing is a great opportunity to let coworkers get to know each other better while also promoting a change in your workplace that celebrates staying active.
You can also make fitness a charitable endeavor. Sign up the company for events like the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge, which donates proceeds to a different non-profit in each host city that participates. Or if you know a bunch of employees are avid bicyclists, form a company team for the Ride for Roswell.
There are plenty of ways to get your workforce more active and when you look at the benefits that are attached, it’s no wonder employers are making it a top priority.
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