Workplace wellness is an essential part of being a modern employer, especially if you want to boost productivity and morale while seeing your team gain tangible health benefits. In particular, encouraging fitness in the office can keep employees engaged, active and interested in their work, making it a win for everyone.
We’ll explore nine reasons why encouraging fitness in the office can benefit your business, as well as share best practices for introducing activity-based team policies and programs.
Encouraging fitness in the office can be part of a broader corporate wellness program that also includes group support, nutritional guidance and mental health services.
Why encouraging fitness in the office is beneficial
Creating a happy, productive work culture is every business owner’s goal. It requires prioritizing employees’ mental and physical health and creating and supporting a culture of wellness.
Encouraging exercise and fitness is an easy way to boost your team’s mental and physical health and improve their personal and professional lives. As a bonus, investing in your employees’ fitness could enhance your organization’s creativity, productivity and communication.
Here are nine benefits of encouraging fitness in the office:
1. Encouraging fitness in the office reduces absenteeism.
Fit, healthy employees help businesses lower workplace absenteeism rates. Businesses that create a fitness culture can end up saving money by increasing work attendance.
Consider introducing a staff health and fitness system to encourage a robust workforce. Regular exercise keeps people healthy. They become less vulnerable to common illnesses and spend more hours at work, thereby improving your bottom line.
2. Encouraging fitness in the office improves job satisfaction.
When an employee is fit and healthy, they’re more likely to perform their job well. As a result, they experience less workplace stress and are more satisfied with their position, engendering higher job satisfaction. Although many factors beyond fitness affect job satisfaction, it’s clear that satisfied, healthy and calm individuals are more energetic, productive and satisfied with their jobs.
Fitness trackers are popular tools for encouraging health at work. However, they may cause privacy concerns and data security issues.
3. Encouraging fitness in the office alleviates stress.
Workplace stress and depression are leading causes of absenteeism, particularly for employees who work in high-pressure business environments. However, working out raises your heart rate, improves blood flow and relieves stress. It also produces hormones such as norepinephrine that help with proper brain functioning and enhance mood.
Teach your employees Transcendental Meditation techniques to combat stress and burnout while improving collaboration, resilience and overall health.
4. Encouraging fitness in the office cuts healthcare costs.
U.S. companies often focus on healthcare provisions, including gym memberships, in their employee benefits packages. They believe that employees who exercise regularly help reduce employer healthcare costs.
In fact, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workplace health programs — including those that spotlight fitness — can lead to 25 percent savings on absenteeism, health care costs, workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.
5. Encouraging fitness in the office increases productivity.
The combination of distractions, multitasking, meetings and personal stress can cause employee productivity to plummet. However, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, workers can improve their time-management skills by 72 percent by replacing 30 minutes of work with exercise each day.
6. Encouraging fitness in the office creates happy, motivated employees.
Regular exercise keeps employees more energetic and motivated at work. Employees with enhanced energy and improved brain function perform better overall.
Motivated employees tend to be happy employees. The British telecom firm BT tracked employee happiness on a weekly basis for six months. Participants were asked to rate their current happiness state with five emoji buttons ranked from very sad to very happy.
The study found that happy employees didn’t work more hours than their sad co-workers but that their mood boost helped them increase productivity by up to 13 percent within their regular daily work hours.
7. Encouraging fitness in the office improves employees’ sleep.
Sleep is another key factor that leads to a happy, healthy and productive life. Deep sleep helps fend off stress, depression and sickness.
However, some people don’t understand the connection between physical fitness and sleep. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, exercise helps stabilize sleep patterns, and moderate-intensity exercise helps insomnia patients improve their health.
Consider letting employees nap on the job. Well-rested employees are better positioned to perform their best with enhanced creativity and cognitive thinking.
8. Encouraging fitness in the office sustains employee retention.
Employees see on-site gyms as a great creative job perk, while managers see them as crucial employee retention tools. When employees’ physical and mental health needs are met, they’re less likely to job-hop or seek other opportunities.
Improved employee retention benefits a business’s bottom line, thus reducing training costs and the need for recruitment.
According to research from McKinsey & Co., healthcare inequality among minority groups in the U.S. costs employers around $80 billion. Addressing healthcare inequality could also reduce sick days and improve the overall health of minority populations.
9. Encouraging fitness in the office supports team-building.
Fitness experts believe effective workplace teamwork fosters energy and motivation and makes employees less likely to quit. An on-site gym is an excellent team-building site where employees can interact during their free time and discuss projects during group exercise sessions and breaks.
Consider setting up a gym on your premises. Create exercise groups composed of various departments, allowing diverse teams to interact. If you don’t have the office space or budget for a fully equipped gym, organize walking groups during lunch or arrange after-hours team-building hikes.
The do’s and don’ts of encouraging fitness in the workplace
Focusing on fitness in the workplace takes planning. Consider the following do’s and don’ts before you implement an office fitness program.
Do: Take a broad approach.
Focus on improving employees’ overall physical and mental health and wellness instead of taking a narrow approach, such as holding weight-loss competitions. It’s crucial to be mindful of mental health issues that could be exacerbated by a focus on weight or body image.
Do: Keep it fun.
Keep your fitness and wellness programs fun so participation doesn’t feel like a chore. While some people enjoy competitions, others find them stressful. Focus on fun prizes and perks for employees who meet participation goals or achieve personal fitness goals. Instead of pitting your team members against one another, create a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.
Do: Engage management.
Set up your employee fitness and wellness program for success by getting the support of top-level executives. An inclusive program that spans the entire organization can help improve manager-employee relations and foster a stronger company culture.
Don’t: Judge those who don’t participate.
Launching a fitness journey is very personal. Not everyone will want to participate in your fitness and wellness programs — at least initially. There’s no place for pressure in an office wellness offering. Don’t shame or judge nonparticipants. Instead, be welcoming and supportive, and continue showcasing how fun your fitness offerings are.
Don’t: Pretend it’s a reality TV show.
Your fitness program isn’t a sports competition or a TV show like The Biggest Loser. Never weigh participants, take before-and-after pictures or keep score. Every participant should be praised for their efforts to live a healthier lifestyle. While lighthearted sports — for example, softball games — can be a fun addition to your program, athletic ability should not be an issue in your fitness program.
Keeping your team engaged in fitness during the workday requires an investment. Your budget determines whether you set up an office gym, provide discounted gym memberships, offer a nutritionist-approved snack bar or simply organize walking groups.
Take some time to decide how you want to frame the wellness program so that all employees can take advantage of it. The investment can create happy, healthy workers in the long run while increasing overall productivity and providing an inviting company culture.