And yet this is what is required of most occupations. Brainwork requires fats to fuel the mind which leads office workers to eat calorie-rich foods without burning off those calories that aren't turned into thoughts. This leads to obesity, heart failure, and other health problems. The biggest difficulty for concerned employers is that often your star employees, the ones who show up early and stay late to finish projects, are the ones at greatest health risk because they take less time for self-care and fitness.
But exactly what can a health-conscious employer do to encourage fitness (and the resulting boost of energy and productivity) in their employees?
This question has been asked by managers and employers many times and answered in too many ways to count. There are company fitness events, office gyms, weight loss challenges, and many more. However, simply coming up with ideas and trying stuff has resulted in unsurprisingly mixed results. Though, some tactics put into action by well-meaning employers have done more harm than good. Fitness is a touchy subject for a lot of people, especially those who enjoy desk work more than jumping jacks, a trait that makes them good employees in the first place.
Company fitness generally works best when it consists of opportunities, gentle encouragement, and friendly rewards. When a company starts telling them how and how much to exercise, you're likely to see a downward shift in morale and productivity instead of the uplifting effect you were hoping to have.
The key to a successful employee fitness program is to remove the hassle.
There are a lot of different ways to approach employee Fitness, but there are also a lot of ways you definitely shouldn't do it. The problem with not most but all of these mistakes is that it puts the employees in the spotlight. For many people, especially those who really need to improve their fitness, it's better to do this with quiet personal resolve, not with the workplace staring at your waistline. Anything that causes judgment or risks embarrassment should go right out the window.
Some fitness program styles that require a lot of little activities and check-ups rely on a point and reward system to encourage employees to do a certain number of exercises or wellness tasks a day. These are then given numeric value, tallied up, and used to judge employees. Stop right there. If anything about your fitness program is offering judgment instead of encouragement, you're losing participants right and left. Points can be fun for people who like points, but don't make it a requirement.
Some employees are not going to participate or can't bear to be seen participating by others. Fitness is a highly personal journey for each and only some people like to do it socially. Whether you're working with a self-registered system or going on the team runs together, don't hassle the employees who don't take part. Encourage, ask if there's anything stopping them, but don't hassle or shame them.
There was a popular television show in the last decade that is now wreaking havoc on everyone's idea of group wellness. Biggest loser challenges involve 'weigh-ins' to see who lost the most weight. There are winners (the biggest weight-losers) and losers. This may feel good for your weight loss champions, but it can kill the morale of others who struggle to lose weight and have to stand up in front of a crowd to 'show off' their lack of health. This is a shaming tactic. Avoid it.
Are you a weight loss studio? Do you sell miracle diets or weight loss shakes? If not, then stay away from the before and after pictures. They will only serve to disappoint, depress, and shame the vast majority of your staff. Sure, one great before and after pair looks good on your testimonials, but how about everyone who did not visibly change? Plus, it emphasizes appearance over actual health.
Finally, watch out for exclusive (not the good kind) programs that some of your employees can't join. Your office may have a few people who are already athletes but group efforts that are too hard, require too much flexibility, or take too much time will exclude the majority of your team. This makes the non-athletes feel like quitters and offers no value to those who were already fit.
Promoting workplace fitness is all about finding the right balance between activity and inclusivity. Ideally, your company is looking for a collection of solutions that together promote fitness for everyone from the hyperactive to the sedentary, from the physically disabled to the physically fit. By learning to avoid the pitfalls of other fitness programs and implementing cutting-edge, supportive, no-hassle policies, you'll soon see a more motivated and fitness-minded workforce.
It's true that competition and focus on appearance works on reality television, and it even works with people who willingly sign up for these kinds of weight loss and fitness programs. But these are your employees you're talking about. You didn't hire them to be athletes, you hired them for their minds, skills, and industry experience. Let's look at a few ways to make fitness fun for your team and pull the focus as far away from appearance and weight as possible. When working out is enjoyable, the calories will practically burn themselves.
Just like coaching a Little League team, there are right and wrong ways to start a company sports team. In fact, encouraging your employees to join a sports team is a lot like Little League. The goal is to make it fun and active for everyone, not necessarily to win games or become professional athletes. As a company, department, or team, get the crew together and talk about forming a team. Decide on a sport (or collection of sports) you'd be interested in playing and when you want to meet after work or on weekends to practice.
With the right attitude, you can essentially turn your company team into the fun active alternative for going to the bar together after shift. Choose low-impact sports that are amateur-friendly like softball, soccer, or even frisbee golf. Anything to get the team running around in a field.
There is still something to be said for the power of group encouragement and working on fitness together as a team. The best way to keep only the good parts of workplace fitness programs and none of the accidental shaming is to create an online place for employees to share their fitness success stories and support each other on reaching their fitness goals.
A social fitness platform can create a private communication network that will give your employees a supportive environment to share their happy fitness news, talk about their personal fitness journeys, and offer each other encouragement. This way, employees who want fitness privacy can have it while those who thrive working out with the community will get the support that motivates their journey.
Morning calisthenics is a fantastic way to get the blood pumping and start everyone in energetic and productive mindset first thing in the morning. However, forcing everyone to get up and touch their toes is no one's idea of a fun workplace. Instead, take a page from summer camps that need to get kids to wake up and get active in the morning.
Use big inflatable balls, hula hoops, energetic music, and someone who's not afraid to jazzercise to get everyone up and moving in the morning. Encourage the team to relax and work up a cardio heart rate first thing and reward them with energy-rich muffins and egg breakfast to start the day off right and get everyone in a fitness mood for the rest of the day.
Finally, here's a fun one you actually can do as an office team that doesn't involve any competition, hassle, or shaming. Deskercising is a craze sweeping the nation as a popular aspect of workplace wellness. For professionals who sit in a desk chair all day, there are a number of fun ways to work out in and around your chair for a few minutes at a time.
You can call special deskercising breaks and encourage everyone to do fun activities like desk kicks, calf lifts, bun squeezing (no really) or lifting small weights while holding your legs out straight. You can even bring in a few small inflatable balls to toss around and turn your deskercising into a brainstorming game as well.
Workplace wellness is an important part of being a modern employer, especially if you want to see a boost in productivity and morale as all or most of your team gets better circulation, less indigestion, and more energy from the exercise activities. For more information about how to bring fitness to your workplace without strife, shame, or hassle, contact us today! Personalizing the employee fitness plan is what we do best.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos