Encouraging your employees to exercise isn’t simply about keeping them fit and healthy, there are also a number of other benefits, both for the employee and you as the employer.
1. Nature’s a great healer
Encouraging exercise that can be achieved outdoors, such as cycling, running or competitive sports, will help your employees to harness the positive effects of nature on their wellbeing.
Simply being outside is known to reduce stress, improve our mood and increase our cognitive performance. Stress-free, positive and alert employees are far more efficient and productive, benefiting both their career and your business.
UK researchers found that moving to a greener area (or having easy access to parks or woodland, etc.) has a sustained positive effect, unlike pay rises or promotions, which only provided a short-term boost.
Their study also found that people living in greener urban areas were displaying fewer signs of depression or anxiety.
These findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Nature doesn’t just have a positive effect on the mind. Roger S. Ulrich, PhD, has found that nature can help your body heal too.
In a study, Ulrich investigated the effect that views from windows had on patients recovering from surgery. He discovered that patients whose hospital rooms overlooked nature had an easier time recovering than those whose rooms overlooked brick walls. Patients able to see nature got out of the hospital faster, had fewer complications and required less pain medication than those forced to stare at a wall.
Like other researchers, Ulrich has found that simply viewing representations of nature can help. In a study at a Swedish hospital, for instance, he found that heart surgery patients in intensive care units could reduce their anxiety and need for pain medication by looking at pictures depicting trees and water. Source: APA
Employees that heal better and faster will take less time off.
2. A healthier way to network
As a healthy alternative for working dinners, a gym is a great place to ‘sweatwork‘ and further your career. Networking doesn’t have to be confined to the weights however, sport is also a great place to network.
It’s nothing new to incorporate sport into business deals, golf has long since been a staple of executives when it comes to closing deals or welcoming a new client.
Encouraging your employees to choose a healthier option when it comes to their account management or sales will not only benefit their health, but also your reputation as an employee, conscious of the wellness and happiness of your employees.
Forming a comradery with a training partner helps to cement relationships and build rapport, perfect for a new customer relationship or a potential one.
Not all fitness activities are appropriate for networking. For instance, a yoga class won’t lend itself to creative discussion or negotiations. It’s important to pick the right type of exercise to suit your networking requirements.
3. Creativity thrives
Creative employees increase productivity, contribute more readily to discussions and contribute to a brands innovation.
Cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato, of Leiden University in The Netherlands, found that people who exercised four times a week were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.
In order to free your mind and allow it to be creative and to ‘wonder’ it’s important that the exercise undertaken isn’t one that requires constant focus and concentration, such as a competitive sport. Walking, running or cycling (in green spaces) allow employees to think about all sorts of things, some of which may prove to be the answers to problems, new ideas for a product or an inspired marketing strategy.
Combining exercise with business has also been a trend in recent years with such things as ‘walking meetings’.
As well as the obvious benefits of exercise, encouraging meeting attendees to join you for a stroll reduces the time they’re sat at their desks (and the associated dangers this brings), improves energy and engagement, and helps to break down corporate walls between management and employees.
Simply changing their environment from a desk to the outdoors may be enough to reinvigorate your employee’s creative juices and inspire them to think of the next big thing for your business success.
4. Release the endorphins!
Exercise has been proven to fight the effects of stress, depression, anxiety and even ADHD.
As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
A greater sense of calm in your employee base, as a result of increased exercise, will contribute to a healthy, productive and happy workforce.
Exercising regularly also reinforces the feeling of a balanced office and home life, further improving employee mood, motivation and perception of the employer brand.
Physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her self-worth, increasing confidence and willing to involve themselves in company discussions.
5. Healthier employees mean productive employees
A 2011 report on workplace fitness examined 752 employees from a variety of industries and positions in the UK and US.
Those employees who reached (or surpassed) 10,000 steps per day reported significant boosts in job satisfaction and productivity (only 18 percent of employees walked 10,000 or more steps per day before the program, and 58% were hitting that goal by the end).
Participants who completed the program reported a productivity increase on average of 41%.
Employees who reached the 10,000-step goal felt more productive than those who didn’t. Those who hit the goal also reduced their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 8%, more than twice the reduction of those who did not reach 10,000 steps per day. Source: Greatest.com
Exercise also helps you to focus on tasks and work through discomfort to achieve your goals, both great qualities when applied to your career and everyday work situations.
Working out is known to improve brain function. According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, people who are physically active score better on cognitive tests than people living a sedentary lifestyle.
In a clinical trial run by the Body-Brain Performance Institute, in association with Swinburne’s University and Brain Sciences Institute, found there was a clear link between physical fitness, brain function and reduced stress levels at work. Source: TheNextWeb
6. Team cohesion
Breaking through barriers and setting new personal best times/achievements is great when shared with a colleague. Added encouragement from a gym partner will help to improve cohesion within a department or company as a whole.
By sharing common goals, individuals will gain a sense of comradery. Working together and providing encouragement will become a natural part of their relationship, one which will also enable them to work well as a team in the office.
Participating in team sports reinforces the benefits of working together to achieve goals. This could be anything from doubles badminton to a full company football team, regardless of the size of the team, and what being part of it means, is the important factor.
7. Added job value
Providing gym membership, discounted fitness classes or a company team kit, adds value to the employees perceived worth to the brand. As well as a salary, you as a business are also investing in the health and happiness of your employees and they’ll be grateful for it.
Employees who feel valued and appreciated will repay you with higher productivity, engagement and energy towards their career.