Employees take care of vital clientele. Yet many companies don’t respect their staff’s physical and mental health needs. Regardless of what the balance sheet says, employees are not liabilities — they’re a company’s greatest assets. When they’re taken care of, they produce rewards in the form of high productivity and profits.
Does caring for staff members’ health mean letting them exercise on the clock?
The Benefits of Exercise at Work
Why do people skip a workout? Typically, they don’t have enough time. The weather and exhaustion are also significant deterrents. However, people express an interest in exercising on the clock. In one survey, 77.6% of participants claim they would work out if their employer had a gym they could use.
Companies pay employees to work, not run the treadmill, right? While true, companies also want employees to be productive. Exercise on the clock could save time and money.
Improved Immune Function
Did you notice how, when one person in the office falls sick, everyone catches the bug? Germs circulate quickly in enclosed spaces. Even the most vigorous applications of disinfectant won’t eliminate them all.
However, exercise improves immune system function in several key ways:
- Flushes away bacteria: When your breathing rate increases, your body pushes bacteria and viruses out of your lungs and nasal passages.
- Raises core body temperature: You get a fever when you’re sick because your body tries to burn off the infection. Exercise increases your core temperature without exposing you to germs.
- Slows release of stress hormones: When you’re under stress, you release cortisol. Excessive amounts of this hormone can make you feel lousy.
- Increases circulation of white blood cells: Working out stimulates the flow of the blood — including your white blood cells. These cells fight off attacking pathogens.
Fewer employees calling in sick equates to more money in the coffers. Sick time accounts for as much as 6% of payroll in some companies. Decreasing the days staff members request PTO means more work accomplished.
Reduced Chronic Pain
In America, one out of every five adults suffers from chronic pain. Many employees deal with aching backs and necks. It’s impossible to work at your best when you’re hurting.
In research investigating the relationship between chronic pain and regular exercise, experts revealed several benefits and few adverse effects. While they must conduct further investigations, the initial determination shows a small but significant improvement in overall function and quality of life. Plus, regular exercise could reduce the need for pain medications, improving focus and concentration.
Lowered Disease Risk
Heart disease remains a significant killer of both men and women. One of the best ways to protect your cardiovascular health is by working out regularly. Why do it on the clock? Even when people hit the treadmill after hours, prolonged sedentary work increases disease risk significantly.
Even regularly standing up improves concentration. Among workers surveyed, 71% reported feeling more focused when they increased their standing time by one hour. Consider investing in variable height desks that adjust from sitting to standing or hold your meetings while you stroll the halls.
Reduced Mental Illness
Anxiety disorders continue to rise in America — almost 40% of Americans report feeling more stressed this year than the previous. This stress can lead to adverse health effects. For example, employees can’t perform at their best when they feel panicked. Depression also takes a toll. Mental illness can make it difficult to get out of bed, meaning workers call in sick.
Exercise works as effectively as antidepressants for alleviating despair in some patients. Additionally, working out reduces levels of cortisone, the hormone responsible for the fight-or-flight response. The decrease in cortisone calms anxiety naturally.
Improved Oxygen Flow
You can’t think effectively when your mind is starving for oxygen. Exercise increases blood flow to your brain. Working out also activates the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Regular fitness can reverse the shrinkage of this area, something that occurs naturally as people age.
Enhanced Work-Life Balance
In the U.S., 66% of workers say they lack a balance between work and personal life. This lack of time explains why many say they genuinely can’t fit exercise into their schedule.
Installing a fitness facility in the workplace means employees can do 10 minutes of dumbbell curls during a morning break, and 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise in the afternoon. Workers won’t get the ideal amount of activity, but they will get some. They’ll also have more time to spend with their families.
Potential Drawbacks of Exercise at Work
With the benefits of working out at work, you might be waiting for the drawbacks. While there are a few, experts argue the benefits outweigh them.
Some Staff Feel Excluded
Some staff members might be in wheelchairs, and others may use leg braces. These individuals benefit from exercise, too. Yet you need to use your judgment when it comes to incentives. If you start an office pool to see who can compete in an upcoming 10K, for example, you risk excluding people who can’t navigate the course.
Companies that lack space for an on-site facility can partner with a local fitness center. However, be mindful not to tie rewards to participation if not all staff can join.
Additional Office Distractions
Some workout gear, like stylish and sleek leggings, have become part of the accepted workplace attire in some industries. Yet even in companies with written dress codes, some staff members flaunt the rules.
Businesses that install a facility should consider a locker area where employees can change. They should also develop policies for how to handle employees who break clothing restrictions.
Most employees welcome workplace wellness programs. However, employers must ensure everyone stays safe when they work out. If an employee experiences chest pains while on the treadmill and the facility is not staffed, the company could face a negligent supervision claim for damages.
Businesses can also face consequences if they fail to maintain equipment in proper working order. They should consult with the legal department regarding requisite warnings and waivers for staff to sign.
Best Exercises for the Workplace
Companies can encourage workplace workouts without investing in a bunch of equipment. Employees can reap the benefits of wellness with these ideas:
- Variable desks: Requisition a desk that adjusts from sitting to standing. You can even ask for specialized treadmill desks that let you walk while you work. If your department lacks the budget, stack empty cardboard boxes to adjust your monitor and keyboard to waist-height.
- Seated yoga: Set a timer on your phone or computer. Every hour perform gentle yoga stretches at your desk. You can perform a modified cat-cow pose by placing your hands on your thighs and curving and extending your spine. Do some shoulder rolls and stand up to touch your toes.
- Mini-cycles: You can find inexpensive mini bicycles online. These fit under your desk and allow you to pedal while you sit, increasing your blood flow.
- Walking lunges: If you don’t mind looking a bit odd, you can tone your legs and improve your heart health with walking lunges. Step forward and place one foot far enough ahead that you can bend your front knee 90 degrees. Two laps around the cubicles will get your heart pumping.
- Brisk walks: If the weather cooperates, use your morning and afternoon breaks to take a quick walk around the block. If it’s raining or snowing, climb up and down the stairs.
- Exercise ball chairs: If you want to improve your posture, reach for one of these chairs. You can bounce while you work to engage your quads, too.
Exercise at the Office? Yes, Please!
The evidence points towards exercise at work as an excellent way to boost productivity. It improves health outcomes and decreases sick days. Now that you know the potential pitfalls, you can establish a winning fitness program and hit peak performance.