It is easy to mock when companies like Google announce their newest and most innovative office space designs, with ball pits, climbing walls and in-house gyms. You will hear people saying it is a gimmick, or some sort of fad that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Yet such companies do not rise to become among the most successful in the world by throwing money away on mere whims. You can be sure there is a sound business case, backed up by plenty of research, behind these kinds of investments, and that senior management are convinced that they will ultimately bring a return to the bottom line.
The business world is packed with examples of successful, and highly productive, entrepreneurs, who take exercise seriously. To name a couple, Virgin founder Richard Branson loves running, cycling and tennis, and shows no sign of slowing down either physically or work-wise, despite having turned 67 this year. Meanwhile, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has a vigorous daily fitness regime that includes a 5 KM run and a full circuit at the gym.
Fitness and productivity
The people we mentioned above all swear by their daily fitness routines and say that keeping fit keeps them alert, focused and more productive. There is no reason why this should only be the case for millionaire entrepreneurs – there is sound medical and scientific research that demonstrates how exercise is good for our mental dexterity as well as our physical health.
It is well known that physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and a study carried out by Jim McKenna, Professor of Physical Activity and Health at Leeds Metropolitan University, showed that a group of workers who had exercised performed better, were more productive and had improved time management skills than those who had not.
Which brings us back to Google and its climbing walls. In this day and age, businesses need to do everything they can to gain that all-important competitive edge, and increasingly, the best place to find this is by looking within the organisation. How can employers take a leaf from Google’s book?
There is no need to go the whole hog and install a gym in the office building. Many companies negotiate corporate deals with their local health club and are therefore able to offer heavily discounted or subsidised membership rates to employees. That can be a highly effective win/won – not only are employees fitter and more productive, the additional employee perk will also increase morale. A third benefit is that engaging with the local gym like this is a great way to get your business more in tune with the local community. That is never a bad thing, and can increase brand awareness and lead to unexpected cross selling and marketing opportunities, whatever your sector.
All the gear
Another benefit, or incentive, if you prefer, is to provide employees with clothing and equipment for those gym sessions. Again, there is a marketing opportunity to be had here if you get corporate logos subtly incorporated. It makes sense to explore the latest copper wear products, which provide optimum comfort and support.
Meetings on the go
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is famous for his “walking meetings” where he prefers one on ones to take place on the move. He says it helps him stay both focused and active. The idea is a compelling one, and surely beats staring at an employee or co-worker across a desk, with the laptop screen trying to catch your eye. It brings new meaning to the phrase “thinking on your feet.” Probably not such a practical idea for a board meeting with a dozen attendees, though.
Team building activities
Don’t screw your face up in horror, we are not talking about building rafts from barrels or anything – at least, not unless you really want to. The point is, most businesses have social get togethers from time to time, but typically, they involve sinking beers, eating enormous meals or both.
Instead, why not organise an evening of bowling or a golf day – neither of these are overly strenuous, so they are things everyone can get involved in, whatever their fitness levels. To take it up a notch for the fitter ones; sports leagues such as five-a-side football and squash are a great way to improve workplace morale and get your team working even better together.
Sometimes the small things can make a big difference. If your team members spend all day sitting staring at a computer screen, make sure they get plenty of breaks. These don’t have to be lengthy – just five minutes to stretch the legs and get a breath of fresh air can make all the difference, and lead to them returning to their tasks with renewed vitality and focus.
Most businesses have targets and KPIs to ensure they are being met. If you’ve had a particularly good month, you will probably want to do something to reward and recognise those who put in the hard work to achieve it.
Financial bonuses are great, but consider other perks that will be equally well received, such as complimentary gym sessions or tickets to attend a local sporting event. Again, there is the potential in this latter option to build a closer relationship with the local community by, for example, getting to know the local football or cricket team.
Good for the business and the team
It is no secret that the modern-day business world is more competitive than ever, and only the strongest companies will achieve growth and success. That strength must come from within, and put simply, a strong and healthy workforce can lead directly to a strong and healthy company.
As well as the direct benefits to productivity, you will also find that employees are happier, more engaged, take fewer sick days and are less likely to leave your employment. It really is a win/win for all concerned. And as we said at the beginning, if it works for Google, there is almost certainly something in it.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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