Corporate Benefits, Quality of life at work, Strategic HR 

What if we could have a healthy, happy and productive workforce all the time?

There is plenty of evidence that if you encourage physical exercise among your staff, you can substantially increase their productivity and effectiveness.

It is well known that the practice of physical exercises increases the release of endorphins, our energy levels and improves our mental and physical well-being. But how many employers relate these benefits to the workplace?

Exercise can have a profound effect on how the brain works, bringing cognitive benefits that will improve staff performance and drive your business, including:

Increase memory

Studies have shown that the hippocampus – the part of the brain structure associated with learning and memory systems – grows as people become physically fit. For example, German scientists found that walking or cycling while learning a foreign language helped the new vocabulary to set.

Improve Concentration

In another study, the attention of students at a Dutch school improved when 20-minute periods of aerobic physical exercise were introduced between classes. They became more focused and able to ignore distractions, better at multitasking, and found an improved ability to manipulate information.

Improve Creativity

Do you discourage your staff from taking a walk in the park at lunchtime? This may be a mistake. Research by psychologists in the US has found that a walk, whether on a treadmill or off, encourages divergent thinking – the part of creative thinking that deals with generating ideas.

Cognitive benefits aside, workers who exercise regularly will also benefit from a better mood and lower stress levels, which can not only help keep staff absences low, but also help in maintaining staff.

Train vs Work?

It may be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when people are sitting at your desk or working diligently on a production line, they are in their most productive state. After all, they look productive, right? It makes more sense for the team to exercise in their own time.

Well, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it may be beneficial to let workers exercise during the day. A study from Leeds Metropolitan University showed that when they were at the gym during the working day, employees were able to manage their time more effectively. They reported feeling more productive and said that their interactions with other colleagues improved. They were also more satisfied with the work they had completed at the end of the day.

So, it may seem counterproductive to see your staff going to the gym during lunch hours, but maybe there’s a good reason to let them go – and if you can’t beat them, why not join them?

How to improve the fitness of the team

If you don’t have a budget for introducing a workplace gym, there are several ways to help your workers stay physically fit.

You can start with simple things like encouraging people to climb the stairs instead of taking the lift to the top floor or positioning the printers further away from their desks.

Here are some simple ways to help get a healthier workforce:

  • Team sports are an especially good way to promote the health of your employees. You will also help build stronger relationships between the team. You can try to start a sports team such as a five-a-side soccer team.
  • Organise a sponsored charity walk or fitness challenge. You will be helping a good cause and in addition create positive PR for your company.
  • Encourage colleagues to cycle or walk to work. You can see tremendous benefits in encouraging cycling to work projects. According to the Sustrans charity transport, the average worker takes 4.5 sick days each year. However, those who walk to work take only 2.4 days.
  • Introduce subsidised membership to a local gym? Any expense would pay dividends over time through an energised, physically fit and committed workforce and with reduced turnover.

The most important tool in increasing the physical fitness of the staff is good communication. Educate them about the benefits and then support their efforts. Showing your staff that you care about their health and well-being demonstrates that you value them and their quality of life, and help build loyalty among your employees.

Want to get the best from your employees? Discover how Gympass can help increase the productivity of your workforce.

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