As StraightArrow celebrates its seventh anniversary this year, we’ve committed to implementing an internal wellness campaign that reflects not only the development of the company’s strengths, but those of its employees, too. And so began #StrongerAt7: a movement to encourage health, fitness, and wellness at the office.
The Link Between Wellness and Work
There are a number of reasons companies might want to prioritize their employees’ physical wellbeing. Often cited, for instance, are the financial benefits: a review published by the Harvard Business Review found that companies with a solid wellness program boast lower attrition rates, which spares them the cost of additional hiring and retraining. Healthier employees also mean less sick leaves taken, keeping the flow of work steady.
Despite this, not a lot of companies have tackled one of the root causes of much employee unhealthiness: the sedentary lifestyle that prevails in most kinds of office work. The health risks of prolonged sitting have been well-documented, but so have the practical solutions to it, such as intermittent breaks to walk or working while standing.
Introducing a wellness agenda to the workplace doesn’t always go smoothly, though. New routines require change and change always causes friction. So why should employees welcome the change of pace?
To find out more about employee fitness in the workplace, we interviewed some of the members of StraightArrow’s team with the steadiest commitment to keeping fit and asked them why and how they keep fitness a priority.
Reasons, we found, are fairly varied. One of our Client Relationship Managers, Abby Jogno, finds that having a regular workout routine motivates her to procrastinate less and manage her priorities well. “Once you start your workout, you’ll have more energy to take on both work and fitness,” she says—consistent with a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which found that healthy employees rated their personal work performance better than unhealthy ones.
For April Angco, one of our Analytics team leaders, her fitness routine is an extension of a hobby. She started out just enjoying long walks and now makes running part of her lifestyle, her own “form of meditation.” Balancing work with exercise contributes to her mental, as well as physical wellbeing. And for Content Marketing Team Leader Kyle Francisco (pictured left), keeping fit is a quest for strength, speed and stamina—but started as a means of getting his clothes to fit better. “Call me...‘vain’ or ‘self-absorbed’— I'm fine with all of that, because at least you won't be able to call me ‘fat.’”
Hitting Your Stride
If it were simply a question of “Would you like to be healthy?” nearly anyone would, naturally, agree. But there’s more to it than that. After a full shift at work and with the dozen other things people have to attend to, how do you fit exercise into your schedule?
“I have like a daily itinerary,” April (pictured right) says, which “really helps me a lot in managing and maximizing my time.” In addition to ensuring she has time to exercise, it also keeps her time evenly spread for running errands, watching TV shows, and meeting friends, among others.
Business Development Manager Laurice Calvo, meanwhile, advocates setting more than just short term goals and seeing exercise as part of a routine, so that “it doesn’t even feel like...much ‘balancing.’ Think about it—it's literally an hour for the days I workout” Her workout involves around five sessions a week, divided according to what she’s focusing on. Finding a kind of exercise she likes helped her a lot, too. “ I’ve seen the best results with weight training... that when I work out I prefer to be in the zone, be on my own and have the freedom to get “creative" with my workout routine.”
Bringing this back to the workplace, how do companies fit in the picture? Given that the office is where people spend around half of their waking hours, having an environment conducive to fitness or exercise routines is a big plus.
According to the Harvard Business Review’s survey of business leaders, one predictor of success for employee wellness programs is the fun aspect. To this end, we’ve structured our own small efforts towards wellness with this in mind, in the form of challenges or games. For example, every Friday, we have organized what we call Stand Up in Sixty: every hour starting at 10:00 AM each person has to stand up from their desk and do a prescribed exercise for two minutes. It acts as a mini-group exercise session and gets people to look away from their screens and talk with each other.
We also recently started a new program: the Best Shot quarterly challenges, where we invite individuals to challenge each others’ scores at a particular exercise and award whoever reaches the top of the leaderboard. Many of them are not just joining to win, but also to see how they’ll fare regardless of their rankings. This month the challenge was to do the most number of burpees within five minutes—definitely not an easy feat!
At the end of the day, what the #StrongerAt7 hashtag and slogan aims to communicate is a story of the tie between personal and professional growth. Just as our employees have varying motivations for paying attention to their fitness, a company has to employ various means of helping them reach their goals, and different ways of making what happens of work improve them not just as professionals but also as individuals.
As Kyle said, “If you really want something, you will find ways to be able to do it. Life is too short to waste on excuses.”
Be around a team of great people committed to excel in all aspects of life.
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