I have always been envious of people who work for companies with onsite gyms. However, I was most impressed when the facility director told me most managers at the hospital encourage their employees to exercise during their workdays. In fact, the managers are evaluated on how actively they promote wellness in their departments, she told me. How great would that be to have a boss who is cool with a little longer lunch if it means coming back with a clear focus?
My husband spends his lunch hour at the gym near his office. Because he is a manager, his example has encouraged others at his company to exercise at lunch time, too. Like most other office dynamics, even fitness starts at the top. For all of the time and money businesses spent on corporate wellness, it seems pretty straightforward that the biggest enticement is a manager who believes in fitness and leads his team by example.
Most of us know that exercise is important for our physical and mental health. The challenge is finding the time for it when we are struggle with work life balance. When I'm stressed and overwhelmed, exercise is the first thing to go. But if I had a role model at work, someone who took fitness breaks even during the most stressful times and encouraged me to do so, I think it would change my mindset.
So am I saying that it's my boss' job to motivate me to exercise? No, that's not exactly what I'm saying. Instead, I'm saying that those people in a position to lead by example or influence others to embrace fitness, should make a conscious effort to do so -- the payoff will be huge in terms of productivity.
Look around your office around 4 p.m. Who is hitting the snack machine or grabbing another cup of coffee and who seems to have the stamina to make it through the afternoon? I bet the person who worked out at lunchtime is the one with stamina. I bet the boss who worked out is a lot more patient with his team. I bet the overweight boss who hasn't exercised in a year is not the one who employees will go the extra mile to please.
Researchers have found that people who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle tough tasks. They felt better prepared for the challenges of the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work. As researchers put it, "an hour of exercise creates a feeling that lasts well beyond that hour spent at the gym."
We definitely are seeing more of an emphasis from employers on wellness in the workplace. Now, if we can get more managers to offer some flexibility around exercise routines and be supportive of wellness efforts, I think more of us would embrace a workout when we feel stressed. In the end, everyone benefits. With that conclusion, I'm heading to the gym!