Exercising Your Workplace Culture: Does Fitness Have a Place?

From istockphoto.com
From istockphoto.com

What does wading through mud pits or running a grueling half-marathon sound like to you?

If you’re like a growing number of companies, the answer is “team bonding.”

Fitness events like mud runs, bike trips, and other sporting challenges are increasingly common in businesses of all sizes, as companies work to increase employee engagement through teamwork, while simultaneously promoting healthy lifestyles and wellness for their workers.

For some employees, however, participation is a luxury that’s far out of reach. What happens if other commitments, different abilities, or varied interests keep some of your team from participating? Is physical exercise the best way, or will it work to marginalize some of your staff?

Low-impact, high results

For your most enthusiastic fitness buffs, weekend-long bike trips and iron man competitions are the only way to go. But for the rest of us, there are plenty of low-impact fitness activities that can be accessible for the entire team.

Need an extra-low barrier to entry? Leverage the many inexpensive tools available that will remind your team to take stretching breaks, or organize times for yoga, meditation, or tai chi — you won’t need a dedicated fitness facility or expensive equipment. Office yoga, for example, doesn’t have to mean pricy private instructors: start by simply circulating top yoga exercises that can be done in a cubicle.

If you’re keen to organize something more team-oriented, charity walks and other such events make it easy for anyone to join in, either by fundraising, donating, volunteering, or participating. And you can always put together a DIY activity, like a lunchtime picnic in the park with frisbees and footballs to pass around.

Fitness on your own time

There’s no doubt that healthy employees are happier and more productive, but you can demonstrate a commitment to your employees’ health and wellness without organizing grand events or making non-participants feel left out.

Article Continues Below

Start by taking a look at your workplace environment: do you have the facilities to accommodate workers who would like to jog or cycle to work? Are stairs and sidewalks being given as much priority as elevators and parking lots? Does your work-from-home policy help employees who would rather not own a car, but don’t want to get stuck outside in a storm?

Even if a fitness-friendly environment is out of reach for your workplace, you can still incentivize healthy living. Try keeping a regular supply of fruit for your team to snack on, or including gym memberships and activity allowances as a part of your benefits options.

Cheerleading the team

Don’t worry if employees opt to take on challenges with their colleagues in their own time. With the increasing blur between work and home, many workers view colleagues as personal friends as well as professional acquaintances.

If there’s interest, send along a group of cheerleaders for the big event, throw some company money behind the activity, and encourage the rest of the team to share and celebrate the things they love.

With a little bit of creativity, you can keep your team healthy in a way that fits your culture and welcomes everyone. As they say, “a team that sweats together, stays together.” The payoff for you is a stronger company (literally).