By Chris Ball, CSCS
FX Well Virtual Coaching and Digital Fitness Program Manager, Performance Coach
This time of year gives us the opportunity to give thanks and spend time around people we love. But this time of year can also cause massive headaches when it comes to staying on track with our fitness and nutrition goals. Here are eight ways you can stay on track during this holiday season.
About my role: As a Software Developer, my job is to use technology transform ideas into reality. Working with the rest of the team I aim to continually improve the FX Well platform for our users, to provide a meaningful impact towards their health and wellness.
Why I enjoy working in health and wellness: I love working in health and wellness because the work we do here is significant. We have the special opportunity to empower people to live better, healthier lives.
In the last post, we talked about how we do wellness for our team. As we mentioned before, a big part of our approach is allowing our employees to have flexible hours for fitness.
What do we mean when we say we offer flexible hours for fitness?
At FX Well, we don’t abide by the typical “9 to 5 schedule” and don’t have a true lunch hour. We empower our employees to make their own schedule, so they can take time to go workout, attend a fitness class, go for a run—you name it. With this approach, it’s not uncommon to see employees leaving at 2pm to workout at the nearby gym. It’s also not uncommon that employees sometimes come in earlier or stay a little later to make sure everything gets done.
We know some people are thinking, “My company could never do that.” But we would ask you to give it a second thought. Yes, it will probably take a shift in some daily operations, and maybe the culture, to get there. But it’s possible!
Let us make the case for you. Here are some reasons why your organization should start putting physical activity first and how you can get started.
Consider the numbers.
Encouraging fitness during the workday can have a direct impact on rates of absenteeism and healthcare costs. According to the 2016 Report of Physical Activity in the Workplace by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, employees who get at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week miss an average of 4.1 fewer days of work per year. This report also referred to a study of General Motors employees: those who exercised one to three times per week had about $250 lower annual paid healthcare costs than inactive employees, regardless of BMI or weight. When researchers looked only at employees who were obese, those savings went up to $450.
Another study listed in the report looked at O’Neal Industries, a 3,000-employee metal service center company. When this company implemented wellness programming at select locations, 400 employees worked to improve their exercise levels. Their movement-focused initiatives included on-site fitness centers, on-site recreation opportunities such as basketball, and walking programs. When combined with other initiatives, such as health coaching and campaigns, this contributed to an overall net cost savings of more than $556,000 and an ROI of $1.52 for each dollar spent on healthcare.
Think time quality, not quantity.
It may surprise you to know that employees don’t typically spend every hour of the work day on work-related tasks. A 2016 survey of nearly 2,000 office workers from the UK found that employees actually only focused on work about 2 hours and 23 minutes on any given work day. What were they doing the rest of the time? Forty-four minutes were spent on social media, 1 hour and 5 minutes were spent reading news websites, 40 minutes were spent chatting with coworkers about non-work related topics, 17 minutes were spent making hot drinks, 8 minutes were spent snacking, and more.
On the other hand, physical activity during the work day has shown to increase productivity. One study from the International Journal of Workplace Management surveyed 201 employees on their mood and performance outcomes when they participated in self-selected exercise during the workday. The study found that performance indicators were higher on exercise days vs. non exercise days, regardless of the exercise and workload. They also reported that their mood improved pre- to post- exercise.
From the above data, we can conclude that most employees aren’t spending the full 8-hour day on work-related tasks, meaning there should be sufficient time for employees to get active during the day. And when you consider the potential boost in productivity and mood, it’s easy to see the benefits for overall employee well-being. As long as employees are still meeting deadlines and are present for their obligations, flexible time for fitness makes a lot of sense.
Ensure middle managers—not just executive leadership—are on board.
It is imperative to success that employees see company leadership taking time to prioritize fitness. But while we often preach the need for executive leadership buy-in, we can’t forget the importance of middle-management buy-in as well. These are the managers that set the expectations for employees on a daily basis. If middle management doesn’t allow this flex time for their employees, or only allows this time in theory, the initiative is more likely to fail.
Here’s an example: A middle manager requires their employees to be at their desk from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and those employees can only take lunch between 12 to 1 p.m. If an employee regularly has meetings that run over into their lunch hour, they won’t have a enough time to take advantage of lunch-hour fitness. If the employee is not allowed to leave their desk at times when productivity is low (like around 2 p.m., for example), they’re missing out on an opportunity to re-energize with physical activity, then return to their desk when they’re feeling more productive.
Rest assured: At FX Well, employees are still required to complete all of their work in a timely manner. But we trust our employees to manage their time wisely, and empower them to know how long it takes to produce quality work (see the next section below).
Avoid added pressure surrounding a deadline.
We know that everyone has deadlines to meet...we have deadlines too! But we also believe it’s possible to avoid or reduce some of the pressure surrounding those deadlines so employees can make time for fitness. This isn’t just important for fitness flex time; regularly tight deadlines lead to burnout, which is bad news when it comes to retention rates and overall employee well-being. A 2018 Gallup Study of 7,500 employees found that unreasonable time pressure led 70 percent of those employees to feel burnout. And employees who admitted to feeling burnout are 63 percent more likely to take a sick day and 23 percent more likely to visit the emergency room.
How do you alleviate the pressure of tight deadlines? We believe it’s important to trust and empower employees to own the time management of their work. When you encourage this ownership, employees will feel more responsible to deliver and are more inclined to make smart decisions with time management. With this approach, employees can balance their work and their time to workout within whatever a schedule that works for them and the company. When it comes to less pressing projects, you can also ask employees what feels like a reasonable deadline to complete a task. This not only allows employees to produce work that’s up to their quality standards, it builds a culture of trust.
We believe it’s possible that every organization can thrive when when they prioritize fitness. Doing so can improve your employee’s health and well-being, as well as your bottom line. When you consider these benefits, we know what you’re thinking: “How can my company not do that?”
“Exercising at work and self-reported work performance. International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
Physical Activity in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers. Workplace Health Research Network and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
“Employee Burnout, Part I: The 5 Main Causes.” Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx
“The Health Project Application: LiveSmart.” O’Neal Industries.
“How Many Productive Hours in a Day? Just 2 Hours and 23 minutes..." VoucherCloud. https://www.vouchercloud.com/resources/office-worker-productivity
As a digital health company, we deliver health and wellness strategies to diverse organizations and their teams. So it’s only natural that we practice what we preach and incorporate wellness strategies with our own team.
At FX Well, many of us come from the fitness industry, so fitness-focused strategies work well to engage our team. But no matter your organization’s wellness interests, nearly all of these strategies can be implemented with some small modifications for your team. Here’s the FX approach:
We offer flexible hours for fitness.
What we do:
As a fitness-focused team, we believe in offering flexible hours to fit in physical activity during the day. Going to the gym is strongly encouraged. Taking walking breaks is also encouraged. If you hit a lull in productivity, moving your body helps.
How you can do it: Keep in mind: this mentality requires a certain degree of top-down flexibility within your organization. This means understanding that someone will probably not be at their desk everytime you walk by, or may not always answer if they receive an unplanned work call. When you allow flexible hours, you’re building a culture of trust.
We have a designated fitness space.
What we do:
Part of putting fitness first means giving our employees easy access to fitness equipment. We’ve set up the back of our office to be a mini gym, complete with kettlebells, med balls, foam rollers, and resistance bands. Even if someone doesn’t feel like going through an entire workout in the space, being in close proximity to the equipment makes taking a “brain break” especially productive.
How you can do it:
Almost any workplace has the space for small pieces of equipment (think: a conference room). All you need to do is designate the space and add some equipment. Small equipment is cost-effective and doesn’t take up much room. If space is limited, we recommend surveying your team to find out what times they prefer and designate that time for fitness.
We offer easy access to gym memberships.
What we do:
All employees receive a gym membership to one of our partner gyms, two of which are within a 5-minute drive. This allows the team to maintain variety in their fitness routine, attend classes, and utilize a wide range of equipment.
How you can do it:
Many gyms offer corporate discounts. We recommend surveying employees to first find out what they want in a gym, then partnering with local facilities. The key is convenience. Keep in mind that even a 15-minute drive can have a big impact on engagement.
We do educational team meetings.
What we do:
These team education meetings allow our resident subject matter experts (SMEs) to educate the other members of the team on wellness industry trends, new health research, and more. In true FX Well form, we always kick off these meetings with a team stretch - an easy way to encourage people to get moving.
How you can do it: Start by first considering wellness topics that are relevant to your industry or the personal/professional needs of your team. Next, tap into your resources; you may have some SMEs on your team without even realizing it. For example, if you want to talk about incorporating mindfulness into your workday, you may have a yogi on your team who could present on the topic. If needed, you can always bring in health and wellness experts to lead a presentation or interactive session. Finally, schedule these at times and locations where a majority of employees can attend.
We do weekly team workouts.
What we do:
Each of our teammates who are certified personal trainers take turns leading a workout each week. These workouts are usually before work or near the end of the day, around 3 or 4 p.m., when everyone is usually in the office and can participate. These workouts go a long way in building rapport and resilience in our team.
How you can do it:
This requires first building a culture of acceptance and leadership buy-in to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and participate even when it’s not their forteé. Consider the fitness levels and interests of your team and get a team-building workout on the books when your team can participate.
We hang out.
What we do:
We are a wellness company, but we do believe in the occasional happy hour. (One of our mantras is, after all, “Enjoy Life”). Opportunities for personal connection create camaraderie and help us evolve as a company. Yes, being friends makes coming in every day more enjoyable. But there’s more to it than that. Knowing each other on a more personal level leads us to be more outspoken when it comes to evolving our products and services.
How you can do it: Create opportunities for employees to make a personal connection—happy hours, holiday parties, potlucks, birthday or work anniversary celebrations. A word of wisdom: like most of these initiatives, the importance of leadership involvement cannot be overstated. If you have the type of workplace with a separation of leadership and its workforce - these situations offer an opportunity to improve your culture.
As a growing start-up, we’re taking charge of building a culture of wellness at our organization. How do we maintain this culture as we grow? Continue to provide resources that appeal to our team? Ensure that our team stays engaged? We believe that embracing constant evolution will maintain a culture of wellness for our team.
If you want to improve your culture, get out of your comfort zone.