In the modern business world, people join and leave organisations left, right, and centre.
Why do people leave? There are obviously a lot of factors, but a big one is that workers now have very high expectations of what a working environment should be like. So a real challenge for organisations is to find ways to make people stick around and to perform well while they do.
What so many businesses have found is that promoting exercise is a fantastic way of improving employee wellbeing and fostering a positive workplace culture.
Let’s have a look at exactly how physical exercise can achieve this, as well as some specific office workout ideas.
In the first place, getting your team up and moving is essential for their physical health. Regular exercise breaks can help avert all sorts of physical conditions associated with long periods of sitting in an office.
But perhaps even more problematic than these physical conditions is the impact that sitting at a desk all day can have on mental health. Safe Work Australia reports that high levels of sedentariness at work correlate with a 25% increase in the likelihood of depression, as well as an increased risk of anxiety.
Also, in terms of workplace culture, recent research has shown a strong correlation between sedentariness and work dissatisfaction and fatigue. That’s your employees’ well-being slipping away…
On the other hand, though, the evidence is very clear that, when people get up and get moving, they experience both immediate and long-term benefits to their emotional state and their cognitive functioning. Research suggests that even just 15 minutes of moderate exercise can provide a boost to both mood and key cognitive functions, such as working memory. On top of this, exercise is a proven stress-reliever, boosting serotonin levels.
We’ve always known this. But what has been considered less is the fact that workplace physical activity interventions are proven to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms. So, perhaps encouraging your team to go to the gym after work might not be enough.
Why not get them moving while they’re at work?
Your first line of defence against mental wellbeing concerns is aerobic exercise. The purpose of aerobic exercise is to get your heart pumping at a higher rate. When this happens, your body quickly starts secreting a number of endorphins.
Endorphins are your body’s natural way of dealing with pain and stress. When you get your heart pumping fast, your body is effectively feeling intense stress. So, it needs to calm itself down.
Paradoxically, then, you can use exercise to stress your body out so that it forces itself to calm down. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests that it only takes five minutes of aerobic exercise before your body starts its anti-stress response (meaning endorphin release).
Aerobic exercise can come in many forms, but some of the simplest types include:
To get everyone on board, and to make things a bit more interesting, you can set five-minute aerobic breaks in which team members rotate through each of these activities.
The health benefits of yoga are now pretty well-known, affecting everything from strength to stress. But yoga also has a bit of a reputation for being a touch esoteric. It’s thought of as a specialist interest, not something for the average office worker.
The truth, though, is that you don’t need to be able to do the handstand scorpion pose to start a workplace yoga program (you should check out what this pose actually looks like).
In its most basic form, yoga is a stretching exercise, and stretching is one of the easiest ways to deal with stress. When we get stressed at work (or anywhere else), a natural response is for our muscles to tense up. Yoga stretches can help reverse the symptoms of stress by releasing tension and getting blood flowing through all of our muscles.
We also don’t need a guru to teach us elaborate stretches to practice yoga. There are a lot of simple yoga stretches that can be done at your desk.
If you want to make your yoga even more stress-busting, you can add in meditation. Once again, this is not something particularly difficult or special. It simply means that, as you stretch, you focus your mind on how your body feels.
Lastly, to really get the full benefits of yoga, you can add in some strength poses. Not only will strength poses increase your heart rate (giving you a shot of stress-reducing endorphins), but they can also improve your core body strength to improve your posture. Doing so will counteract some of the harmful effects of sitting for long periods (it’s been shown that workplace yoga can reduce back pain and staff days off).
And just so you know, a number of Christie Spaces office locations offer yoga studios for your team to use.
Beyond the physical and mental health benefits of the exercise itself, promoting office workouts can also help to build a team of employees into a closer group that performs more effectively together. Getting the team together to do office yoga, for example, will create a certain feeling of communality. But there are ways of enhancing that feeling.
This is where competition comes in. We’re not talking armwrestles or fitness tests where the fittest and the strongest always win. If you are going to go for some exercise competitions, the goals should be fun and inclusivity. Here are three quick ideas:
1. CBD Scavenger Hunt
People don’t need to be ‘exercising’—they can be jetting around town for twenty minutes trying to find a list of unlikely objects.
2. Office-chair tug-of-war
This is a more office-friendly version of tug-of-war. Particularly if no feet are allowed to touch the floor, this can be quite funny.
3. Best Dance Routine
A panel of judges decides on the most creative choreography. Make it a knockout tournament to maximise the suspense.
Now you’ve got some ideas to get your people moving, and more importantly, feeling great. But just remember not to go overboard with your new office workout plans. Introduce change slowly and keep it simple. That way, you’ll maximise uptake and have time to see what works best for your team.