One of the hottest topics of the 21st-century business world is none less than health; employers are actively beginning to emphasize the importance of employees’ physical health in the workplace, and everyone is raising their eyebrows thinking “why discuss this now?”. If for a second you thought that the cha-ching industry turned from making profit to helping employers regain their dignity back, we applaud your pure heart. The truth is everything but noble and yet, paradoxically enough, very good for the economy. Looking to save as much as possible by cutting back on their workers’ paid leave costs and have a 100% commitment at their workplace, the Bosses have raised concern for their employees’ health and opened the dialogue prompting everyone in the work pyramid to start caring for their physical health with nothing but a dedicated commitment. Now, if that’s not noble capitalism, we don’t know what is.
Humor aside, things are serious
Although we can’t really jump for joy knowing they want us healthy so we could work tirelessly, we do have to admit physical activity and overall physical health play a huge role in our productivity at work as well as the increased life quality outside of the office. Aside from twitching at the known trigger-motifs of the currently ruling (and utterly dehumanizing) capitalist society expressing sudden interest for our physical health, we’ve done some research on our own, targeting the importance of physical activity for our health. What we’ve found out isn’t comforting at all. Although everyone knew regular physical activity promotes good health, keeps us in shape and improves various aspects of our physical and mental body, nobody ever thought not working out could be as dangerous.
The research suggested that “the health risks posed by physical inactivity in the developed world are at levels comparable to the risk factors of smoking and alcohol use”. And, it’s not just that; as World Health Organization (2002:60) observes, “physical inactivity, the main contributor to obesity, is estimated to cause, globally, about 10-16% of cases each of breast cancer, colon and rectal cancers and diabetes mellitus, and about 22% of ischaemic heart disease”. Essentially, unless we include physical activity in our lives, we are facing the threat of being diagnosed with a number of incurable illnesses. In this scenario, absenteeism from work would be our least worry… right?
What’s our health got to do with the economy?
For those in good (and bad) health – everything.
Every business benefits from their workers being happy, healthy and satisfied at work. With that in mind, most firms look to provide their employees with the best environment to work in, good salary, bonuses, options for improvement at their workplace, etc. However, companies that aren’t that observant and/or aren’t too focused on providing solid working conditions for their employees do face the problem of having their staff getting sick often, taking leave of absence and – obviously – missing out on a lot of work. The company costs suffer under these dynamics, significantly compromising their budget and overall costs. Still, it appears that the problem with absenteeism at work doesn’t only relate to the companies that aren’t fair to their employees. Some research suggests that it is individuals’ personal out-of-the-office lifestyle that reflects their behavior at work.
While on an individual level physical inactivity impacts individual’s health in every negative way possible it, at the same time, it makes a direct and indirect financial impact on the costs to the economy and society. And how exactly is the economy jeopardized? Sick days, productivity losses and illness-associated compensation directly affect the business arena and its effect on virtually all spheres of life it is linked to.
Social scientists have a say in this, too
Although, on autopilot, we tend to link physical activity to physical benefits such as a more attractive physique, lower blood pressure, and a healthier heart, it turns out regular exercise impacts the way we think as well.
Social scientists indicate that our mental flora is directly linked to our physical regimen with the implications primarily relevant to our performance at work. The research was conducted on individual employees whose work performance was measured/compared based on the days when they did and did not have any physical activity throughout the work week. In terms of their engagement at the office, the end result went in favor of those who worked out regularly.
A number of cognitive benefits such as faster learning, sharper memory, improved concentration, enhanced creativity, prolonged mental stamina and lower stress rates are direct result of regular exercise inclusion into our everyday routine, so – in terms of work engagement – they do make for a chunk of nice qualities to have while being engaged on a project. Plus, you look fit (and who doesn’t like fit, right?). Apart from these cognitive benefits, exercise is known to elevate mood which directly impacts your performance at work along with your ability to foster collaborations and build professional relationships.
But, I’m too busy to work out regularly
We get it, most of us are. There are days when work is all we can think about: the overwhelming string of meetings, deadlines, projects and other commitments simply takes too much of our time. Still, an interesting thing to think about in this domain is this: do we really don’t have enough time to squeeze in a workout or do we not find that workout a priority given the time we have available?
Are companies doing anything about this issue?
It appears they are.
For most, regular exercising is still perceived as a luxury: complete all tasks in a day, spend time with the family, have a workout AND go to bed before midnight? Impossible. At least, that’s what it appears to be. So, companies are trying to find the best compromise and get everyone moving.
Along with organizing group sports outings like basketball, volleyball, doubles tennis, soccer and other competence-enhancing activities that not only have a positive impact on individual employees’ well-being but directly contribute to a team’s success, employers are starting to use fitness apps and pedometers to measure their employee’s fitness progress. Noticeable benefits of this structured fitness employee monitoring? Team awareness, enjoyment, supportive environment, measurable achievement and motivation triggered through social support.
Yes, they do want us to stay healthy to work more but – those we love want us healthy and kicking, too. Maybe including regular physical activity in our everyday isn’t such a bad idea after all?