“All work and no play” didn’t really work out so well for Jack Nicholson. And you don’t want a company full of guys breaking down doors with an axe and chasing their families around a hedge maze in the snow, now do you?
If you said yes, go ahead and stop reading. And maybe seek professional help.
Everybody needs to get out and play. And aside from the obvious benefits of physical exercise, your company will gain a lot from making a point to get your employees out of their usual work ruts, and into the gym, onto the field or out on the water to get their minds sharpened on something other than work. Not sold? Here’s 10 more benefits beyond not driving your workforce insane.
Manages stress – You didn’t hear John Denver writing songs about the breathtaking views from his cubicle, did you? That’s because the serene, relaxing beauty that is the outdoors (where recreation often takes places) is one of the great stress-relieving relaxers of our time. That, and John Denver songs.
Builds team cohesion – There’s an old expression that says “The family that does Zumba together, stays together.” Or something along those lines. But nothing brings people closer together than shared adversity, and if that adversity comes in the form of a mat-soaking 60-minute Orange Theory class, well, then so be it.
Saves money on health insurance – Because nobody’s ever surprised when that guy whose idea of exercise involved rapid-fire pressing of the B button on his NES and frequent trips to the refrigerator has a stroke at 35. Actual, non-video game recreation keeps employees healthier and, ultimately, saves you money on their insurance premiums.
Increases productivity – kind of like that Snickers ad where a football player turns into Betty White when he’s hungry, when you’re stressed you’re really not yourself. So unless you want the entire cast of Golden Girls working in your business (which would be hilarious, but not especially productive) , give employees a chance to get out and de-stress so they can come back focused and ready to, well, not be Betty White.
Improves work attendance – Unless you’re for some reason employing a disproportionally large number of Kenyan marathon runners, nobody’s skipping work to go and exercise. But you know why people DO miss work? Doctors appointments because of high blood pressure. Or hangovers. Or a lot of things that are a lot less frequent among active people. So much so that when GE studied its employees it found those who exercised regularly missed work 45 percent less than those who did not.
Sharpens skills – in all areas – Sports metaphors are a lot like Miley Cyrus: Horribly overused and not at all original. So we’ll avoid them like, well, Miley Cyrus. But if you are using your brain to improve yourself at a sport, you can probably take those lessons – or at least that level of goal setting and focus – to the workplace and get better there too. Union Pacific Railroad found its exercise programs led to higher levels of concentration among employees.
Boosts self confidence – Remember how after recess, if you had a particularly good game of TV Freeze Tag, you went back to class feeling like you could pretty much teach the class yourself? That mentality doesn’t change, and if your lunch break consists of setting a personal record on the bench press or a well-paced jog around the park, your confidence in everything you do will go up, and, presumably, so will productivity.
Keeps people from getting bored – Because spending all day doing the same job in the same spot is about as exciting as a three hour loop of Yanni, it’s important to get out and see/do something different. Giving employees a chance to take a break – and do something other than get the same Chipotle order they do every day – to challenge themselves will keep them interested in their work, and potentially reduce turnover.
Prevents isolation – Odds are if Milton from Office Space got out and exercised once in a while, he would have never have gotten stuck in the basement, and might not have had that strange obsession with his stapler. Because even if you’re the awkward, last-picked kid on the kickball team, you’re still out exercising with other people which makes being anti-social nearly impossible. Also it allows even the most-introverted of your employees to get known by the rest of the staff.
Opens up new avenues – It’s always interesting/slightly emasculating when the 5’3” receptionist dominates your lunchtime pickup basketball game by not missing a shot, shrugging, and saying “Oh, yeah, I played in college.” But when you learn of some new shared recreational interest or skill, a new respect is formed in the workplace, and new activities can be planned. The more you know about people, the better you work with them.
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