The global workforce is witnessing a shifting landscape where the office is no longer the be-all and end-all place for companies to run a business. Two years after the onset of the pandemic sent us all remote, many companies are choosing to stay that way. A labor shortage has since put workers in the driver’s seat, and flexibility is what they want, which means more companies than ever are staying open to remote options.
But the offer of remote positions alone doesn’t ensure that formerly office-based employees will easily stay just as disciplined. An abundance of distractions at home can keep people from staying productive and motivated, leading to self-discipline being rated among the top requirements for a successful remote team.
Employers today are offering all sorts of benefits to keep and recruit top talent but the best incentives are those that meet more of the biggest remote needs: improved employee well-being, self-discipline, and health benefits that spill over into everything they do.
Want to keep your talent? Offer them fitness.
Fitness Benefits Mind, Body … and the Bottom Line
Worksite wellness programs increase employee productivity, boost employee morale, attract and keep high-quality employees, and reduce absenteeism. In 2016, the Milken Institute found that obesity in the workplace contributed to over $480 billion in direct healthcare costs and $1.24 trillion in lost productivity. Exercise, on the other hand, significantly lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers while also boosting an employee’s immune system, which means fewer sick days or trips to the doctor.
By putting an emphasis on fitness, employers can potentially save $1,200 a year by lowering employee cholesterol levels; and $177 a year for each worker who moves from being classified as obese and into a healthier weight range.
Even beyond the physical benefits, fitness boosts vital workplace cognitive abilities. According to Harvard research, regular exercise leads to improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and lower stress.
When given the option to exercise during regular work hours, people managed their time more effectively, were more productive, had better interactions at work, and went home feeling more satisfied. Even Richard Branson has acknowledged that being fit and healthy allows him to “achieve pretty much anything.” With daily measurable improvements, people feel more self-control and gain the confidence needed to attempt more challenging goals.
MORE FOR YOU
Your Employees Want Fitness
Fitness supports overall well-being — happiness, health, and living life to its fullest potential — which is what today’s employees want. At the beginning of the pandemic, Gallup polling showed 38% of people were getting less exercise and 28% reported their diets getting worse. By 2021, sedentary lockdown habits and comfort foods left 42% of the population with an average of 29 pounds of unwanted weight gain, which experts described as “a secondary crisis likely to have persistent, serious mental and physical health consequences for years to come.”
As workers returned to their in-person corporate offices, gym memberships, personal training sessions and weight-loss program subscriptions went up as more people sought to drop those extra pounds.
Mitigating Burnout and Promoting Well-being
While remote worker burnout is at an all-time high across professions, exercise has the potential to mitigate it. Exercise reduces stress, improves mood, sheds daily tensions, and boosts the release of neurotransmitter endorphins in the brain that make us feel good.
A 2015 study found that after four weeks of exercise, participants had a greater sense of positive well-being and personal accomplishment, with a lower level of psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion.
A 2021 study of health care workers also found that employees who were able to spend leisure time engaged in physical activity reported less job stress and exhaustion. Employers need to offer workers time to enjoy the full benefits fitness has to offer.
Smart Companies Already Giving the Gift
While it may not come as a major surprise to know that Nike’s headquarters has a full-size soccer field, basketball court, and running track in addition to its full-service gym, some companies offering their employees fitness may surprise you. The office at Cox Enterprises and the Seattle headquarters for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation both have on-site fitness centers, including personal trainers and fitness classes. AppDynamics offers company yoga and running clubs. The Chegg’s office features various ways to engage in physical activities, including an oversized chessboard and mini-golf course.
Of course, on-site solutions may not work for a remote team but there are still other ways to support employee fitness without an office. Accenture’s wellness program includes rewards that incentivize healthy activities and offers discounted rates for fitness programs and gym memberships. While Microsoft offers on-site fitness training, they also reimburse employees’ gym memberships or the purchase of fitness-related equipment and activities.
The corporate wellness company TotalWellness goes as far as including 30 minutes of paid time for exercise per workday because they trust in the benefits of fitness for their employees: better social connections, reduced stress, improved health, more energy, and greater productivity.
Remote Fitness Strategies Worth the Cost
If you are going to offer your remote employees fitness, establish baselines and processes to evaluate participation or program completion rates, and track the reduction in health-care costs or absenteeism. Make sure to communicate and promote those opportunities and actively encourage employees to take advantage of them.
A lifestyle of fitness may not come overnight but with the right support, employees will start feeling the positive rewards and shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation, thus promoting long-term behaviorial change.