There's countless research written around how exercise makes us healthier and, because of a renewed sense of vigor, more productive in the office. It makes sense, but I didn't quite understand just how effective this could be until I started making exercise a part of how I regularly interact with my team. Several years ago I decided to hold as many of my 1-on-1s with my team as walking meetings. This simple decision not only helped create a healthier, more active team, it also created unique opportunities to truly bond with my employees.
Why I Fell in Love With Walking
I'm the VP of Product at Fuze, a tech company in the enterprise communication space. I've been an athlete and fitness enthusiast for about as long as I've been a geek, and in a past life I became a certified personal trainer at my local gym during college. Over the years I have learned that there's a science behind feeling better as a result of moving and being active. Working as a personal trainer got me excited to help my clients be happy and healthy--which ultimately resulted in them feeling inspired and excited. Nothing made me happier than to see my clients achieve their fitness goals and then get ready for the next challenge.
Several years later while working at Microsoft I remember getting restless during a 1:1 with one of my team members; it was a gorgeous Seattle summer day outside and I hated being inside the office. I decided to try something simple and different during my next 1:1. Instead of sitting in my office for the meeting, I asked my team to try walking around campus and talking with me instead. Microsoft had these wonderful soccer fields that made it easy to do some laps around.
Not only did this turn out to be a healthy activity, the resulting conversations were also incredibly more personalized and free-flowing than they'd be if we just sat around in the office going over the same content.
I quickly found that walking meetings served as a great way to merge my passion for physical activities with the needs of management, meetings, and other work tasks. There's a benefit from a business perspective, and a clear benefit with respect to you and your teams' healthiness.
Build a Healthy Team
Right around the time I started walking for my meetings at Microsoft, the first of the quantified-self set of companies launched and, being a data and gadget geek, I bought a Fitbit to start tracking my steps during runs, soccer, and daily activities. Sometimes after meetings I would share the step count graphs from my FitBit profile with my employees to celebrate that we hit funny milestones like "longest meeting of the week in steps" or "fastest meeting in mph."
My employees quickly took notice. Many of them bought their own devices and we started to enjoy a fun little competition. One of my team members at Microsoft was so inspired by some of our conversations that she got a Fitbit and a nutritionist to help focus on her health and wellness. We talked each week about her progress and I shared tips and insights from my own experience to help. It was wonderful to see her achieve a number of her personal health goals while excelling at being a product manager.
If walking meetings aren't your thing, there are a number of other ways you can bring your team together while encouraging healthy behavior.
During my Microsoft days, I organized intramural soccer events between different teams in our group as we had those soccer fields nearby. In almost every city there are soccer fields and parks where you can easily organize a pick-up game for your team.
When I was at Contactive, my team and I joined an intramural dodgeball league that played in the Lower East Side. Playing dodgeball as an adult was hilarious and exhausting, but competing as a team every week kept us active and was a welcome stress relief from the 20-hour early-startup-days we were working.
Now, at Fuze, it's not uncommon to catch me and my team doing a group run after work through the Flatiron here in New York City. We hit a milestone last month when we ran from our office to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, celebrating the 6-mile run with some wings and a beer at my favorite pub.
I challenge you to take one of the things you like about an activity, sport, or exercise that you personally enjoy and find a way to share that with your team. It can be soccer, dodgeball, or even a simple walk around your neighborhood. Create active cultures and you'll spur healthy thinking in your employees.
We all spend 40 or more hours working in an office each week. To drive health and wellness--and therefore create a more productive organization--you can incorporate daily fitness- or health-oriented activities into your workflow. Not only will your team be healthier, they'll also be more happy and productive--a truly win-win scenario.