Workout At Work:Helping Your Boss See the Light

Helping Your Boss See the Light

You’ve seen the studies on the damage that prolonged sitting can do to your health. You want to be more active during the day but your not sure how to approach your boss with this whole work out at work concept. It’s not going to be as hard as you think.

So how do you get your company or boss to get on board with this whole Workout at Work thing?  Speak to them in a language they can understand…speak to them in the language of money! A recent study in Australia found that metabolic diseases cost Australian businesses 4 billion dollars a year. I’d be willing to bet the number is a lot bigger than that here in the good old U.S.A. Now businesses here in America have certainly recognized the fact that unhealthy workers can negatively affect the bottom line but most business owners and the people responsible for keeping businesses thriving know that keeping their employees healthy is vital to keeping their business healthy. After all I think it’s pretty safe to say that employees who are healthy tend to be more vibrant, creative and productive than those who are sick or in constant pain. Let’s face it, employees are the life blood of any business and the company needs them at work every business day doing what (hopefully) they do best, manufacturing product, giving great customer service, coming up with new ideas and systems, selling, creating code or whatever it is those employees do to keep the business up, running and profitable. People who are sick or in pain aren’t doing that to the best of their ability and people who aren’t at work aren’t doing it at all.

But the prevailing wisdom in business has been that employers have very little control over the health of their workers. Many businesses have made token efforts like exercise incentive programs and health fairs that brought in nutritionists, personal trainers and health insurance carriers once a year during open enrollment to encourage living a more healthy lifestyle.  A few brave businesses (with deep pockets) even went as far as to build company gyms or exercise studios for employees to use before or after work and put into place employee lunch programs with healthy food choices often subsidized by the company to keep it affordable for the rank and file workers. The average manager believed that most of the heavy lifting  when it came to the health of your employees was done outside of working hours when the employer had little or no control over what people did during their free time. Free time outside of the proverbial 9 to 5 workday was where people got healthy or got out of shape and little could be done about it by the company. This could be pretty frustrating considering the amount of money unhealthy and injured workers cost businesses both big and small each year. But most CEOs, upper-level managers and business owners threw up their hands and said “Oh well, what can I do about it?” and chalked it up to the price of doing business.

However, a growing body of research is pointing to the fact that the prevailing wisdom is dead wrong and that what employees do (and don’t do) at work has a profound impact on their health, creativity and productivity. And just as important, this is impacting the businesses bottom line—and not in a good way. Even more surprising is that the efforts of the employees outside of work at the gym or exercise studio may not be enough to overcome the damage that 8 or more hours each day, five or more days a week of sitting behind a desk hunched over a computer does to the body. Unfortunately this is the plight of many American office workers because “productivity experts” created office spaces that for the most part chained workers to their desks, everything from printers to staplers were posted within easy reach of every worker and email insured that they never needed to leave there chair to do anything in the office.

Sedentary Studies research has begun to reveal that our modern work environment is quite literally killing our workforce and with it our businesses. So your workplace is a pretty typical modern day workplace. There are offices and cubicles, desks, chairs, computers and telephones; all of the stuff you would expect to see at an ordinary American office. The people who work at your office are pretty typical too. They spend most of their day at their desk working on the computer or talking on the phone. Some of them are a little over weight (ok, most of them are a little over weight) and some of them have some health issues such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and back problems which are pretty common in the U.S today.  Most likely these people are hard workers that spend long hours at the job. Again, there’s nothing uncommon there. So what’s all the fuss about? Keeping this typical office running is expensive! Let’s look at a little case study:

A small rural county in Wisconsin with 600 employees has a $9 million annual budget in 2012. Last year more than $ 1.3 million of that budget was spent on healthcare costs for their employees. That’s a whopping 14.5 percent of their total budget for employee healthcare costs alone! That doesn’t include the costs of lost productivity from sick days or what the employees had to pay out of pocket. Even worse, that number is expected to rise by 9% next year.

So reigning in health care costs could go a long way towards improving the business’ bottom line. But how exactly do you reign in those costs? Well one way is to have fewer employees need healthcare by preventing them from getting sick—and some of the most expensive and prevalent diseases today are actually pretty preventable. These diseases are known as metabolic diseases and include diabetes, heart disease and obesity. We also know that the chances of getting other diseases like stroke, some forms of cancer and even back pain can be diminished through preventative measures.

Want to see just how big a savings were talking about? That small rural county in Wisconsin with 600 employees has a $9 million annual budget. Last year more than $ 1.3 million of that budget was spent on healthcare costs for their employees. The county’s employee wellness program participation rate was less than 5%, which is pretty average. This means that the county provided the employees with after work classes and smoking cessations programs as well as other health and wellness benefits as a part of their wellness program. But less than 5% of the employees took advantage of those programs.

The Department of Health and Human Performance at East Carolina University has created an inactivity calculator that estimates a business or government’s potential savings if they could get more inactive people to become active ( if you would like to know how the calculator was created and what parameters it uses you can check it out at ).

According to the calculator this rural Wisconsin county could have saved $72,126 dollars a year by simply getting 5 percent more of their workforce involved in their wellness program. They could save over $500,000 dollars a year if they could just get 50% of their employees involved in the wellness program. So, getting people to Workout at Work is a fiscally sound proposition, especially if it only takes a few minutes every hour.  Wave half a million dollars in the face of even the most old school employer and I guarantee you’ll get their attention.

To help you make the case with your boss for working out at work, download this free document titled “Workout at Work Boss Guide,”  that illustrates the potential (proven) cost savings and benefits of movement at work. If you would like to see some exercises you can do at your desk and a program created especially for the office click here.