During a time when gyms and team sports aren’t readily accessible, the question of how to stay fit and healthy is a common one — especially at a sports company. However, it’s a good time for employers to re-examine the definition of fit and healthy. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t necessarily mean more exercise. In fact, it means slowing down and focussing on self-care. And more specifically, on mental self-care.
Burn-out is detrimental. Lack of work/life balance is detrimental. Mental overload is detrimental. And these have all become even more of a danger in a remote-working world, where it’s hard to draw a line between when the work day ends and begins. A survey by customer experience experts TELUS International confirms what we already know: 4 out of 5 workers find it hard to shut off in the evenings and 80% of people would prefer to work for a company that focusses on employees’ mental health.
For most of us (and especially the ultra-competitive athletes at Infront), slowing down doesn’t always come naturally. As part of a recent five-week virtual fitness challenge, Infront employees across the globe were challenged to improve their lifestyle. A tailor-made app allowed employees to track minutes of exercise alongside minutes of mindfulness. We counted servings of fruits and vegetables, not calories. And thank-you-very-much, we received bonus points for writing a few words of daily gratitude. Participants were divided into teams, so naturally, the gamification element led to some healthy competition and team building, from CEO to trainee.
Incorporating daily exercise wasn’t the real challenge here. Rather, the challenge came in prioritising 'staying present' and 'getting 8 hours of sleep' as highly as 'staying active'.
The results were impressive. After five weeks, 300+ employees logged 71,655 minutes of mindfulness; or nearly 50 days straight of no distractions and being purely present. Add to that 3,420 entries of gratitude. Within those gratitude statements, the top five words were: 1) friends, 2) family, 3) work, 4) sun and 5) run. Studies show that practicing gratitude for just 5 minutes a day can make you 25% happier. Yes, please.
As someone who likes being active, but isn’t particularly sporty, this challenge was a well-rounded change from the usual “no pain, no gain” fitness challenges. I didn’t always have time to exercise, but I always managed to find time for a quick 15 minutes of daily mindfulness. And yes, sometimes that was only in those final minutes of the day before falling asleep, but I still made a conscious effort to slow down and have some “me time”. The campaign was also a refreshing, guilt-removing confirmation that rest days are just as important as those intense training days. Sorry, I can’t get up early to run today, I need to focus on accumulating my sleep points.
While it started as a fun, team challenge, it had me thinking each day about the benefits of slowing down. Fitness is important, but we should also be prioritising mindfulness and gratitude as a competitive advantage – in both sports and in our careers. And even better if it wins us bragging rights amongst colleagues.
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