A Healthy Workforce is a Productive Workforce

  in  Human Resources
I believe an office relocation inadvertently saved our business from going under. I say "I believe" only because it's hard to prove the case, and certainly this case is highly unusual.

Let me explain.

Five years ago we relocated our business - that sells office printers and scanners - to a location closer to our head office. The writing was on the wall to be honest. We knew - though it wasn't official - that eventually our office would be closed, with maybe a handful of staff (of 50) repositioned to HQ. Sales weren't strong across the entire company, but our office was struggling the most.

However, fate sometimes deals you a winning card, and our new office happened to be only a few doors down from a huge gym - replete with 25 metre swimming pool. A few of our staff were already "gym rats" and they would go after work to the gym as it was so conveniently located. However, most of our staff would have been described back then as your typical office workers - lacking exercise (and time to do it) and generally not in the best of shape. Meanwhile, our sales were tanking and HQ were not happy about that at all. What could we do to turn things around? At our lowest point, I gathered the staff and I told them we probably had two months to improve our performance or HQ would shut us down. Nobody was actually surprised by my statements, and we also knew we needed a miracle. Well, the very next day, we got our miracle.

An employee of the nearby gym requested to meet me for a quick chat. I met with her and she discussed a gym membership group discount for my employees. I said "we might not even be here in two months" and had no qualms in admitting our perilous position to her. She thought for a moment and said "you know what? If things are that bad, then why not try something bold...we'll give you the discount, but we'll also throw in some personal training for your employees too - FREE. I believe a healthy workforce is a productive one. This might not work, but in any case, your employees will be a bit trimmer and healthier after a few months". I didn't hesitate - I said "look, I will try anything, and right now I am out of ideas. I'll take you up on the offer". She replied: "One catch. We need your employees to stick to our regime if they are to become fit and strong. That means I will ask 90 minutes of their time each day - from your own clock time - to train with us. After all, we can't ask them to train before or after work - many will have committments". THAT made me think. How on earth would this work? We're already in trouble and now my staff will be wearing lycra for 90 minutes of office time...working out! Something in me just let go and I said "I'll follow your guidance. Nothing we've tried has worked, so I defer to you and what you guys know best".

About 90% of the staff agreed to the strange new arrangement - they would be working out 90 minutes a day with personal trainers - during office hours. I was surprised by the turnout - of course, it was voluntary, but so many were pleased to get free gym membership and access to (what would normally be) expensive personal trainers.

Two months passed and we got a visit from HQ. Our sales had slightly improved in that time, while impressively, our staff had transformed into a fit, lean and healthy workforce. I was embarrassed to admit the new fitness regime to the HQ reps. I was ready for a real lambasting. I was even ready to be fired on the spot. However, they surprised me. They complimented my bold strategy, and they noted that while sales were still below their yearly targets, they HAD improved in the last two months and that they also acknowledged just how energetic our staff sounded on the phone recently.

They gave us a "stay of execution" - a further six months to prove ourselves.

Now I felt confident. I actually joined the gym too - and I ordered the gym to continue the training for a further six months, but we'll pay more because I really believed it was working.

Six months later and you couldn't recognise our team. We'd looked like we didn't belong in an office. Our sales had rocketed up, and we hit our yearly target - which was astonishing given how far behind we were only a few short months ago. HQ were delighted, and they asked me to expand the gym training to other offices. I couldn't believe it. Now we are not only one of the most successful businesses in our category, but the (physically) healthiest business that I know of.

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