If you work in a place where people are often irritable, stressed or just generally unhealthy, it’s probably not difficult to see that something needs to change. Sure, you could just demand that your co workers snap out of it -- but if you’ve ever tried that, you know it doesn’t go over too well with most people.
Here’s another way to go about it: Get your co workers to start exercising with you.
Regular exercise can decrease depression and anxiety and decrease the risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. What’s more, exercise helps you think more clearly and can improve memory. Whether you’re the boss or just a fellow employee, it should be obvious that those improvements would be good for the workplace.
From an employer’s perspective, regular exercise can also reduce health care costs, which in most workplaces are a significant hit to the bottom line. But since social support is a big factor in exercise adherence, your co workers might need you to lead the charge.
Still, it can be demeaning to come right out and say to your co workers, "you need to work out." Instead, try a slightly more roundabout method of getting your co workers to exercise with you.
Buy someone lunch. Instead of coming right out and saying, "let’s walk over the lunch hour," offer instead to pay for lunch if your co worker walks down the street to the local deli, or goes with you to the park to eat your takeout. You don’t have to pay every time, but doing it just that first time might be enough to establish a walking-to-lunch pattern with one or a few of your co workers.
Make it fun. If someone is really unenthused about the prospect of walking over the lunch hour, you’ll need to step up your game to make it fun. When exercise is fun, people are more likely to keep doing it. Keep the mood light and the goals manageable. For example, you might start with short walks and bursts of speed, offering a funny gag gift to the person who wins the "race."
Don’t overdo it. You might get lucky and find that you co workers are just as enthusiastic as you are about exercising, but then again, you might not. Start out walking to lunch, cycling to work once a week, or if your workplace has a gym, doing just very short stints of exercise. Ease them into it, as you probably did when you were starting out. One or two days a week on a regular basis is a big improvement over nothing at all.
Offer to lighten a co worker’s load. If you have a co worker who offers excuse after excuse about why she can’t work out, join you on a lunch walk or otherwise get moving, you might find some luck in helping her with her work tasks. Offer to help her with those last few duties she does before lunch, for example, to help get her out the door.
By offering plenty of social support and gentle guidance, you could find that your workplace has less of that irritable vibe and more of that healthy, energetic glow.
Image courtesy Pedro Ribeiro Simoes, Flickr