My thoughts on "sweat working"


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I recently read an article about “sweat-working”, and it got me thinking about the many physical, psychological and social benefits of participating in physical activity with the folks you work with.

For those of you who haven’t heard this term before, sweat-working is essentially about ditching the board room, and conducting your business meetings while exercising with your colleagues. Activities can vary from a walk around the office or block, bike riding, stair climbing, a game of tennis, or even a Crossfit workout.

The World Health Organization and the Australian Government say that the workplace is recognised as a priority setting for health promotion. According to a recent Employment Office survey, a quarter of Australian companies are now utilising active meetings as a way to boost business.

Studies have also suggested that the cost of absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $7 billion each year, and that workplace health programs can have a significant positive impact on absenteeism, workers comp costs, and disability management costs.

The literature also shows that employees who spend 2.5 hours per week exercising during work hours attain the same or higher productivity levels than their less physically active colleagues.

So if all the research points to benefits for employees and employers, why aren’t more organisations jumping on the “sweat-working” band wagon?

Undoubtedly there’s still a long way to go in terms of “office culture” and old-school management beliefs that the more hours a day your staff are at their desks, the better.

But I also think there’s resistance from the workers themselves.

After more than a decade of working in gyms and running martial arts classes, I’m well aware of the fact that some people feel incredibly uncomfortable walking into a gym and getting active with a bunch of strangers.

This feeling would naturally be amplified in a situation where you’re working out in front of a prospective professional client, or a colleague who may be a little fitter or stronger than you.

The flipside of this though are all the personal and professional benefits! I’ll use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) classes as an example. I can’t emphasise the amount of people who first walk into a BJJ class and think “what the hell am I doing here” the moment they have to mount their training partner (literally sit on top of someone who is lying on their back), or put their face in front of another person’s crotch during a technique drill.

The thing is, by the end of the class, all the awkwardness is gone, and the silent nervousness is replaced with smiling, laughing, and chatting! All the social barriers have been completely blown away, and what’s left are the real people, who were at first hidden underneath the inhibitions and self-consciousness.

The same principal applies to Capoeira classes. I try to encourage newbies to jump into the roda (circle that we play Capoeira in) in their first class, and have a go with one of my experienced students.

When you’ve stumbled your way through a bunch of Capoeira movements you’ve just learnt, in front of a group of people you’ve only just met, you then relax, have fun and just give it a go, like we were always encouraged to do when we were kids.

Wouldn’t it be great if as adults we could apply the same approach to our work meetings? There’s nothing like getting the blood pumping, learning some new physical skills, and goofing around with people to get the ideas and creative juices flowing.