Change Your Workplace Culture Using Fitness Programs that Foster Teamwork and Productivity

fit at work podcast Jan 29, 2019

Today’s episode is all about how you can use wellness in the workplace to boost productivity. But, even if you are not a manager or leader at work, I want you to listen to this because 1) you might have a leader in your life who needs to hear this message. And 2) because we are all leaders, whether it’s leading our families or leading committees at our kids’ schools or participating as volunteers at church or other community organizations.

Imagine this…

You’re trying to lead a team. You have products to develop, projects to deliver, and budgets to hit.

But, you have a huge problem.

Energy is low and your team is not performing. Their communication is in the dumps, and they are competing against each other when they should be collaborating.

They are making outrageous commitments that, despite working long hours,  will ultimately disappoint the client. Morale is low, and there’s no passion for the work they are doing. Your head is pounding from beating it against your desk in frustration. How will you ever get your team back on track?

If your team’s communication is coming up short… if they are missing deadlines, lacking energy and their work isn’t in sync like a Rockettes kick line, it’s time to try something unconventional. You’re not going to see overnight changes, but if you have the patience to stick with me, you will see a transformation in the culture where you work.

How are you going to do it? You’re going to power up the energy, engagement and enthusiasm with the  ultimate team-building activity—training together for an endurance event.

Hang with me while I explain why this works:

For those of you who are runners, or who have runners in your life, you know that we don’t shut up about running. We talk about it all the time. We think it’s fun. We love to train. It makes us feel good. It gives us energy. We enjoy the company of the people we train with.

Back up there...

We enjoy the company of the people we train with. So… what if you could use that to create some camaraderie in the workplace? What if by training together, your team started having deeper conversations and enjoying each others’ company more… and what if that energy carried over into your workplace?

I recently read a great article by my friends at The Center for Sales Strategy, an incredible company where I worked for many years. In addition to sales training, they work with managers to hire the right people and to develop talent. One of their partners, Beth Sunshine, wrote in a post on their site, People join a company, but they leave a boss.” She shares that 67% of talented employees reported that they were planning to quit their jobs in 2018.

That is a ton of turnover. And we all know that turnover is expensive, especially if the person leaving is a top performer.

One of the biggest reasons people leave is that they feel like they are not appreciated. It doesn’t matter who you are, all we are wired to seek out safety and connection. It also happens that we are also born to move our bodies, which comes from our caveman days when we had to hunt and gather for food.

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Whether you are a manager in your company, or a parent leading a team of volunteers, ask yourself this:

  • Do you take the time to get to know the people you are working with?
  • When was the last time you had a one-on-one conversation with the people you lead?
  • Do you know what the people on your team do for fun? Do you know their kids' names? What do you know about them outside of the role they play in your organization?
  • If you work in an office, do you take the time to wander around and have casual conversations with your employees? (Management guru Tom Peters coined the term Management By Walking Around to describe a communication style typical of high performing managers. High performing managers have good communication skills. And they make their team feel valued, cared for appreciated by taking an interest in them. Sure, they ask about work-related things, but they also ask questions that help them learn about the people they work with. And, they make sure their team feels heard by acting on and addressing the things they learn in the trenches, with the people, as they wander around.

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So what does this have to do with training together for something like a 5K, 10K or half marathon? Training gets everyone out there working toward a common goal that does not have a paycheck attached to it. And as they train, your team is out there getting to know each other, working as a group, sharing a common experience… and talking. And all of these things translate to increased productivity and happiness with their jobs.

According to a 2013 Gallup poll called State of the American Workplace, (as found in Leaders Eat Last) when our bosses completely ignore us, 40% of us actively disengage from our work, and if our bosses criticize us on a regular basis, 22% of us actively disengage.

Sadly, that says that we respond better to criticism than we do to just being ignored. But, like Beth from the Center for Sales Strategy says, you should also concentrate on your employee’s strengths and give positive feedback 5 x for every one criticism. That's a 5:1 ratio of positive feedback to critical feedback.

Get this --  in Leaders Eat Last, author Simon Sinek says, “if our bosses recognize just one of our strengths and reward us for doing what we are good at, only 1% of us actively disengage from the work we are expected to do.”

Let’s imagine how a workplace wellness program could help this. Even if you’re a boss who has trouble making small talk, you now have a whole new realm of things to ask someone when you run into them on the elevator or at the coffee pot. How is your training going? What did you think about this week’s strength workout? What kind of goal do you have for our race? What would make this experience more meaningful to you? What type of pre-race hype or celebration would be fun to you?

And, if you’re setting time up before or after work , at lunch, or on weekends for people to run, walk, strength train or stretch together, then you also have an opportunity to be right there with them, on the streets, talking about life and helping them see that you truly care about them.

As I mentioned earlier, people crave connection, and at work, they want to feel like they belong. We also need to feel safe, not just that we have our needs for food and shelter covered, but also that we are safe to share our ideas and share who we really are. Now, you should be able to see the benefits of this… employees who feel like they can freely share their ideas and insight without risk of ridicule or consequence are more likely to enjoy their jobs. AND they will be more productive because they work better as a team. Plus, when risk is rewarded, companies benefit because creativity is high, and lots of ideas are thrown around and tried. Sure, lots of those ideas fail, but you don’t get the best ideas or products when people play it safe.

In the book, Simon Sinek says, “When we do not have a sense of belonging, then we are forced to invest time and energy to protect ourselves from each other.” He adds later in the paragraph, “When we feel safe among the people with whom we work, the more likely we are to survive and thrive.”

So what about the people who don’t want to run? What about the people who are not yet physically able to run?   What about the people who think this is just another case of forced run, or another mandate from the company?

Start where your people are. You don’t have to go all in right from the start. You can begin by introducing opportunities to make simple changes. Having a culture in your workplace where healthy habits are encouraged makes sense. It is another way to show the people on your team that you care. I’m not saying you have to become the food police and overhaul the way you celebrate birthdays and big wins by eliminating cakes and donuts. But I do think that there are things you can do to make small changes that show that healthy habits are valued.

Here are a few ideas:

  • When you have meetings where food is brought in, make sure that there are some choices that are not processed foods containing lots of sugar. Include things like fruit, veggies and hummus or nuts and seeds.
  • Give people choices about how they want to celebrate their birthdays. Instead of bringing in a big cake, would the birthday person like the company to make a donation to a non-profit on their behalf? Or a fruit basket? Or maybe a big group walk in the park at lunch?
  • Encourage people to move throughout the day by suggesting that they set a timer on their phones and get up to move for 2-5 minutes every hour. If that seems overwhelming, start by asking them to move once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
  • Another idea is to set up stations throughout your building that encourage people to move. They could do squats by the coffee machine, lunges as they go down the hallway, or wall pushups next to the copy machine. If you wanted to invest in some small pieces of equipment, you could add some yoga mats in the breakroom , or suspend some TRX straps in a quiet corner.
  • Employees who work at desks should be reminded that it’s important to stretch regularly throughout the day. You could have someone come to your office (or do a video training) showing them how to do neck and back stretches and also how to stretch their hip flexors.
  • If you live in an area where people can commute to work on their bikes, provide bike racks so they have a safe place to leave their bikes for the day.
  • Consider encouraging people to take walks over their lunch break, or to take their yoga mats to the park for yoga or stretching.
  • Designate an unused office space as a quiet place for meditation.
  • Hire a coach to lead track workouts after work, or to start the week off with a dance party before your Monday morning meeting. Have an adult recess at lunch time where you bring back fitness toys and games of your youth.
  • Host lunch and learns and invite trainers and nutritionists and massage therapists in to talk about health and fitness topics.
  • Make it easy for them to get excited and share their progress.
  • Host a step challenge where everyone records their daily steps and give prizes for anyone who hits a certain milestone.

As you can see there are so many reasons to get your team moving together! I would love to talk to your team in-person or over video chat. We could talk about a wellness topic, I could conduct a warm up, or other exercise session, or I could come in to brainstorm and help you come up with a fitness challenge that would be fun and motivating for everyone.


I’ll end with another quote from Leaders Eat Last.

It is not the work we remember with fondness, but the camaraderie, how the group came together to get things done.


About your Podcast Host:

Coach Kim explores topics that will help you power up your life so that you can design a life you love. If you are ready to think, feel, train and live like a champion, tune in for expert interviews and real talk that will give you the tools and courage you need to chase your dreams.

Coach Kim Peek is a fitness and real-food enthusiast who is also a theater-mom, dog-mom and breast cancer survivor. Kim has a number of coaching certifications including: ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach and Healthy Running. She is certified to teach a variety of fitness formats, and is constantly studying movement, motivation and other wellness topics to unlock success secrets for her audience. Kim is also a Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist and a Functional Aging Specialist.

You can hang out with Coach Kim online at:


Instagram @PowerOfRun


 Business leaders! If you would like to help change lives and culture in the workplace, head over to this page for some information about how a wellness program in your organization can help improve productivity while improving your employees' health. 


And join the free STRENGTH CHALLENGE group at Power of Run. Click here.


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