Before I explain how we get a return of $28,000 in improved productivity on our $6,000 investment into our corporate health program every year, allow me to set the scene.I started my first “real” job (excluding the odd juxtaposition of mailroom boy and weekend builders labourer) about 8 years ago at Jones Young, a boutique law firm in Auckland, New Zealand.Jones Young was a brilliant place to work for a variety of reasons. For a small firm of 10-15 staff, the place absolutely bled culture. The environment the partners created was incredible – it made the experience of working at a high-powered corporate law firm free and easy. I had the benefit of doing exciting, meaningful work way above my pay grade, in an environment that promoted fun and not taking yourself to seriously.I’ve done my best to work many of the aspects of the Jones Young culture into our approach at Rex – but the most relevant to this post is a particular sub-culture known as “the Cult”.
The Rules of the Cult
The Cult manifested itself in a number of ways. One of the Partners and his legal executive at the time would turn up at the office at about 6 am each day, having completed a weights session and an hour or so on the exercise bike before arriving, and kick off their morning routine with freshly cut fruit salad and yoghurt. I can remember arriving incredibly early one day at 7 am and incredulously watching this pair cut up an assortment of fruit first thing Monday morning (and they’d already done their workout!).Another partner (we’ll call him Fonzie), would set an example for the rest of us through a variety of day-time pronouncements: “[insert name of admiring female] said I looked like a Roman God!” (as he showed us his bicep); “I’m going to see a man about a dog” (code word for going to the gym). His various declarations would be accompanied by a day-long assortment of high protein, low carb (I didn’t know what either meant at the time) meals – kebab salad, no rice or blue-berry protein shake.The partners’ example inspired the rest of the rest of us, and over the next few months, I would join other staff in a variety of 12-week challenges, gym binges, protein diets and confusing sessions with nutrition consultants.
How did any of this help?
The cult was a great leveller. For any of you that have worked in larger corporates, you’ll know about the great divide between the BIG people at the top, and the tiny people at the bottom. The divide was very apparent in a law firm – no matter how egalitarian the culture. The basic rule was that the partners owned the joint and you did whatever they said, or else.That great status divide somehow didn’t apply to the Cult – you could talk about your ‘reps, your body fat or what protein shake you were drinking, without feeling that you sounded like an idiot. It provided a common language for everyone at the firm – and also a major talking point. In office environments where people can sometimes have radically differing interests (I was ‘chasing the ladies’, while our secretary was having a baby), having common ground was absolutely vital. You didn’t have to go to the gym to be part of the cult either – everyone else knew about it and could join in on the banter. Fonzie’s occasional pronouncements were a constant source of entertainment.Before Jones Young I’d avoided gyms: honestly, I felt a little intimidated by all the pretty, fit people who lifted 5x the weight my scrawny frame could handle. The Cult took that away: going to the gym wasn’t so much about competition with other people: it was understood that everyone’s outcomes and improvement would reflect their personal starting point. The Cult was about personal progress: you measured your performance against your own development, rather than that of others.Another benefit was that individual progress was so easy to measure. If you were a beginner: each week you were guaranteed to measurably improve – by lifting a little more weight, or doing a few more repetitions. You couldn’t help but feel a sense of achievement every time you left the gym (except for post hangover days...).More broadly important was the health benefit to the staff: weight training, cardio training, walking, running, cycling, handstands: whatever your flavour – physical activity is good for you. Open a health magazine and you’ll see any number of studies attesting to the benefits of regular exercise and nutrition. The Cult set me up with healthy habits and a skillset that keeps delivering benefits eight years later.
Too much warm and fuzzy – show me the money!
All the feel good factors aside, there’s one major reason for encouraging the Cult to develop in your business: people who exercise regularly and eat well are more healthy and happy. Healthy, happy people are more dollar-productive, more creative at work and have less sick days.Lets do some numbers:
- We have fifteen staff at Rex.
- Lets assume:
- We can make each staff member produce one hour of extra productivity each week because they’re healthier and happier / giddy with endorphins etc.
- They’re also sick 1 less day per year
- Each staff member costs $60,000 per year on average (roughly $33 an hour)
- One extra hour each week x 15 people x $33 per hour =
- $500 per week of extra productivity:
- $2,000 per month
- $24,000 per year
- One less sick day (8 hours x $33) x 15 people = $4,000 per year.
THEREFORE: Our corporate health program costs $6,000 per year. On that investment we get a return of $28,000 in improved productivity.Even if you ignore all the other benefits: healthy workplaces make financial sense.If you do nothing else this year, think about investing in a corporate health program. If you think you can’t afford one, get yourself healthy: set an example for your staff or your colleagues.