Fitness in corporations

on October 12, 2018

Fitness is serious business and so too are corporations. But to induce fitness as part of your work and incorporating exercise during working hours is bringing things to another level. One such company is Bjorn Borg sportswear of Sweden. Spending lunch break at the gym is not uncommon but making it compulsory on the job is what happened in this company. Every Friday, employees at their Stockholm HQ leave the office for their weekly workout at a nearby gym.

Swedes are zealously fitness conscious and exercise more than everybody else in Europe. The 2014 Eurobarometer poll revealed that some 70% of Swedes exercised once a week while 51% do it two to three times a week. Comparably, only 22% of Bulgarians exercise and it’s only once a week. Still, imagine being paid to do your workout. This is the initiative of Bjorn Borg sportswear CEO Henrik Bunge and he has seen productivity and profitability of the company going up.

His motto is "if you don't want to exercise or be a part of the company culture, you have to go". What’s tellingly encouraging is that so far nobody has quit. The objective accordingly, is besides boosting productivity and profitability, fostering camaraderie in the workforce is included.

The University of Stockholm conducted a study and discovered that exercising during the workday is advantageous for both employees and ultimately employers. Workers were noted to be conspicuously healthier and more focussed. Furthermore, the study also found that absence from work declined by 22% which is hefty considering the average Swede is on sick leave only 4% of the time.

Traditionally, Swedes are renowned for their healthy outdoor lifestyle. According to Carl Cederstrom, an economics researcher at Stockholm University and author of The Wellness Syndrome - "in Sweden, there's this idea that you'll be healthy, strong and happy if you get a lot of exercise and if you spend a lot of time in nature. A common belief in Sweden is if you exercise and take care of your body, you're a better person".

Swedes generally see being fit as a duty to oneself and society. The fitness craze started in the 1930s with a cult of youth, vigour and social hygiene. Some view it as a responsibility one has to one’s employer. It’s heartening to also note that since the late-1980s most Swedish companies have been subsidising employees' sporting activities. This translates to up to €500 per employee/per year and which is tax deductible for employers. This is also a testament that the government shares similar sentiments on fitness.

Group workouts have their tangible benefits as well, such as bringing staff from all departments within a company together - thus allowing employees to put their work responsibilities aside and to get to know each other on equal footing. When they go into the gym, they are all on the same level and where everyone is equal.

Last update: October 16, 2018