Why It’s Time We Paid Employees to Exercise at Work

The clanking of weights. The thump of bass from a Bluetooth speaker. The squeak of sneakers on rubber mats. People sucking wind and straining for a few more pull-ups or squats or lunges.

These are the sounds of my office — or at least one small corner of it — each and every day. We’re a technology company with around 1,000 employees, not a gym. But from the start, I’ve built fitness into how we do business. For health, for morale and, yes, for the bottom line, it’s the best decision we could have made. And it didn’t require much of an investment or sacrifice — just a commitment to enable exercise in the office.

For other companies out there, here’s my look under the hood at why and how we built fitness into our company culture … and why it may make sense for you to do the same.

For starters, there’s the health and wellness factor. Nearly 80 percent of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise each week (2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity). Given how critical fitness is to overall health, I think it’s worth taking a look at exercise in the one place where nearly all of us will spend a good chunk of our lives: the workplace.

At Hootsuite, most of the actual work we do is digital: our platform helps 15 million users and thousands of top companies around the world manage their social media. But old-fashioned physical exercise before, during and after working hours is encouraged. When we moved into our headquarters several years ago, we installed a small gym and yoga studio, as well as showers and changing rooms. Facilities are modest compared to those at some companies, but they’re well used. Yoga classes are packed at lunch and after work. In the gym, volunteers from inside the company, as well as pro trainers, lead sweaty bootcamps, cross-training classes and even boxing and MMA. Groups set out from our office for lunchtime runs and evening hikes. Over the years, we’ve had a hockey team, a road biking team and even a Quidditch team that does battle on broomsticks in the park.