Sport brings people together, accross the world, we see it uniting counties and communities all of the time. It’s also a great way of uniting people across the workforce, helping business to improve staff relations, promoting a better connected, more engaged and networked workforce.
The benefits of exercise on health and wellbeing are heavily researched and the links between exercise and performance at work are well documented too. When we exercise we release endorphins which positively impact on mood, energy levels and mindset. This can benefit our performance in terms of our executive functioning; how we organise our thoughts to make decisions, our ability to concentrate, our attention and our focus.
When I work with business to improve physical activity levels at work, I suggest team sports for a range of reasons which provide mutual benefits to both the business and the individual.
Team sports such as football or netball encourage participation from people of different ages, from different backgrounds. This coming and working together helps people to feel more connected and has obvious benefits for retention. We know that feeling connected and the process of helping our team mates makes us feel good, and happiness at work positively impacts on motivation, performance and productivity. Sport at work can help to improve confidence, through helping younger employees to build their network and it’s a great opportunity for peer mentoring to take place, where more experienced employees pass on their knowledge and expertise to less experienced employees. This can work both ways in terms of the informal sharing of knowledge, expertise and mindset.
Healthy competition is also good for us, motivating and inspiring us to learn and improve. Sport naturally teaches us important lessons about how and when to compete and cooperate. These learnings can energise and focus us, helping to innovate and improve performance.
Of course team sports are not for everyone and there are minor risks in terms of sports injuries. Don’t let this put you off though as these risks can be minimised with a common sense approach and some practical advice or coaching. The risks are outweighed by the potential performance gains and the tangible health benefits which help to combat against the long term problems caused by enduring a sedentary lifestyle and desk bound behaviours (which has led the world health organisation to name physical inactivity and sitting as one of the biggest preventable threats to health).
However, if team sports at work really aren’t for you, you still have options. Many of these benefits can be gained from other group exercise sessions such as dance, running clubs or even walking meetings. A perfectionist or mandatory approach never works, the most important thing is to encourage and support people to get moving.