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We have more than 700 personnel in our human resources department that sit several hours per day. When we alert them for exercise twenty percent stand up for this.

We worry about this and are thinking about ways to solve this problem. How can we motivate them to take part in the activities?

Can you help us and give your experiences to motivate yourself that if we generalize them, our personnel is notwithstanding?

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In order to help, we need to know what the workers are doing? Are they programmers, call centre, etc. –  Mew Feb 5 '13 at 9:06
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I edited your post, feel free to edit again or revert the changes. –  Baarn Feb 5 '13 at 9:32
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I removed the part that was just asking for a list of articles and questions as SE sites are not designed to be simple link collections. Maybe the questions would better fit on The Workplace as your problem seems to be employee motivation in general. –  Baarn Feb 5 '13 at 9:40
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Related: How do you motivate yourself to keep exercising?. –  Baarn Feb 5 '13 at 9:44
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This is a highly relevant problem for organizations. And motivation for teams/groups to do physical exercise has an interesting angle. –  FredrikD Feb 5 '13 at 13:05
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Motivating yourself is easy enough, it's motivating other people that is tricky. As the saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." The horse may be too stubborn to drink even though it's thirsty, it may be too embarassed to drink in front of others, or it may already be full of water and not want any more! Regardless of the reason, you will need to accept that outside of a company mandate (which may cause resentment by the employees) it will be near impossible to achieve a participation rate even close to 100%. That being said, there are ways you can encourage employees to participate which can improve your overall participation rate.

  1. Give them rewards for attendance. Find a way to reward people for participating in the fitness events. A simple approach would be taking a tally of people attending and randomly awarding a prize every day/week/month. The more you attend, the better your chances. This could be a gift card, company swag, whatever.
  2. Give them rewards for being healthy outside of work. For example, offer a weekly / monthly subsidy for people who walk to work, have a gym membership, do weight watchers, etc..
  3. Take a "grassroots" approach. Make it a collaborative event and get managers and supervisors to actively encourage participation.
  4. Diversify the type of activities. By changing or adding new activities you broaden the appeal and bring in new participants. Perhaps men are too embarassed to do yoga, but would love to participate in basketball/soccer/etc..
  5. Educate employees. Many people have a hard time understanding the tangible benefits of fitness aside from "it makes me less fat." Put up flyers or hold seminars about the dangers of inactivity or the benefits of being active.
  6. Hold competitions. Have competitions on who can lose the most amount of body-fat, or maybe gain the most strength / muscle. Perhaps do group-based as well as solo, so you can have employees getting together and working as support-groups for each other. Again, have some sort of reward like gift cards for winning.

It is important for a company to promote fitness and activity in its employees, as it makes the employees healthier, happier, more productive, more loyal to the company, and greatly reduces the companies potential future medical costs. Arguably, the amount of money a company will save from its promotion of healthy living will be exponentially more than the cost of having an overly inactive workforce, thus these programs can pay for themselves and some!

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My experience from leading projects in 150+ companies on how to promote physical excercise and active lifestyle in companies (ranging from 20 to 7000 employees) are, in summary:

  • Peer pressure/everybody else is doing it/risk of standing out, is the most effective psychological component in bringing many people on board a fitness promotion.

  • Competitions are the best way to encourage the people in the company that do not normally excercise - and the way to do it is by having the already motivated employees promote participation to their co-workers - rather than top management decisions.

  • Competitions that want to engage as many as possible should not focus on the individual's effort, rather on the team/group dynamics of making an effort together. With technology, doing "fitness together" doesn't have to imply visiting a gym at the same time - just sharing the participation (like on a Facebook group).

  • People will make additional effort "for the sake of the company" (for example a competition or a program of classes) for a maximum of 6-8 weeks. However, up to 30% of employees will have established a higher level of activity that remains even after the promotional campaign period.

  • Even if a single method/event is very popular and successful, employees lose interest after 2 or maximum 3 events of the same type.

In my business, we've tried to boil down these findings into a repeatable concept. We are now reaching 70-95% participation in the organisations we are working with, which is higher than we had expected ourselves.

In addition to this, I agree with Moses on the different principle methods of encouragement.

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It is estimated that about 36% of deaths from CAD in men and 38% of deaths from CAD in women are due to lack of physical activity. To produce the maximum benefit the activity needs to be regular and aerobic. Aerobic activity involves using the large muscle groups in the arms, legs and back steadily and rhythmically so that breathing and heart rate are significantly increased. It is recommended that adults should participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of at least moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking, cycling or climbing the stairs) on 5 or more days of the week.

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Perhaps you can explain the term CAD –  FredrikD Feb 5 '13 at 13:06
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CAD = coronary artery disease. –  Mew Feb 5 '13 at 23:15
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