The positive effects of physically-fit employees on your organisation

‘Ensure your employees exercise more and they will be five times as productive.’

This is what Tycho Descamps, CEO of Immune, says. Through Immune, Tycho Descamps aims, above all, to promote a healthy lifestyle. He wants to do this not only at the individual level, but also within businesses by means of health packages that can be adapted to various goals and lifestyles. We asked him what the effect of having healthy employees is on an organisation. To already give you an idea: after the interview I spontaneously took a walk around the block! Here we go.

Why is it so important to get your daily exercise?

Exercise sends more oxygen to your brain, and you need that oxygen to concentrate and be productive. If you regularly take time out for a walk or some exercise, you will notice that you are not distracted as easily and are able to focus more effectively. You don’t have enough time for a ten-minute walk? This is a huge misconception, because the time ‘lost’ is more than compensated for by the concentration gained. So as an employer, get your team to briefly set aside their work and change their posture, take a walk, do some physical exercises, and so forth. This is an ‘investment’ that pays off. Employees who exercise every day (whether by choice or otherwise) are simply happier!

So job satisfaction and physical exercise go hand in hand. Why?

Well, in the first instance, your staff will sense that their health is important to the company. They will understand that they are not merely a small cog in a big wheel but are seen and heard as full-fledged assets to the organisation! If you, as an employer, give your staff the time to focus on their body and mind, they will be grateful to you. This lets them know that you are concerned with their personal situation, and it pays off. Another reason is that this strengthens team spirit and that exercising together (and suffering to achieve a goal!) creates a bond.

Why is job satisfaction so important?

Happy employees are productive and do not get sick as frequently. Also, the more satisfied they are with their job, the greater their commitment to the company will be. As a result, they are not as likely to accept another job offer. These days, finding and keeping good employees is not easy, so it’s better to invest in your current workforce. They are your biggest asset, meaning you should get them happy and keep them that way!

How can you encourage your employees to get enough exercise?

Exercise does not automatically involve intensive sports. Really, it’s the little things that make a difference, and brief routines are enough to achieve a satisfactory effect. Here’s an example: don’t always ask the same colleague to get coffee (the designated coffee-fetching colleague will surely appreciate this as well). Get out of your chair to get something to drink, to print a document, and so on. In addition to this, it is also important to change your posture regularly and - just as important - to ensure that your posture is good when you sit at your desk. If you have a height-adjustable desk you can alternate between standing up and sitting down when you work.

Another tip: plan group exercise moments into your daily routine. There is no need for gym equipment and all that’s needed is to take a walk or do some activation exercises like squats or sit-ups. (PS: There are lots of great little streets near Greenhouse Berchem where you can take a stroll. In Diegem and Mechelen there are also some lovely green areas. Just Do It!) A few exercises to activate your abdominal and back muscles can do miracles for the rest of your workday. Actually, your ‘core’ muscles (abdominal and back muscles) are the ones used most frequently when sitting down. If you activate these, you will avoid slouching, which puts too much tension on your muscles. So, simply lie down and do a few exercises!

If my colleague were to suddenly lie down on the floor, I would find it a little strange!

This is a hurdle that most Belgian companies will nevertheless need to overcome. Sport at work is often considered an exception rather than a rule in this country, but social acceptance is very important if you want to keep up an exercise regimen. There is a lot of social control, and you often hear comments like: ‘but you don’t really need that, do you?’. The role of the employer is a determining factor in this aspect. If a programme of brief daily exercise is imposed by the employer, it will be part of the working routine and social pressure will drop of its own accord.

Is this social pressure different in other countries?

Social pressure is something you see everywhere, but the difference lies primarily in how a company functions internally. In China, for example, there are many companies where the employees all gather at the beginning of the day for a brief workout. It is a habit, just like starting your day with a cup of coffee (or tea). There are some cultural differences as well. In China, the work day is quite long, but to be honest this is not so different in Belgium. What we do notice is that the number of people suffering from a burn-out is only increasing. On top of that, stress levels are much higher than they used to be. The result is that all of us often work overtime and become ill more frequently. Therefore, it is high time for us to embrace a change. Support from the government in the form of grants would be a good first step in the right direction. Our neighbours to the north do this better.

With initiatives like Immune, we are in any case already taking a step in the right direction.

No doubt about it. Individuals and companies can contact the Immune team. Whether you are 10, 15 or 100, our group training courses focus on the employer’s goal. This can range from strengthening team spirit and organising boot camps to alleviating back complaints and relaxing. I often give a training session once or twice a week and provide the necessary tools to allow people to set to work independently on a daily basis. However, to see the effects this has on the organisation you will need to keep it up as it takes at least 3 to 6 months to build up a stable foundation.

Are the training sessions suitable for everyone?

Absolutely. The training sessions and levels can be easily adjusted, and if you have adequate supervision you can’t do anything wrong. This is also the reason why I do not believe in gym subscriptions or programmes. In these cases, you may do your exercises wrong, in which case you could be even worse off. ‘Exercising is good. Exercising well is even better.’

We will frame this quote.

Perfect! (He smiles). I also give brief presentations about nutrition on a regular basis. This is also a health factor that cannot be underestimated. Too many people are still addicted to sugar, often without being aware of it themselves. This causes a bodily imbalance. Many sugars are ‘hidden’ in processed food and food that contains preservatives. Our body does need sugars, of course, and this is fine as long as we also burn them off. However, if we do not exercise sufficiently, this sugar is transformed into fat. Here, to maintain the most constant energy level possible, it is important to avoid sugar to the greatest extent possible and to adopt a varied diet.

Thank you, Tycho!

At Greenhouse, we consciously opt for high-quality equipment and furniture that promotes ergonomic health. We have installed height-adjustable desks that you can stand or sit at as you please, because if there is anything we have learned it is that our posture is of crucial importance to keeping our body - our temple - intact. In addition to this, the chefs at the Greenhouse restaurants prepare delicious meals with fresh ingredients every day. All of this to help you keep up your energy level! Would you also like to exercise more? You can make use of the gym facilities at Greenhouse! In addition to this, Tycho’s Immune initiative has been launched at Greenhouse Diegem and Berchem. Drop by to get acquainted and... let’s get sweaty!