Led by the demands of the increasingly health conscious millennial generation, health and fitness is a booming business in its own right. Millennials are spending more on taking care of themselves mentally and physically than any previous generation.
Self-care is seen as a necessity, rather than a luxury. Boomers tendencies to look at self-neglect and overwork as a virtue are distant memory and many older people are spending their cash to try and right the damage they have inflicted on themselves.
It is a fashionable and fast changing world. DVDs of Jane Fonda and Davina McCall have given way to live stream classes on your laptop. In order to broaden the appeal, fitness now mixes up scientifically proven exercise with spirituality, sociability and fun. Yoga is not just for hippies, but high streets.
Boxing and kickboxing are widely available, along with faster and faster dance classes of salsa, mambo, samba, Zumba and merengue. Doing the plank, CrossFit routines, muscle confusion and interval coaching are just some of the strangely named but wildly popular new trends.
John Readman and Rob Hamilton, founders of Ride 25, had a vision to get people of every ability, shape and size to appreciate the glories of biking while raising money for charity. They have been a leader in what has become an enormous renaissance of the world of the cycle, spawning cash flow for not just the bike manufacturers but those in clothing, gadgets and kit, e-bikes for the less able, magazines, web sites and holidays. Ethics, eco friendliness and fitness proved a perfect combination.
But it is not just in terms of direct sales that business has been reacting to the changing trends in health and fitness. More and more companies are recognising that looking after employees’ health makes financial sense. It makes for less sick days lost, more staff at peak performance and higher rates of staff retention.
Online mattress retailer Casper is among those following both IBM and Hootsuite’s example of tracking and incentivising employees and how they are keeping fit, with bonus payments for time spent exercising. Yahoo!, meanwhile, pays for golf classes, while Campbell’s Soup offers healthy cooking lessons. Consumer brands Danone and L’Oreal have shown a desire to encourage eating better with in-house nutritionists and exercise clothing specialists Sweaty Betty offer staff their own daily exercise classes from local fitness experts.
Some companies are experimenting with combining work and exercise. Google and Facebook have introduced treadmill desks and marketing agency Momentum encourages its staff to brainstorm and walk at the same time. While there are health gains, Momentum also claims there is an additional financial benefit in saving an estimated 90 minutes from each employees’ time every week and a hugely increased pitch win-rate.
Alongside all of these examples, many companies are reassessing the old virtue of overwork in staff – and are finding it lacking. There is a move toward quality over quantity and some companies are embracing shorter days or four day weeks.
Research shows increasingly that while overwork might show devotion on the part of staff, it also shows something can be wrong with the management or business model of a company. The results can be dire.
Creativity and focus suffer through staff tiredness, burnout and productivity slumps. Companies which are able to adapt are finding it a shrewd investment as less overworked staff often result in better financials. A second bonus is that the shorter hours appeal to wider numbers of talented applicants, so firms with this practice are enabled to employ better quality staff, which again produces better results.
Overworked and overtired employees are more open to constant distraction and loss of concentration, with technology, inevitably, the biggest culprit. Many companies are proactively working to minimise that disruption in every way and balancing technology is a favoured solution. Jack Dorsey, of Twitter, you might think would be glued to his technology 24/7, yet he strongly advocates the importance of time spent unplugged from both work and devices in particular. His own routine testifies to this, working out and meditating every morning prior to even glancing at Twitter, followed by a five-mile walk to work.
Others believe that it is the way we use our technology that can ensure it is a positive force. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, who writes of “The Distraction Addiction” of our current world, is of the opinion that technology has virtually destroyed our ability to concentrate.
He offers a solution in “contemplative computing” to control this, which he claims can be effortless, creative and happy. By whatever means it is becoming increasingly necessary for companies to ensure their employees have addictions to technology and its distractions under control.
The more businesses that recognise healthier, fitter staff make for higher profits the better. Being proactive on this front will attract the younger generations, who are increasingly demanding nothing less.