Why running is so great for corporate team building
Maintaining our health and wellbeing is crucial even when we're at work. But a recent systematic review of workers’ quality of life on PubMed found that if you remain sedentary during work shifts, you can be at high risk for various chronic diseases.
Most office-based tasks involve computer and phone use while seated for prolonged periods, thus increasing the likelihood of developing musculoskeletal pain, dry eye syndrome, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity. I’m among those who shifted to hybrid or remote work, only to find that it exacerbated the problem. (In fact, for me, I was sitting more because I didn’t have my stand-up desk.) On top of the physical consequences of spending most of your time in front of the desk, there was also the feeling of social isolation from coworkers.
Remote work’s promise of productivity and efficiency compromised our time and capacity to engage in physical activity and interact with others. Corporate wellness programs can target these concerns — and running is the best tool for that.
The evolution of corporate wellness
Companies have shed light on the importance of corporate wellness since the post-war era, mainly through health-care coverage and illness prevention. It was only in the mid-2000s that organizations moved past the thinking only of the health-care costs and approached wellness more mindfully and holistically. Tips for promoting wellbeing at work from LHH are reflective of this shift. Based on behavioral psychology and organizational culture, workplace strategies must consider workers’ needs, improve collaboration, and promote physical and mental wellbeing. In this context, running can be integrated into corporate wellness programs to boost overall health and social connection.
Running as a team-building activity
What sets running apart from other team-building activities is the opportunity to interact and connect with colleagues outdoors, going beyond the formal working environment. It brings employees from different positions and departments together to achieve a common goal.
Once you lace up your running shoes, there are no more bosses, supervisors, or managers. You get to talk with your coworkers about your hobbies, interests and day-to-day lives. In the pre-pandemic days, I ran with a coworker, Cameran Richardson, from time to time during our lunch breaks. Our friendship and working relationship grew during those mid-day runs. The physical and challenging nature of running also cultivates toughness and resilience. There’s no other way to emphasize the value of overcoming adversity than experiencing it individually and as a team. When you cheer each other during a challenging route or push yourselves to reach the finish line, you can apply this same mindset and morale in work contexts — whether in the face of a demanding client or amid tight project deadlines. Running improves strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, stress management and weight maintenance. A study in BMC Public Health about physical activity in workplace settings further explains how these health benefits translate to long-term positive returns. Because of the physical and mental health gains from exercise like running, workplaces saw reduced absentee rates alongside increased employee performance, workability and productivity.
Getting started on running with coworkers
Running shouldn’t just be a one-time thing but a process that you collectively undergo as a team of coworkers. From a previous post discussing “5 common questions about your first marathon,’’ first-timers are advised to be consistent in building up base mileage, pace and cardiovascular endurance. You can set small goals that gradually increase over time instead of immediately pushing yourself to finish a 20-mile run. Since the levels of health and fitness vary from person to person, it’s also essential to coordinate your different needs for nutrition and hydration!
Some coworkers may prefer specific sports drinks and energy bars or have other needs that should be considered. This is a team effort, so be sure to check in with one another from time to time so you can easily take action if someone needs more fuel or first aid.