Increases in workforce creativity are a big, if sometimes hidden, benefit of wellness programs. Most of us have heard that exercise generally improves thinking skills, both immediately and in the longer term, but could exercise also be the seed of creativity?
Exercise has long been linked anecdotally to creativity but we can also SEE its impact on our brains at a chemical, neurological level. When researchers tested this apparent connection, their experiments came back with big results. Moderate exercise, they found, ” markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas.”
One look at last year’s list the “46 Healthiest Companies” is proof. Creativity gets a boost with increased physical activity in the workplace. Big names like Google, Nike, and Microsoft all have innovative wellness programs that allow employees to stay active within the workplace. In turn, these companies get to capitalize on the burst of energy and creativity that comes after a workout.
Instead of sending their employees home or to an off-site gym to workout, these companies have integrated physical activity into their offices, infrastructure, and culture. Working out at work, then, generates a buzz of new ideas and new energy that gets pumped right back into projects on-site.
But how? A study by the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed definitively that “regular exercisers do better on tests of creativity than their more sedentary peers.” The experts say that it’s the chemicals and hormones generated from physical activity. They support what’s called “divergent thinking,” which seeks out as many possible solutions to a given problem versus the more common “convergent thinking,” where we seek out that one right answer that may not exist. Exercise unlocks divergent thinking!
But you don’t have to have a huge budget to help foster big ideas – there are plenty of examples of smaller companies that do more with less on a daily basis. By making use of the host of free apps available to track physical activity, many small companies on tighter budgets have been able to institute office-wide competitions and shift habits across their workforce. A simple ‘Deskercise’ program sets a standard for employees to take regular breaks from their desks to get up and move OR to actually get active at their desk. And programs like these cost little to no money.
Big or small, elements of office wellness the most successful companies feature include –
- Standing work stations. It burns three times the calories as sitting and inspires concentration.
- Walking meetings. A few loops around the block instead of around the boardroom.
- Clean, well-lit stairwells. We don’t have to let the machines win, folks.
- On-site gyms. If that’s not doable free or subsidized memberships to off-site gyms.