West Brom's sports science expert says entering teams into the Great Birmingham Run Business Challenge is win-win for companies and employees
Here, Dr Mark Gillett, West Bromwich Albion's Director of Performance, whose livelihood revolves around keeping colleagues fit and healthy, discusses the potential benefits to companies entering teams into the Great Birmingham 10k on Sunday May 1, or the Great Birmingham Run half-marathon on Sunday, October 16.
Staff become more efficient
Successfully encouraging employees to exercise will increase their general well being, mental stamina, productivity and creativity – key factors in any business environment. Running is a great way to achieve this. When people get fitter, they generally work more effectively.
Running lends itself to creating social groups. Staff from different departments training together, pushing and supporting each other towards a common goal, will engender a stronger team spirit across the business. Training is also more effective and interesting as a group.
Businesses with a healthy workforce benefit from staff recovering quicker from sickness. Regular exercise also reduces the risk of long-term illness.
You'll firstly need to work out who your team is, the standard you're at and go from there. For instance, if your target is to be the region's fittest team, you'll need to identify your best runners and how fast you're going to have to run to win. Alternatively, your goal may simply be to improve fitness, or get as many people from your company around the course as possible. You can plan regular training walks, jogs or runs accordingly.
Energises the workforce
Running, and exercise in general, releases endorphins and changes your hormonal profiles, so you feel better about yourself. When you start running, it can make you feel quite tired, but when you get past that initial stage, it gives you more energy.
Relieves work stress
The world of business often produces fast-paced, high-pressure environments. Exercising at the end of a day can help ease the stresses of our day-to-day working lives. On a personal level, I appreciate and enjoy my downtime more after exercising. I feel much more ready for it, rather than sitting there with all sorts of things churning in my head. It's like a washout.
Staff want to be challenged
This is a given in the office but can also apply out of it, especially at this time of year. New Year resolutions and a desire to shed the pounds after festive excesses gets people thinking more seriously about becoming physically active. January is notorious for gym memberships being purchased and only used for a couple of weeks, but having a goal gives people an incentive to keep exercising.
Running costs next to nothing. Done sensibly, it is a very effective way to feel better, control weight and get fitter. It's very accessible.
Shows you're a nice boss
Any business which demonstrates a duty of care to its employees, especially by encouraging staff to become healthier while raising money for good causes along the way, shows it takes its corporate social responsibility seriously. I think that's vitally important.
Puts business principles into practice
One of my frustrations is bad advice being given out about exercise, like when there is no goal orientation. As with any business plan, having a realistic target and sensible timeframe in which to achieve it is paramount. For example, having three or four months to prepare makes completing a 10k incredibly achievable. I would urge businesses to think seriously about entering teams into the business challenge. It's a win-win scenario.
Don't just take Dr Gillett's word for it
The Davies Group, a national claims outsourcing and loss adjusting business which has an office in Paradise Street, entered the most runners, 30, into last year's business challenge and raised funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. “‘The Davies Group has taken part in the Great Birmingham Run for the past two years and we will be signing up again this year,” said group communications coordinator Paris Baker. “It's great to give our staff a common goal to work towards, whilst improving their fitness level and inter-department relationships; all whilst raising money for a brilliant cause.”
The challenge is open to small, medium and large businesses. Trophies will be handed out to winning businesses and any company that enters 12 or more employees will receive its own personalised engraved plaque in the name of the fastest runner in the team.
Teams must be a minimum of four people and a maximum of eight, but businesses can enter as many teams as they want, in male, female or mixed sex categories. Mixed teams must have a minimum of two men and two women.
Team members must be 16 years or over on race day and placings are based on the accumulated first four finishing times in each team.