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Office Yoga and Boxing Leads to Corporate Gains

Staff in a Melbourne office have traded their business attire for boxing gloves and yoga pants in the pursuit of corporate fitness. After a month of training, the physical activity push improved both personal waistlines and the business”s bottom line.

During their “Fit into May” initiative, the business offered its 150 Melbourne-based staff free, two-month gym memberships and professionally lead weekly yoga, boxing and circuit-training classes. They tracked performance online, through a Fit Bit group and dished out healthy recipes and products.

Out went the sugar-laden vending machine and in came one offering products like beetroot chips, for when the daily supply of free fresh fruit dwindled. The office stock of vitamins were washed down with water from plastic-free metallic sports bottles.

Despite having one cupcake cheat day – for Cancer Council Australia’s Largest Morning Tea last week – there was widespread uptake in the initiative, which seems like the norm for this somewhat Google-esque dot.com company.

Digital marketing agency, WME, was founded by a 27-year-old entrepreneur with $400 in his pocket in 2008. The company now turns over more than $40 million annually. All because they are “always seeking the one per cent edge”, according to managing director, and founder Nick Bell.


WME’s staff go zen with weekly yoga classes.

Bell was honest in his hopes that the fitness push would improve staff performance, but he also said he believed it would promote comradery and a healthier lifestyle outside of the workplace.

“I know personally, when I exercise I”m much happier and more productive,” said Bell. “Yeah, maybe some people would say we pushed fitness for our own gains. I don”t know, it”s not the way I looked at it. Yes, I hoped it would improve productivity but it was optional and I”d call it a win-win for the 80-odd people who were involved.”

Bell said he knows how hard it is to work a long day at the office and then find the energy to work out. He decided he would make it easier for staff, bringing the activities into the office.

He puts the inception of the office-wide initiative down to overhearing one of the sales team talking to a client. This is the team he sits with in the open-plan agency with brightly coloured walls and modern artwork. The firm with foosball tables in the lunchroom, where every desk is the same size and there are no enclosed offices.

Fitness sessions at WME has seen a rise in staff productivity and positivity.

Voluntary fitness sessions have seen a rise in staff productivity and positive vibes.

“Our core business services is SEO. One of the team was talking to a client about innovation and continuous development as part of our company values, which it is in business practices. I thought, why stop there?

“Fair play, we sit down most of the day and it”s just not good for your body. As a company, if we can promote health and fitness, it”s a form of optimisation. Our people will have more energy, focus and just generally feel better about themselves. I know when I am feeling great that comes through in my work.”

Bell said given the success of the trial in the Melbourne headquarters, he would “roll-out” the initiative. Firstly in New Zealand, with sister-company Results First “because Kiwis are sports-mad”, then on to the offices in Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Dubai. Melbourne will continue to offer gym memberships as performance incentives and in-office fitness classes for all staff.


The Harvard Business Review Review reported that corporate fitness or wellness programs have shown to convert 57 % of employees listed as high risk to low risk, in terms of factors relating to health.

A study of 185 randomly selected workers received exercise training and cardiac rehabilitation. As a result medical claims dropped by US$1,421 per participant, from the previous year.

The report says Johnson & Johnson managers have estimated that staff wellness programs have “cumulatively saved the company US$250 million on health care costs” from 2002 to 2008.

They cost of the programs provided a strong return on investment with managers reporting a $2.71 return for every dollar spent.


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