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The key to unlocking untapped productivity

By Jordan Nichols and Lisa Kretchman | June 9, 2018 | Employee Well-Being

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There are 480 minutes in the average workday. How are your employees spending them?  New studies show that, during that time, your staff may only be productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

Whether they are surfing social media sites, taking smoke breaks or chatting with co-workers, it’s clear that we need a solution for the presenteeism epidemic in our workplaces.  

Unseen costs, major impact

While missed days of work may be easy to track, your organization is likely negatively impacted by something outside of absenteeism. Presenteeism is a potentially less apparent, but equally impactful trend may be happening on your teams. It can be the result of employee disinterest, discontentment, stress or even mental illness. Employees physically show up for the workday, but they aren’t present.

Diagnosis: Presenteeism.  Prescription: Physical activity

It may not be a cure, but increased physical activity may be the answer to the daunting problem of lost productivity. Regular physical activity can lower an individual’s risk of chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even certain types of cancers. Moreover, physical activity can have a positive effect on mood and cognition. Also, physical activity can even improve your workplace levels of presenteeism. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, increased physical activity is related to better quality of work and overall job performance.1 

3 reasons why you want an active workforce

Active employees may be sharper

Research shows that fitness does more than toning your muscles. In fact, physical activity is associated with greater cognition and overall brain health.2 Increased circulation and blood flow to the brain allows for more energy, which in turn helps keep employees alert and focused.

Employees have a positive outlet for stress

Exercise is an excellent stress management solution. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters associated with signals in the brain, such as reduced pain and increased pleasure. Physical activity helps clear the mind of outside mental and emotional stressors which can be a distraction to an employee’s focus during work hours. Mental barriers from personal issues or non-work related stressors can hinder an employee’s performance and cause a decrease in quality and efficiency.

Employees are more likely to have a positive self-perception

This directly impacts confidence. New studies show a connection between exercise and positive body image. Employees who are more confident set higher goals and are more likely to take initiative or speak up/step up when a leadership opportunity presents itself. Employees who are physically active typically are more disciplined, which is a trait that can directly carry over to their professional work.

Increasing productivity can be as simple as encouraging an active lifestyle

If you’re ready to engage and excite your workforce, consider these 3 simple ways to increase opportunities for activity during the workday:

  1. Promote walking meetings
  2. Implement step competitions throughout the year
  3. Task your wellness committee with identifying and promoting walking paths for employee use



  1. Pronk, N. P., Martinson, B., Kessler, R. C., Beck, A. L., Simon, G. E., & Wang, P. (2004). The Association Between Work Performance and Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Obesity. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine,46(1), 19-25. doi:10.1097/01.jom.0000105910.69449.b7
  2. Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Hillman, C. (2013). The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiology. doi:10.1002/cphy.c110063