“Time to promote fitness culture in workplaces” – 16 April 2013
When he took over as CEO six years ago, the new boss appeared to be rather different from the standard CEO model — hawk-eyed, sharp-tounged, and no-nonsense with a stiff upper-lip. This one was affable, all willing to smile at even class-four staff. He was middle-aged but very fit, and propagated physical exercise as a value for everybody without exception, women included. Initially, most staffers did not take his stress on exercise seriously. But slowly, he started insisting that everybody got involved in some or the other fitness programme. To many, this insistence was almost draconian, autocratic. “Why should we burn ourselves with exercise which we don’t need?”, many would ask. So, as he began his stint as CEO, the new boss appeared headed for failure. However, things started changing slowly as some people in the company started seeing the benefits of what the boss was preaching and practising him-self. Slowly, the number of staffers who started some fitness programme grew, and the company reported better performance at all levels. Within two-three years, the company started posting great results. And to a newspaper reporter who asked him the secret of this success, the CEO responded, “We owe our better performance to our fitness culture.” The reporter was askance, but did not say a word; his report stated it all.
Increasing numbers of corporate houses are now insisting upon fitness as a value for their staffs. As modern day stress increases with the fast paced work environment the Fitness culture, thus, is no more a matter of someone’s fancy or whim. It is, on the contrary, becoming a corporate need in the rapidly changing times where every person is expected to perform at the best of his or her physical capacity without falling ill or without giving way to some stealth infection gobbling up good health.
However, CEOs in non-corporate business have to face stiff opposition from various levels of staff to the good idea of fitness. The difficulty is that young people do not feel the immediate need to start a fitness programme because their young bodies are fit enough to carry on trough the stress and strain of work. But as age advances into forties every person starts feeling the heat of failing health. And then they wake up — rather too late.
I have considered this issue previously as well, and have stressed the importance of fitness as an important attribute of a successful person in any field. Yet, unfortunately, fitness culture is yet to spread in Indian workplace as a given. What one sees on the contrary is a tendency towards easy-going lifestyle that appears all right on the surface but involves many health risks. Naturally, health insurance business has flourished over the years, which is by itself welcome. But, the best health insurance is good health itself maintained through regular exercise and simple life-style.
Of course, in many workplaces, facilities for exercise and sports are provided as part of the official package. But the number of such workplaces is small, indicating that fitness culture is yet to find firm footing in Indian business. Perhaps, a sustained campaign by individual companies and a major thrust by the Government may make the difference. But until the Government rises from its slumber, managements will have to shoulder the burden.