Work up a sweat, get some work done and fight the flab

04 September 2016 - 02:00 By NIVASHNI NAIR

South African professionals are swapping their power suits and high heels for Lycra and cross-trainers to land the next big deal."Sweatworking" - which includes walking meetings, consultations with clients at gym and networking on social runs - is on the rise with more companies urging staff to get fit while working.Leading British health body UK Active urged companies last month to replace networking with sweatworking, conducting meetings on the trot or during workouts.One UK health company is telling visitors at its London office they have to participate in workouts at its exercise studio if they are there for meetings.South African medical doctor Michael Mol said: "In health- and wellness-focused companies and smaller start-ups, the idea has really taken off."Of course, in South Africa, we have a few factors to consider, one of the most important being where to walk or where it is safe to walk. It can play a massive role in reducing sick leave, improving overall emotional health                                "If your office is in Clifton, you obviously have a few more options than if you're based in downtown Jozi."But that's not to say employees can't get creative about this - it isn't necessary to always walk outside."Standing meetings, corridor meetings and stairwell meetings all count as sweatwork too."But not every meeting can be a walking one."PowerPoint presentations wouldn't go too well, and a flip chart can be heavy to carry. But changing just one meeting a week into a walking meeting increases work-related physical activity levels. The more often you can get moving, the better."Many employees worry about the time it would take and a loss of productivity that might be caused by being away from offices or e-mails."The evidence suggests quite the opposite. Creativity and productivity are boosted after some form of activity," Mol said.Virgin Active spokeswoman Les Aupiais said some clubs offered members bikes so that they could meet and cycle outdoors for two hours."One local public relations company finds this an excellent way to interpret 'blue-sky thinking' while cycling around the adjacent park and seafront without being so out of breath that they can't speak!"Wellness expert Lisa Raleigh said the modern idea of trying to combat eight hours at a desk with one hour at the gym was not working so South Africans should embrace sweatworking.Roxanne Dallas, MD of recruiter Mass Staffing Projects, said many companies, especially larger ones, were realising the importance of the overall health of employees."It can play a massive role in reducing sick leave, improving overall emotional health and, I think, it will discourage employees from searching for greener pastures," said Dallas.But incorporating sweatworking is no walk in the park.Norton Rose Fulbright employment and labour associate Lee Crisp said companies would have to establish whether implementing a sweatworking policy amounted to a change in terms and conditions of employment or merely a change in work practice.Sweatworking could also present an increased number of claims under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act as it would increase the net of activities done "within the course and scope of employment", she said."Meetings would usually take place in boardrooms, and requiring employees to take meetings outside this environment and get involved in sweatworking may increase the risk of injuries."

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