This article is brought to you by NASM
Many organizations have started asking their employees to return to work onsite after they had been working remotely during the last year and a half due to the pandemic. While very few companies have transitioned to a full-remote work model, most of the companies are expecting employees to return onsite either to the pre-pandemic work schedule or to a more flexible hybrid-work model where employees can work onsite anywhere between 1-3 days per week.
Even though the exact expectation can vary by company depending on their corporate culture, this shift towards a more flexible work schedule is becoming one of the primary drivers behind the changing landscape of corporate fitness and health coaching.
To be more specific, this transition has changed the use of lunch hours and/ or specific hours during the workday that employees traditionally allocated to working out at the corporate fitness center towards meetings and other work-related expectations.
In other words, many employees with a flexible work schedule now have fewer days in the office which means that the time traditionally allocated towards fitness needs is now being allocated to more on-site meetings and other in-person work priorities resulting in the de-prioritization of their fitness goals.
Regardless of how often an employee must come into the office, the shift in returning back to the worksite while adjusting to a new routine can make it more challenging to keep fitness goals at the top of their mind. However, the good news is that this does not have to be the case: new habits can start any time and thankfully there are attainable ways to prioritize fitness goals even with this transition.
Listed below are tips and tricks that will help individuals prioritize their personal fitness goals while adjusting to a new work schedule. The same approach can be used to navigate onsite workdays that are swamped with meetings and other high priorities:
1. Start with one small attainable step – Start the day before you go to work with one action that feels attainable. A few examples of a small attainable step might include walking, stretching, or performing core and strengthening exercises at home for 10-15 minutes before leaving for the office. Since starting is often the hardest thing, once you start you might feel even more motivated to exercise for a longer time-frame.
2. Split up your workout – If a long duration of workout while in the office is no longer possible due to meetings and other work priorities, then consider splitting up your workout into two to three individual segments of 15-20 minutes each. For example, consider splitting up your workout plan comprising strength training, core workout, and low-impact cardio into 3 separate sessions of those individual components, so that you can still find time for it despite your busy work schedule.
3. Connect to your WHY – It is a well-established fact that one feels more motivated to pursue a new goal or behavior-change when one has established a connection to the deeper purpose or intent behind it. For example, when individuals feel connected to their why, or the rationale, behind doing a specific behavior, they are motivated and likely to work towards their goal diligently. As work gets busy, or if there is a change in work schedule, it is often easy to lose sight of the fitness goal.
However, if you focus on the why behind the goal, then you are more likely to adapt your schedule and prioritize working towards it. To stay connected to your why, ask yourself the following questions: “How would you feel better if you were to implement this behavior?”, “What might change if you are able to prioritize your fitness and well-being during the workday?”, or “Why is this habit or behavior important to you?”
4. Use your environment and establish reminders – Do you find it hard to take a fitness break once you are “in the zone” focusing on work? If yes, consider using physical cues in your environment such as post-it notes to help with accountability. For example, set reminders on your phone, and/ or put a workout break as a meeting on your outlook calendar to prevent coworkers from scheduling a meeting during that time.
Are environment cues and reminders not enough? Use cognition management to aid in your success. For example, consciously remind yourself that your work will be there even when you get back from your workout break. However, taking a break will help you re-energize and feel motivated to accomplish your tasks with renewed vigor upon return.
5. Utilize social support – Social relationships can help with accountability which often goes a long way in helping establish a new habit or behavior. Would you like to move more or eat healthier? Why not ask a co-worker to join you for an outdoor walk or a visit to the onsite fitness center! Are you not in the office at the same time as your coworker who is your accountability partner? If so, try to hold each other accountable through discussions and/ or challenging each other through friendly competitions. This also has overlap with hiring a fitness coach or personal trainer who can help keep you motivated.
6. Practice self-compassion – It is important to practice self-compassion while adjusting to any new routine. If you miss a workout, or the workday gets in the way of achieving a personal goal, be mindful of what you are saying to yourself. Negative self-talk often leads to negative emotions which can negatively impact one’s behavior.
More realistic and adaptive self-talk can help sustain personal motivation and adherence to the behavioral goal. Forming a new routine or habit takes time and knowing that there are bound to be days where barriers might get in the way will allow one to practice more mindful self-compassion.
To summarize, returning to onsite work after having worked remotely for a year and a half will be a major adjustment for most individuals. This change often results in de-prioritization and/or complete derailment of one’s health and fitness goals. The six tips highlighted above can help minimize this impact while helping practicing individuals keep their fitness goals at the top of their minds.
Find NASM's blopost here: https://blog.nasm.org/6-health-and-fitness-tips-when-returning-back-to-work