Firms catching on to idea that fit workers are healthier, better

High-level executives and others on their way up the corporate ladder in Greece are having to acquire additional qualifications to management skills and decision making. More and more often they are required to be seen to be taking regular exercise. The lifestyle of staff members of modern businesses requires membership in a health club so that they maintain their physical and mental well-being. In Greece, corporate culture has been adopting the theory that one’s good physical condition guarantees the necessary self-esteem and energy to fulfill one’s professional duties. The fashion for health clubs that provide their members with a package of services has arrived in Greece and is hugely successful with successful, mostly young executives. The services range from spas and saunas to advice and nutrition, along with exercise programs, such as yoga. Corporations are arranging discounts for their staff at gyms. Where time is short, even business meetings have been known to take place in a gym or pool setting. Anna Koroni, marketing director at Holmes Place Greece, the biggest health club in Athens in the newly refurbished Army Pension Fund building, said the club’s goal was to make exercise and physical health «a way of life.» «Abroad, this mentality has developed over time, but even in Greece some firms are seriously considering the issue of their staff’s physical condition. After all, it has been shown that people who exercise have a better attitude, perform better and take fewer days off sick,» she said. At a conference on «Healthier Staff for a Healthier Business» held by Holmes Place, it was shown that regular exercise does in fact improve work performance, increase stamina and tolerance to stress and restricts the number of sick days. It has been estimated that a person who exercises even once a week takes five fewer days off than those who never exercise. Hermia Barker, one of the speakers at the conference, works as a «life coach» in London. She advises firms and individuals on how to organize their lives so as to achieve their goals. «Comparing clients who exercise regularly with those who don’t at all, I noticed that the former have a more positive attitude than the latter and achieve their goals more easily. Exercise gives a person the self-confidence to work toward achieving personal and professional goals,» she explained. A senior executive of a major German bank once told her, she said, that work led to isolation and that going to a gym with a colleague was very pleasant. «All of us who take on more and more responsibilities are trying to create a balance in our lives,» he had said. A 54-year-old senior executive of a mobile phone company in Greece told Kathimerini that after work he always went straight to his health club. «It makes me feel better and is an escape from the anxiety and stress of the day. I often meet colleagues and other business associates there; we are able to have a quiet talk, combining recreation and relaxation with talk about work,» he said. Health clubs are no doubt not just about exercise, but are excellent for networking, a fact that most of their members are well aware of. «Communication among members is particularly well developed. They come here to meet friends and colleagues, everyone for their own reasons. For example, staff members of an advertising agency regularly meet their clients here and combine exercise with work.» Over 80 companies in Greece, including banks, telecommunications and pharmaceutical firms, have secured group rates for their staff at these clubs. In some cases, this applies only to senior executives, in others to all staff members. «We have been providing staff with these services for four years now,» said the human resources director of a multinational pharmaceutical company. «The company covers half of the membership fee at gyms and other sporting facilities. It even covers the cost of renting sporting venues. Our goal is to improve staff’s health, not increase productivity, but it certainly has had a positive effect.»

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