Work Up A Sweat

Executives are swapping boozy lunches for gym classes

This is an excerpt from ‘Work Up A Sweat’ appearing in Issue 22 of The Collective. Read the full story when it hits stands 2 June.

It’s 9am on a Monday morning and the team at Projucer are preparing for a business meeting. Their agenda is set, their research is done, the client will arrive in 10 minutes so it’s time to change into their gym gear. Yes into it.

Important meetings at the branded content producer don’t take place in a boardroom – they’re held on a Wall Ball court outside the building (the sport is a cross between handball and squash and if you haven’t heard of it, YouTube it. This game can get intense!). Yet, the Projucer team says it’s the perfect way to network.

“We typically sit down all day, every day,” says Managing Partner Josh Capelin, “but I know that, given the choice, my team would all rather be outside whenever possible. Our company specialises in sport and adventure travel, so sitting in a boardroom seems so at odds with our vision and values.”

After trialling stand-up meetings and “gentleman’s walks” (strolling around the block, with their arms behind  their backs), they decided to step it up a notch.

“It might seem impractical, but it’s perfect when we need to discuss a broad project or topic – something that involves thinking out loud and not using a whiteboard. It certainly breaks down clients inhibitions – and it always makes it easier to resolve a 50-50 decision!”

If the thought of exercising with your business acquaintances makes your knees go weak, then we’ve got bad news for you – ‘sweat-working’ is a growing trend. Across the world, companies are swapping boardrooms for gyms, nature rambles, rock climbing classes and surfing lessons. According to a 2013 survey by the recruitment firm Employment Office (who have stationary bikes in their meeting rooms), a quarter of Australian companies are swapping to “active meetings” to boost business, with the most common activities being cycling or running.

A number of downsides immediately spring to mind – the sweating, the panting, and the worry you’ll be less fit than your acquaintance (at least on a spin bike you can’t be left behind, and you can just turn a dial to make it easier). But, advocates of active business meetings say it’s the perfect way to break down barriers, form lasting bonds and also ease nerves when brokering big deals. Still not sure? Follow these rules to successfully mix work with a work out.

If you find a good route for a walking meeting, share it! Some companies are posting recommended walking routes on their intranet with maps that employees can follow, ranging from 1-5km. When possible, head into nature (a park, along a river) to eliminate distractions such as noise, traffic, and footpaths where you have to walk in single file.

Assess your acquaintance’s fitness level carefully (don’t invite someone to a CrossFit session if they’re not experienced at weight training or to a surf lesson if they’re not confident in water.)

When sending a sweat-working invitation always suggest an alternative (“or you’re welcome to just come by my office”). If they’re reluctant then suggest a ‘stand-up meeting’ as a compromise (research suggests that simply standing upright boosts productivity too).

First impressions do count but that doesn’t mean you have to have the latest cutting-edge gym kit. Just don’t fall into the see-through yoga pant trap and, when sending an active meeting invitation, include the dress code when necessary (appropriate footwear, wet weather gear).


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