Come late but exercise, company tells staff

From shortening work hours to incentivising people to exercise, some companies have found ways to invest in their staff’s health

Dubai: No time and no motivation — these are the two most common excuses people who don’t exercise make. But for others at some Dubai companies, these excuses don’t carry weight.

The ongoing Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) encourages residents to do 30 minutes of physical activity or sports daily for 30 days. Organisers have pulled out all the stops to ensure residents have no excuse not to exercise, with the challenge’s five fitness villages being accessible to everyone.

Yet apparently, some people still find ways not to sweat it out. And some employers have found ways to counter them.

Gulf News spoke to three companies that motivate their employees to take advantage of the month-long challenge. These companies committed to the challenge without calling attention to themselves.

One of them is Crowe, a global accounting and consulting firm, that is letting staff in Dubai come to work half an hour late or leave half an hour early so they can exercise.

“We told the staff, ‘You don’t have to make the time to participate in the challenge. The firm is making time for you. If you can make a commitment to your health, we can make a commitment to you,” Zayd Maniar, International Liaision Partner at Crowe, told Gulf News.

More than 100 staff members at the company are participating in the challenge. Among then is Lea Guimba. Once living an active lifestyle, Guimba said all that changed when she moved to Dubai in January because of her busy work schedule.

“I realised I started to gain weight and my heart started to feel weak,” Guimba, 27, an auditor at the firm, said. “I am really grateful for our company’s initiative to shorten the working hours. Through this, I get a guaranteed 30 minutes out of each day to do my workout [using the complimentary gym membership from the company],” she said.

Maniar said even though the shortened work hours come at a cost to the firm, they don’t see it that way.

“We’re investing in our people. Now, we’re seeing three things: increased productivity, people are much happier, and people are taking less sick leave.”

Incentivising staff to exercise is Godwin Austen Johnson’s strategy as well. Prizes are up for grabs for staff with the most variety of exercises and for the best snapshots of their daily activity, Elaine Nettleton, communications manager at the architecture firm, said.

“We wholeheartedly support the campaign. The health and well-being of our employees is one of our core values. It’s something we’ve always done,” Nettleton said. “We’re hoping that people will continue even after the challenge.”

The internal competition actually works, Noel Casipit, senior lighting designer at the firm, said.

“I did the challenge on my own last year. This year’s challenge is more exciting because there’s healthy competition. We also anticipate the weekly group, which is like our team building.”

Rewarding staff who work out is Tristar’s strategy, in addition to the firm’s ‘Walk, Lose Weight and Be Healthy’ programme, now in its second year.

Last year, using company-issued pedometers, they clocked in 20,964,373 steps, equivalent to 15,240km, Art Los Banos, head of the Recreation and Happiness Committee, said.

“We believe that when one is healthy, he or she will be happier and, of course, more productive,” Los Banos said.

Among last year’s record makers is Arundhan Alphones, who lost 7.8 kilos last year and placed 3rd in the company competition.

He said changing one’s lifestyle is possible if one will exert the effort needed.

“You can make a change only if you make an effort to make it a habit. People make excuses because they have not experienced this change in their lives yet. We have to inform people that any new habit needs some time to form, and the 30-day challenge is a good start,” he said.


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