• Jennyfer Montantin

Sport at work: a modern-day love story or just smoke and mirrors?

Mis à jour : 27 nov. 2019

The fact that we all need physical exercise is well-established, with benefits being seen in both solo and group activities. Among these benefits are:

- an improvement in overall health (heart, blood pressure, digestion, muscle strength, joint mobility, etc.);

- a feeling of wellbeing that helps to manage stress;

- better mental performance;

the development of true values of sportsmanship: respect, determination, listening to yourself and others, courage and ambition.

Many companies embody these values on paper – after all, no prospective employee would look to invest themselves in a company that advocates malice, unfair treatment and the principle of survival of the fittest. So why is there such a disconnect between a stated desire to display the noble values of sport and the reality in the field?

In a study carried out by Decathlon in 2017 looking at sport in the French workplace, it was found that 7% of companies encourage their employees to participate in sports, while at the same time, 80% of individual respondents said they take part in sporting activities on an occasional or regular basis.

This shows that the demand for the increased provision of sporting activities is there, so why are companies still reluctant to put anything in place?

Going back to the Decathlon study, it comes down to:

- difficulty in finding a place to do it;

- lack of time;

- having nowhere to change or shower;

- the level of financial contribution;

- having to be supervised by an instructor.


Real estate is a challenge for businesses and their HR departments. Prices are constantly on the rise and every square metre counts. As a result, many companies skip having a workout space, showers and changing rooms. For any companies in this situation, I suggest that they start off by testing what amenities their employees might actually use on a reduced scale before expanding their facilities and embarking on potentially large-scale changes.

Here are four options to explore in this trial stage:

- a three-month membership to a sports club/gym local to the company;

- sharing a sports facility with other companies;

- organising occasional events based around gentle exercise activities (Pilates, yoga, dance,etc.) led by an instructor. A meeting room can be used for this purpose while still guaranteeing the privacy of participants. It may be a good idea to contact your insurer to make sure that you’re covered for such events and, if necessary, amend your policy. Doing all of this will allow you to initiate the conversation with your employees and gauge their requirements.

Urban walking is another way to incorporate being active into the DNA of a company. It’s something I experienced during an assignment in Germany, where employees would go out in small groups after lunch to do between 3,000 and 5,000 steps before returning to work.

Simply responding to real estate issues is not enough. What’s more important is a visible willingness from management to transform the trial into a regular company activity.

I truly believe in the combination of management leading by example and results. Initiatives will have no impact whatsoever if: managers are not involved;

the company doesn’t prove that it is a real ambition of theirs to incorporate sport into its way of working; time is not allocated for employees to focus on their wellbeing.

Choose to organise sporting events on a day when there are no meetings scheduled (more and more companies are banning meetings on certain days of the week in order to increase productivity) or to organise them at a time that will attract the most participants; a platform where your teams can share their experiences isn’t made available.

In addition to being a performance lever for employees and for the company, sport is a meaningful act that strengthens the employee experience. It requires organisation and is a true reflection of the company’s values.

What do you do in terms of sport in the workplace?

Which values does your company embody?

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