Feature Article - September 2008
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A Corporate Affair

Making a Fit Business

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Whole-Employee Fitness

Another way to look big-picture at the health and wellness of corporate employees is to consider the kinds of training they're provided. While a team-building jaunt to an area ropes course might seem like an activity for only the fittest of workers, in fact these exercises are designed so all can participate.

"It's harder to get people out of their comfort zone," said Gregory J. Huber, president of Challenge Discovery Companies, based in Glen Allen, Va. "But you don't have to be a fitness guru. The industry is incredibly safe, and there's never any pressure or coercion to make people do things. That's where the enlightenment and value can be. People do things they thought they couldn't, and with that confidence they can go on to do other things—whether that's a physical activity or confronting a co-worker about an issue. It all works together."

Challenge Discovery Companies boasts an impressive list of corporate clients from Capital One to SuperValu, which recently included team-building activities in their annual leadership meeting that this year focused on all kinds of employee fitness, from physical to financial. And this sort of enlightening experience can also come to you through Challenge Discovery's consulting arm and onsite-activity options, which take their hands-on learning approach and create team-building activities that can be facilitated anywhere—as a playful break during a national sales meeting or as a more serious session at the office.

Besides instilling confidence and promoting positive relationships between your employees (plus getting them out of their seats and moving around a little), these activities are great for reinforcing work-related skills. "We take what you'd normally write on a whiteboard and put it in your hands," Huber said. "[The learning is] occurring through experience, and [people] remember 10 percent of what they see and hear, but 90 percent of what they do." Most in the corporate world already know (at least in theory) how to communicate and problem-solve and be leaders, Huber noted. "Our job is to reawaken people, to easily and quickly remind them with a different slant and perspective so the light bulb goes on," he explained. "We're reawakening things that are dormant because of other work pressures. [These pressures] drive us into behaviors that allow us to get the project done without evaluating the process we're using to get to the end result. We may step on toes and be less effective because we're not asking for help."

So for a full mental tune-up of your workforce, with a dose of friendly challenge and a bit of physical activity thrown in, a trip to the ropes course or a day of onsite team-building might be just what fits the whole-health bill.