Since becoming a line manager several years ago, I’ve liked to explore creative ways to build productive, performant teams. This may be through the working environment, everyday habits, even novel use of our tools to build strong relationships.

There is one method I’ve adopted that is quite unique though but produced interesting results – group work-outs.

Now, I know this isn’t conventional (even possible for many people) but we’re quite lucky to have an on-site gym in our office which I’ve been making the most of over recent years.

Once a week, I’ve arranged a “personal” training schedule with one of our fitness instructors where a group of us attend half hour HIIT sessions. This could be core, strength, cardio… whatever we feel like doing at the time.

As a mostly male group, it’s appeared quite comical, especially with some of the awkward positions and moves the instructor encourages us to try. We’ve come to nickname the session “Boyband” which, unfortunately for us, is gaining a bit of a reputation with other fitness regulars in the gym.

Coincidentally, there are some interesting articles in this month’s Wired magazine reflecting on the benefits of health and wellbeing for professional teams. Nik Whitfield – founder of cyber security firm Panaseer – gives a great quote on something similar:

When we exercise together, we’re at our most human – we’re sweating and pushing our limits. Knowing each other on this authentic level builds trust and respect in a way no contrived team-building session ever could.

Nik Whitfield, Working Up A Sweat

I’ve also come to realise the value our regular team session has gained and the potential for building strong teams with some quite obvious benefits. This isn’t limited to gym work-outs though – it could be applied to most physical sports. Let me elaborate with 6 points…

  1. Sense of teamwork in the real world. We talk about teamwork in a working environment a lot but let’s take it back to it’s true essence – people coming together to form a team with a shared physical goal.
  2. Identify strengths and supporting areas of improvement. Some people are stronger at certain factors over others. We use those strengths to our advantage but also help each other to work through the challenges.
  3. Encourage personal improvements. Naturally, there’s a little bit of healthy competition but we do it in a friendly approach that helps each other, using coaching methods to support growth.
  4. One shared goal. There’s a clear end goal we all share – whether you’re looking to improve your fitness, win a game or beat a PB. Establish that at the start together and work towards it.
  5. Break away from the office environment. We all know the value in team away days, group lunches, drinks after work. This is just another opportunity to extend your comfort zones to other environments and find a common interest.
  6. General health and wellbeing. As desk junkies, we’re all terrible for being active and healthy. Use sports as an opportunity to improve this for yourself and your team. A healthy body is a healthy mind (and vice versa).

I really encourage you to explore this concept with your team if it’s a possibility. You don’t even need to be a team-leader to make it happen.

Just suggest some form of exercise, maybe a game of sport, to see if any members of your team are interested – if it works, you’ll do it again. I suggest you all commit to at least a few sessions to try set a regular cadence – gym memberships are normally quite good at doing this for you!

It’s probably worth being mindful of your team’s capabilities and desire to get involved though. It’s not for everyone but it’s worth posing the question.

(Image credit: Steve MacDougall)