The four most important factors that chief learning officers should consider in understanding and enhancing the physical energy reserves of any workforce are the volume, content and frequency of employee food intake; the volume, frequency and intensity of employee movement; the volume, consistency and depth of employee sleep; and the volume and frequency of employee water intake.
Reflect for a minute on the effect of these factors on your own engagement and performance at work. Does the timing, content and volume of food you eat affect your alertness, focus, speed of learning, mood or motivation at work? How about a large plate of pasta and a soda at midday? Are there engagement consequences from eating such a meal? And how about not eating? Are there mental and emotional consequences for not eating for long periods of time, when your blood-sugar levels become low?
How about movement? What happens to you mentally and emotionally when you don’t move for prolonged periods of time? Does 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise at midday enhance your mental and emotional engagement in the afternoon? And what’s the connection between fitness and engagement from your experience? Is your stamina for working or learning over long periods of time influenced by your level of physical fitness? In study after study, employees enrolled in fitness programs show increased productivity, improved morale and better overall job performance. Movement can clearly be used to strategically mitigate the forces of disengagement in the workplace.
Next, consider the influence of nighttime sleep on work engagement. Is there a connection between sleep and engagement at work for you? Does insufficient sleep negatively impact your alertness, speed of learning, mental stamina or emotional resilience at work? Nearly three decades of work in professional sport, law enforcement, medicine and business has confirmed that both the volume of sleep (seven to eight hours is optimal for most people) and the consistency of sleep (to bed and up at approximately the same time each day) play critical roles in the engagement process.
The fourth major factor chief learning officers should consider in understanding physical engagement is the effect of water intake. Most employees are completely unaware of how dehydration undermines their energy. Water plays a critical role in both energy production and energy renewal (detoxification). Employees are typically shocked to discover how much more energy and engagement they have simply by increasing their intake of water.
So what can chief learning officers do to promote and enhance higher levels of physical engagement in the workforce? What can practically be done to get employees to become more strategic in their nutrition, exercise/movement, sleep and hydration so they have more energy to drive the business? CLOs can embed the technology of physical engagement into the workforce through the same learning and educational systems that are now used for delivering any new technology deemed critical to the business. From e-learning to conference classes and from advisory councils to outsourcing personal coaches who specialize in physical engagement, there are learning highways available. The biggest barrier for CLOs is not so much finding ways to deliver the technology, but building the case that the technology of physical engagement is truly business-relevant. Historically, the only direct links that businesses have had to issues of employee diet, exercise, sleep and hydration have been in the context of health and wellness programs, which are rarely viewed as strategic drivers of business.
A substantial body of research is now available linking nutrition, fitness/movement, sleep and hydration to energy production. Energy is the sine qua non of every business, and every effort should be made by CLOs to educate the workforce on how to shepherd this critical resource with the greatest of skill.
Jim Loehr and Jack Groppel are co-founders of LGE Performance Systems. Both are pioneers in the field of performance science and have coached thousands of people in business, law enforcement, health care, education and sport. E-mail Jim and Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.