Why one exec encourages employees to leave the office early to exercise

Rob BarkerRob Barker, president of Precor.

We all know regular exercise is good for us — but after working a full day, it’s often the
last thing we want to do when we get home from the office.

Most people want to spend the little amount of free time they do have with friends and family, checking items off their to-do lists, or relaxing.

So, to help promote a healthier lifestyle and better work-life balance among employees — and, to improve their business — Precor, a popular fitness equipment company, lets its workers leave the office early to work out and do fitness “research.”

Rob Barker, president of Precor, enforces this unique company practice not just for the betterment of the corporate culture, but also the quality of the company’s products.

“I firmly believe that you have to use and know your products in order to create the best fitness solutions on the market,” he tells Business Insider.

For the Precor team, exercise is seen as both work and play, Barker explains.

“Most of our employees don’t even view being active as ‘exercise.’ They see physical activity as a fun part of their daily routine and a necessary activity that helps them enjoy other aspects of their lives,” he says.

Firstly, he feels regular physical activity should be standard in anyone’s life — especially those looking to stay sharp mentally, as well as physically (as it’s proven to boost your mood during the day and promote uninterrupted sleep throughout the night).

And secondly, Barker believes that this hands-on approach is instrumental to the company’s success: If the employees also act as the consumers, they can identify problems with the product and the ways it could be improved to better enhance the user’s experience.

Because of this, employees frequently report back to the Precor executives with well-informed ideas and suggestions.

“Often times, our employees are the ones who suggest new features or design ideas because they are using our products, and our competitors’ products, on a daily basis,” he says. “We are constantly designing new products and services and use our own staff for valuable feedback in that process.”

Though testing the equipment is essential, employees are given the freedom to venture outside and exercise wherever they want. Barker feels this lenience allows employees a constant source of inspiration and knowledge of physical fitness.

“If you name a physical activity, chances are that our employees are doing it,” he says. “One of the perks of our home office is that it is in the beautiful Pacific Northwest [in Washington state], so even during the workweek, our employees have access to fun outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and trail running.”

And for when the Washington winter hits — or, for those who prefer to exercise indoors — Precor has three fitness facilities on campus that are open to all employees.

Barker stands by his belief that this “policy” allows the team to design and produce more effective products — and in turn, comprise a lucrative business. But what’s more is the system promotes happiness within the office, and the common activities between colleagues nurture relationships (not to mention stress relief), he explains.

In fact, 20 Precor employees ran in the 2015 Seattle Rock ‘n Roll marathon and half-marathon this past June — but not during office hours.

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