Apparently Maggie Thatcher used to start all her meetings with the mantra ‘facts first, opinion second’.  Never short of an opinion, I’ve been trying to anchor my pet theory that having a physical calendar moment to work towards – whether a 5k or ultra marathon – produces any number of positive outcomes beyond the physical.

Imagine my excitement this week then, when not one but two peachy bits of substantiation landed in my lap (top).

First off, The Loughborough MBA newsletter summarized recent research on 60 business undergraduates.  Each graduate set themselves a goal (50% related to health and fitness) and tracked progress through diaries and questionnaires.  In particular the study looked at the ‘active ingredients’ that led to achievement or otherwise of the goal.

Establishing frameworks (e.g. a regular training program), accountability of goals to self and others, short term wins on the road to the big objective and using support networks and feedback all contributed to overall success.  The study not only concluded that active ingredients help improve overall organizational skills, but that striving towards health or fitness goals can release these active ingredients to foster greater work place competency and productivity.

Put another way, physical or health targets force you to adopt good behaviours, which in turn make you more effective at work. Fitter, more productive, more competent. Simples.

In the Telegraph on Thursday a number of eminent commentators predicted a revolution in the work place by 2018, in which employers will have to take up part of the role of the state in facilitating people’s health and wellness. Dame Carol Black predicted that by 2018, “primary prevention and well being promotion at work should lead to a more engaged and productive work force”, and that “companies that recognize this will enhance productivity and boost their CSR profiles.” Which is basically what we at Threshold have been saying all along.

The fact is that the best employers are those companies who are serious about looking after their employee’s health and wellbeing, because they understand that the mental and physical health of their employees will always affect the bottom line. Employees who feel refreshed, valued and physically healthy are not only better equipped to handle those late nights at the office when deadlines are looming, they’re also more willing to put in the mileage. I’ve long noticed that many of the CEOs we do business with (David Sprawl at Deloitte, Ruby MacGregor-Smith at Mitie and Phil Smith at Cisco to name but a few) not only consistently out-perform the market – they also have a canny ability to inspire that extra mile out of their employees, because their employees feel both valued and empowered.