Step into your local gym after 6.30 in the evening and it�s highly unlikely that you�ll find an empty locker.
Britons have long been seen by their continental counterparts as an unhealthy bunch who would rather spend their evenings drinking in the pub than doing anything physically stimulating. But with the rise of corporate gyms and companies offering membership as employment perks, the gym is no longer just the preserve of aspirant Mr Universe candidates, but the humble office worker too.
And many top business people reckon a regular workout is crucial to career success. Catherine Watkin, a consultant at Brighton recruiter GRS Risk, says her life has been transformed by her decision to move away from recruiting in the City and opt for a more active lifestyle.
Originally from Snowdonia and the daughter of an outdoor pursuits instructor, exercise had always been a regular part of her life, and working long hours was draining her mentally and physically. �I was tired all the time and would drag myself into work and back home. But now I have time to exercise it energises me,� she observes.
After quitting the job, Watkin suffered from a serious case of burn-out. �I never wanted to work in recruitment again and needed to take a sabbatical,� she recalls.
Watkin believes that the exercise, coupled with a more balanced style of living, has made her much more productive. She claims to achieve the same results at GRS Risk by working sensible hours and enjoying outdoor hobbies as she did by working long, unsociable hours in London. Her interests include mountain biking, long-distance running � she ran this year�s London Marathon � and Lindy Hop, an energetic partner dance.
Julia Robertson, managing director of Carlisle Staffing Services, started training four years ago to keep healthy. Unlike Watkin, she sees exercise as a daily chore that has to be done. �When I go into the gym early in the morning, I am sure the people in there are doing similar jobs to me,� she observes.
Meanwhile, Tony Reeves, chairman and chief executive of AIM-listed recruiter Hot Group, actively encourages his staff to take part in sport events. Reeves, who says he has been sports-mad all his life, has run eight marathons and encourages his employees to take part with him. He said: �It helps build camaraderie in the office. It also helps create an equal playing field outside the office because no one is really the boss any more.�
Sport also helps boost his own performance, he claims: �I am no saint and sometimes I drink too much wine. But if I have not had a workout for more than two days I start to feel lethargic.�
GRS Risk�s Watkin says the recruitment industry is missing a trick by not allowing people the time off to do exercise. Agencies expecting consultants to work over-long hours will find productivity is damaged in the long run.
She warns: �A lot of recruitment companies would do well to realise that we work in a pressured industry. Recruitment bosses should allow employees the time to go out and do things, otherwise they lose productivity and their job just becomes a drag.�
Richard Staines RECRUITER