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Company Policies: Time Off to Exercise

This post is part of a series about our VERY FEW company policies. Read this intro post for some context.

Joining a new company is always overwhelming.

When I started working for Balsamiq almost a year ago, I was excited and confused at the same time. This always happens when I start something new, especially a job: new colleagues, new things to do, a lot of questions in my mind.

As part of its on-boarding process, in order to make it easier for new employees, Balsamiq always assigns a "buddy" to them. The buddy's job is to be the go-to person for any questions or doubts a new employee has. Lucky for me, my buddy was Anna 🙂 We spent a few hours talking about everything in Balsamiq; most of our chats were on admin, benefits and logistics. A LOT of amazing stuff.

What particularly struck me was the part on Time Off to Exercise. Our Handbook page called “Working Hours” says:

"We also value physical exercise and professional development very much, so don't be shy in taking time off of regular work in order to do those activities."

We also have a Handbook page called "Time off to Exercise". Here it is, piece by piece:

Exercising has TONS of benefits… it prevents burnout, it makes us more productive, it makes us live longer, happier lives.

In order to encourage everyone at Balsamiq to stay healthy, everyone is encouraged to take some of their work time - say, up to 5 hours a week - to exercise or do some physical activity.

So basically, Balsamiq is saying: "Try not to wear yourself out (we all know it's completely useless). Try to live better. Trust us, you will be more productive overall if you spend a few hours exercising instead of working."

This is revolutionary. I was shocked. The first thing I thought of was, "If Balsamiq cares about our health so much, the least we can do is care about that ourselves!"

But what kind of exercises could we do?

This could mean going to yoga, taking a zumba class, going out dancing one night and sleeping in the next day, going for a bike ride or a long walk, or even shoveling gravel if you're into that kind of thing...

And what about the work activities?

During those hours it's expected that you will not be available for email, HipChat* or calls.

And what about our workmates? They might need us.

Try to plan in advance as much as possible, and if it's easy, add your exercise time slots in the Balsamici Availability Google Calendar so that others will know when you're out.

A final note about the sharing power:

Share what you do in HipChat* too, it will encourage people to do more as well!

*HipChat is our "virtual office."

When your company gives you the opportunity to stay healthy and you take it, a lot of things change in your personal life as well as at work. You will be more likely to search and accept challenges. You will be more committed. You will have much more energy to deal with everything. You will be happier and healthier. It's really a win-win situation.

Everyone here in Balsamiq takes this opportunity very seriously. Tennis, yoga, walking, running, basketball, biking, gym...


Some of us prefer to do exercise in the morning. I read a lot of articles stressing the importance and the benefits of an early morning workout; I also read some articles against that. I'm not sure where the truth is, but I like doing exercise at 7 AM: it provides me a boost of energy for the whole day. And I work better after a workout: I am more productive during those 6.5 hours than the other working days.

But it's not just about doing exercise; it's a change of mindset. As a company, we practice Kaizen, continuous improvement, in this area as well.

For example, some of us have been switched to the IKEA convertible desk recently. Peldi goes up and down a couple of times a day. If he needs to do "real" work, he stands up; for reading and reviewing, sitting is best for him.

As you can read in Everything Science Knows Right Now About Standing Desks, standing desks are good for energy expenditure, weight loss, metabolic risk factors. Moreover, they are good for your mood!

In one seven-week study of standing desk use, participants reported less fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression, and more vigor, energy, focus, and happiness—and when they went back to their old desks, their overall mood returned to baseline levels.

Don't you want a happier life? Don't you want your employees live happier lifes?

But if your company doesn't have a Time Off to Exercise policy, there is always a way to stay healthier.

  1. Try to walk whenever you can. I try to go everywhere by walking. It was a bit difficult at first, because it takes longer than going by car or bus. But to be honest, it took me just a little while to get used to it! It's just a matter of being organized and good at Google Maps! 🙂
  2. Always take the long way. I can't explain how good it feels to make the extra effort. It's definitely something addictive!

As always, we hope our few company policies will be useful to someone else out there. That's why we were so happy when we found these tweets the other day 🙂

Do you have any suggestion for our policy about Time Off to Exercise? Let us know, comments are below!

Francesca for the Balsamiq Team

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