A marathon effort: why 26.2 miles is good for staff productivity

Taking on a marathon is no mean feat; the 26.2 miles have the potential to cause untold damage to the body, and it really is only the fittest who will succeed. With just days to go until this year’s London marathon, thousands of runners across the UK are gearing up to take on the streets of the capital. And while crossing the finish line and completing a marathon is an outstanding achievement, there’s no denying the issues that often come with it; injuries, exhaustion, and days off sick to recover from training.

It might then come as a surprise to hear that CV-Library’s latest research suggests that running a marathon could actually be good for your career; when we asked over 1,000 of the UK’s professionals what they thought about training for, and running, a marathon whilst working, the results were overwhelmingly positive.

The data actually suggests that the nation’s employees believe that the regular exercise which comes as a result of training for a marathon improves productivity; a staggering 87.7% indicated that frequent exercise aids in motivation and workplace productivity, while 78.9% feel that the routine of training and exercising makes them more able to commit and focus in their careers. Suggesting that employers who worry about their marathon-running staff needn’t be concerned; taking on challenges of this type may actually be increasing their output!

In fact, only 14.3% of respondents who had run a marathon admitted that their training negatively affected their ability to work, meaning that an overwhelming proportion of employees were able to carry out rigorous training, and perform at work as normal. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues to be dealt with; many of the nation’s marathon-running professionals admitted to finding it difficult to balance training for such a demanding event with their careers, with 57.1% sharing that they received no support from their employer.

Furthermore, some indicated that they needed extra time off work to train, while others couldn’t focus in the office, or were in a lot of pain after a long run in training. But none of these revelations are particularly surprising, as putting the body through such intensive training will always have its downsides.

The research also brought to light the issues that HR professionals can face when employees are gearing up for an event of this kind; many HR teams are often faced with employees seeking sponsorship, or who want to hold fundraising events during working hours. Many workers who take on a marathon will do so for charity; but when we asked the UK’s workers who had completed the 26.2 mile run whether their employer sponsored them, almost three-quarters (72.6%) responded ‘no’.

It’s a tough decision to make; some people would say that you should encourage sponsorship and fundraising within the workplace, but only if you’re prepared to do so for every single member of staff who challenges themselves for charity. If this is realistic within your company, then the problem is easily solved. But the reality is that this probably isn’t going to be a feasible option, so you’ll have to decide whether to avoid it altogether, and simply focus on company-wide charity events, or whether you want to set conditions on which events will be sponsored, and which won’t.

Different employees will have different capabilities, and you run the risk of favouritism and hurt feelings if you sponsor one member of staff over another. For some, running a 5k will be an enormous challenge, whereas others might be able to run 10k without breaking a sweat; choosing to only sponsor some events is risky, and could lead to questions, ultimately causing a whole other set of HR-related issues.

There’s no taking away from the dedication and focus that goes into running a marathon, and it’s likely that many employees who apply this commitment and motivation to their training will also find that it positively affects their working lives; a fact that should be welcomed by employers everywhere. As staff spend months honing in on a goal, dedicated to meeting their targets and consistently improving, this change is often seen in the working environment too, as they become better, more productive employees. While employee absence due to injury or exhaustion may be unavoidable at times, the reality is that often, staff who have taken on a challenge such as the London marathon will come to work more focused, determined, and in better health than ever before.

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