Professional sport is revered across the globe, perhaps as we get to observe the human body at its peak. It has long been known that competition can raise motivation and therefore performance as a result, which is why this “winning mentality” is sought-after in the corporate world. The aim is to push someone into a higher sphere of performance, one they might not have even believed was possible. In sports this culture has enabled us to break ever-increasing records and develop ground breaking medical treatments for injuries, however, when it is applied to the workplace it tends to have an adverse effect.

First and foremost, we need to consider the following when looking at professional athletes – they are provided with the perfect environment to strive. They have access to medical staff who are able to treat any ailment which might hinder their performance, expert nutritionists who will inform them when and what to eat, and top coaches and trainers who provide bespoke training programmes. Moreover, they will have access to state of the art technical equipment to measure any discrepancy in their ability and sports psychologists to discuss anything, which might impair their performance. Last but not least, they will have rest and plenty of it! Nothing in this world can replace the healing and rejuvenating effects of rest and sleep, despite claims made by the likes of Margaret Thatcher, who famously slept for only fours hours each night. 

If we now look into the modern workplace and at the average worker, most if not all of these factors will be missing. Moreover, what is perhaps most overlooked is the fact that a professional athlete only performs at an extremely high level on rare occasions, whilst the average worker is expected to do so on a daily basis. After all, we would not expect a runner to make their Personal Best in every training session, every day. 

With this in mind, we cannot expect that presenting workers with a mindfulness session or healthy eating class will ameliorate deeply rooted cultural issues. There is no harm in taking inspiration from the athletic world but maybe we need to move the focus from competition to optimisation? Otherwise, we risk leaving out the aspects, which actually allow athletes to flourish. Therefore, creating a culture that enables the “corporate athlete” to succeed has to be a priority when scaling your business.