Sweatworking: No thank you

In September 2021, I ventured into downtown Toronto for an outdoor lunch with colleagues. It was the first time in about a year, because of the pandemic that I had been in the financial district. As I was waiting at the elevator bank that leads to the restaurant, the elevator door opened and a trio of “men in suits” disembarked. The vibe surrounding these men made me think, “oh yeah, I don’t miss this part of the financial district”. I am a downtown person. I have worked in the financial district for 25 years. I live just east of the core. It has a different vibe. During the pandemic, when we were exclusively working from home, often in our alt-leisure wear, and only traversing a vicinity of several blocks surrounding my home, I could really be myself at all times. I didn’t have to worry about “putting on my financial district” face. Whether that was a certain outfit or the mask of “I feel dead inside but I have important places to be”.

I am also committed to fitness. If you’ve read any of my blog posts or been subjected to any of my social media posts, you know that I have been a runner for about 20 years and I love to do strength and conditioning workouts, spin and I walk everywhere. I was fortunate, in that, I was able to continue my routine throughout the pandemic. I was still able to run outside, spin on my bike, do virtual or park strength workouts and more.

Occasionally, there are fitness challenges in workplaces. I am not a fan of the wellness challenges that have anything to do with food. No matter how much the organizers think they are not promoting diet culture, they are. The workplace is not the place to coach people about what they should and should not be eating. It’s too personal. It’s too fraught with our own socialized “messed up-ness” even when we think when we think we are no longer guided by diet culture. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. The workplace should not be the place where your colleague professes their success with avoiding maple syrup on their oatmeal that week.

The fitness challenges that involve encouraging movement can be OK, in my opinion, as long as they do not promote one form of movement and do not make people feel bad for where they are at.

But, when Sam shared this article with the bloggers a while ago, my immediate reaction was NO THANK YOU. The article is basically an ad for a group of gyms in the financial district where sweatworking is encouraged. Sweatworking is a way of business networking while working out. Exercise has mental health benefits. It is stress relieving. Ideally, it’s a non-competitive zone. It’s a place where you go to have balance from stress, which can often come from work pressures. Unless your work is in the fitness industry, I vote not to actively encourage mixing going to the gym with “working with colleagues” or “networking for business”. This doesn’t mean that you may not have a friend, who you know from work, who you escape with at lunch to go to the gym, to workout. That is different than what is being sold in the linked article about “sweatworking”. Sweatworking, the way it is described, seems to be looking to make the gym an extension of the workplace, along with the poser vibes I was alluding to when describing the men in suits getting off the elevator. Making the gym an extension of the workplace seems to me to be doing the opposite of what the corporate world is suggesting they are trying to do these days: make the workplace a healthier place, one that is healthier for your mind and one that knows it is best to make time for people to go to the gym, if that’s how they like to work out, but that it is a bad idea to blur the lines between the workplace and the gym. Let’s keep them separate.

I haven’t even touched on the fact that the gym can be an unsafe place for people who identify as women or LGBTQ2S+. But, in an age where we are actively trying to ensure zero tolerance in the workplace for unsafe spaces for anyone, encouraging blurred lines between the gym and the workplace, both places with histories of sexual harassment, is just a bad idea, for that reason alone.

What do you think? Is sweatworking, as described in the linked article, a good idea?

Nicole P. says no to “Sweatworking”