Work It

The etiquette of working out at work

Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to


In May, our company had its first group workout class. Six or seven of us jumped at the chance to take advantage of a free yoga session one Thursday afternoon about 30 minutes before closing time, and it was a hit. This trend is on the rise as more and more companies across the country include wellness activities in benefits packages and use them as a recruiting tool.

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According to the results of the 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, released in June by the Society for Human Resource Management, in the past 12 months, “when employers added [benefit] offerings, they were most likely to increase health-related benefits (51 percent) and wellness benefits (44 percent).”

Research has found that healthy, active employees generally take less time off and are more productive and efficient. This knowledge has led to the adoption of benefits including everything from flu shots, meditation classes and massage sessions, to healthy snacks in the break room, or the aforementioned fitness classes — either at the office or at nearby establishments — plus on-site gyms or discounted gym memberships.

Few would argue that these are all great perks; however, the idea of standing next to the CEO of your company in an elevator after a particularly sweaty Crossfit class probably doesn’t sound that great. It’s obviously not always possible to get to the class or gym in the proper attire undetected or to get cleaned up without being seen in a less-than-desirable state after sweating it out. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when working out at work.

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When it comes to your workout attire, by no means do you have to wear a full tracksuit with baggy pants and a jacket, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, avoid anything too tight and revealing. You are here to get fit, not to show off your perfectly toned abs and posterior. Keep attire G-rated. Also, avoid tattered gear with holes and stains.


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Keep your eyes on the instructor or on the mirror monitoring your own form and technique, not on your coworkers.


Share the equipment and don’t linger too long on any one machine or station. Be sure to wipe down the machines after use.


Often on-site gyms include showers and locker-room facilities, but that’s not always the case. If there aren’t shower facilities, limit workouts to the end of the day when you can go directly from the gym or class to your car. If you live close to the office and have a flexible schedule, going home to shower and change is also an option. If you don’t have flex scheduling, be mindful of lunch and break times and avoid using gym time and fitness class — and the subsequent time it takes to clean up — as an excuse to evade duties or be late to the office and meetings.


Don’t leave sweaty clothes in your locker or in a gym bag by your desk for days at a time. Take them home immediately. Also, wear fresh workout gear every time you go to a class or the gym. The last thing you want is for someone to see — or worse, smell you — in the same gear and for it to appear as if you are being unhygienic. Perception is key.

Many people use fitness apps or built-in functions on their phones to track workouts, so bringing the phone with you is A-OK, just don’t take or make calls while you are working out.


Keep chitchat to a minimum. Keep in mind that some view their workout time as sacred or a time to decompress and let off steam. Avoid talking shop or chatting for too long.

As our workplaces evolve, in some cases into spaces where we not only work, but also work out and even socialize (Can you say Friday daiquiri happy hour?) we have to be ever mindful of boundaries. Workplace bonding is good for business, but it’s important to always keep our interactions professional and to consider how our superiors and our peers perceive us.


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