‘Sweatworking’ Is the New Way to Do Meaningful Business

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
July 02, 2015

The martini lunch and crowded rooms full of nametags are becoming passé.

Combining exercise with socializing is sweeping through the business world as busy people are finding they make more genuine connections by sharing hard work outside the office.

This so-called “sweatworking” has its rewards in optimizing time by making fitness and career advancement a single experience. It also takes the cattle call feeling out of networking, which often ends up being one-sided — as in a huckster doing all the talking to make a sale.

“It offers people a way to interact and network outside of an unhealthy environment like a bar or a restaurant,” says Jeana Anderson, whose Chicago website, aSweatLife, hosts and lists sweatworking events at gyms and studios across the city.

“Especially when that shared experience is physically trying, people tend to come out with a sense of togetherness, whether they know it or not. It opens them up to new experiences and meeting new people. It provides that (door opener) to have a tough conversation, or a first real conversation, or pitch an idea.”

Jenn DeWall, a Denver life and career coach, agrees sweatworking creates “deeper” relationships and dovetails with work-life balance because you can prioritize health and business at the same time.

It will also save you money because you’re investing in a relatively inexpensive class fee rather than spending up to a few hundred dollars on expensive dinners and entertainment.

If you’re naturally an introvert, sweatworking takes the anxiety out of standing in a room full of strangers. Initiating uncomfortable conversations that may have no basis in a common experience can be gut wrenching. “The endorphins gained from the workout will help boost your energy and confidence, better helping you connect with others,” DeWall adds.

Sweatworking largely got its start in the advertising world, where networking involving sales has traditionally been done over drinks. But, within a few years, its obvious effectiveness has made it popular in more conservative professions such as banking.

New York advertising executive Sarah Siciliano told Reuters she has taken to entertaining clients with workouts and says she finds her connections naturally run deeper.

She’ll take her mostly female clients — who span a wide age range — to do yoga, spinning, boot camps, and movement-based exercising at dance studios. She organizes her events.

“I do all the leg work but I exercise everyday anyway so for me it’s a win-win,” she says. “If you can knock out a client event and your workout at the same time, why not?”

Although, seemingly, more women than men take part in sweatworking sessions, men are increasingly finding it helpful in their work lives as well.

Patrick Llewellyn, CEO of 99designs in San Francisco, told Fast Company that he runs or surfs with potential business partners before or after brainstorming sessions. "It gets the creative juices flowing when we get outside the office and build that camaraderie," he says. And, you burn far more calories in far less time than taking a potential client golfing, which could be punctuated with a few drinks at the “19th” hole.

Toronto-based Clare Kumar, who went running with a former coworker every Sunday for four years, says that colleague was instrumental in helping her launch a business and publicize it with media contacts.

Sweatworking also is being used with job seekers who move to a new city and need to build a network quickly. Workouts accomplish that without the pressure and discomfort that comes with crowded gatherings. Often fueled with booze and more people than not who want something from you, such events can be a waste of precious time.

It’s even being used by employers in recruiting, which is a huge departure from the comparatively stiff and formal way it’s been done traditionally. One reason: sweatworking is a test and unconventional interview that leaves out that infernal question: “Where do you want to be in five years?”

The way you show up and challenge yourself, or if you seem to enjoy working hard at a physical activity, can tell a prospective employer a lot about how dedicated you would be on the job.

Many business professionals like Siciliano handle their own organizing on an ad hoc basis. But sweatworking also is becoming a cottage industry in gyms and fitness studios that put together monthly schedules of events that vary in the type of workout and the accoutrements that accompany them.

That makes it easier for like-minded people to meet and gives them a menu from which to choose. It’s a pretty sure bet that you can find organized sweatworking events close to wherever you live.

“I was with two of my contacts this morning and both of them are fitness minded, so we took a (workout) class together, then got some coffee and took a walk,” Anderson says. “During that walk we talked about business, different agencies we had worked at, and experiences at each, so it served the purpose of networking.”

No more Mad Men drink fests.


April 08, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN