Given your experiences, do you think that bigger companies should be encouraging or rewarding people to take time during the work day to do things like midday rides? Do you feel it helps or hinders productivity, or promotes communication/collaboration?
Ok, here’s the skinny, and I’m going to relate it to the specifics of working at Specialized and then to the broader subject of companies in general not frowning on people taking time out of their work day to exercise or get away from their desks. All these opinions are my own.
In my mind, the lunch ride at Specialized serves some very distinct purposes:
It gives people a daily opportunity to be part of the culture that they ultimately represent - through the products they create and market - and gain a deeper understanding of that culture that ultimately helps them do their job better. You ride bikes, you understand the problems, issues, and let’s face it, amazingness that is the sport of riding bikes. You live it every day on the road. There are mountain rides that occur (I only do the road), plus people who ride the pump track every day. While I don’t think this aspect of living the culture is specific to the bike industry (if you work in the gaming industry for example, I think stopping to play games works in a very similar way), some industries would not experience this particular advantage.
As a follow on from the previous, from a product development perspective, rides like these as just as crucial as getting feedback from athletes. Many who do the lunch ride are on field test bikes, riding with prototype shoes, testing other things etc. Developers get instant feedback. Boom!
The “think factor of exercise”. Some people go on solo rides to think about the products they’re developing, or new ideas for their field. Is just so happens that they’re riding a bike, which is their field, but I would argue many people would benefit from leaving their desks in the middle of the day to take a mental break from the task at hand. This can aid in that breakthrough moment. I think that “I thought of that while riding my bike” is how some engineers work, and personally I often strike out on my own to mull over writing or concepting things. The break from sitting at your desk to focus on something completely unrelated in a way that is physically different can be extremely beneficial. The unplug is the deplug of the brain. Not everyone at Specialized rides bikes during lunch-ride time. Some do Crossfit, some go swim laps. Some run errands. It all serves the same purpose. Being actively encouraged to leave your desk in the middle of the day is the real point. Having worked in an industry where most people don’t leave their desks, stay late, eat there etc. (advertising) this change in attitude for me - where people don’t book meetings between 12 and 1-30pm - has, personally, been amazing.
You meet people on lunch ride. If you work at a large company, the chances of you interacting with people who work in departments outside of your own and engaging them on a personal level are limited. On the lunch ride, everyone mingles. You find out what people do, where they’re from, what their lives are about and in a place like Specialized, that helps foster that sense of family. I know people because of how they ride, not because of what they do exactly. If that makes sense. Oh, that person is strong, that person doesn’t give up, man, did you see how hard such-and-such rode today? I don’t know if these are important things to know about people, but I know that heart counts for something and people notice. (They notice dick moves on a ride just as much as they notice heart, btw)
Sometimes, you talk turkey and strategy, from my perspective, you LEARN STUFF by talking in a casual, non-confrontational way on rides. This is your collaboration question. So as much as you’re leaving work, sometimes you’re still working but it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve ridden up to someone and asked them a question about something I’m trying to work out - how to position in advertising or marketing terms something they work on, for example - and learned SO MUCH from a side by side conversation at 18mph. Conversation is so important in business. Conversation fosters knowledge, but also rapport between co-workers that can see them work together to solve things. At the same time it creates that sense of comfort to be able to argue about things in rational ways and not get offended. (Which brings up a side note: If you’re having a bad day, the lunch ride can really blow off some steam.)
Now, let’s say we’re talking about the broader question of getting up from your desk and taking time out of your day to eat lunch or go exercise. Personally, yes. I think companies should encourage it. I believe they should also reward employees for looking after their health - it’s in their interest (less sick days, fewer heart attacks, healthier employees overall etc.) We also have a financial commute reward if you ride your bike to work, which is awesome and encouraging. But even the more general ‘getting away from your desk’ idea. People are more efficient/less bitter/more productive if they have breaks where they totally disconnect from the thing they’re working on for at least an hour. This I believe. I have no proof.