Excess is never good. Not even when it comes to something as harmless-sounding as sitting in a chair.
“There’s plenty of evidence to show that sitting too much without changing position, moving and stretching is detrimental to health,” says Veera Lehmonen, CEO and co-founder of Cuckoo Workout. “I think the dangers are often overlooked, and it’s definitely something we should talk about much more than we do now.”
Lehmonen noticed this in her very first sit-down job four years ago, interning as an events assistant in an office. She, together with another intern Ida Mänty, realised that their energy levels started to plummet after a few hours behind the desk.
The duo decided to set a regular alarm. Every time it went off, they would stand up and do 100 jumping jacks to get their blood pumping. Most of the people in their office joined in, and Lehmonen was surprised to notice how well it all worked.
“You could really tell the difference in productivity,” she notes. “Although I admit it must’ve looked hilarious from behind the glass wall, watching a group of office workers jump up and down in sync!”
Dramatic early days
It didn’t take long for Lehmonen and Mänty to get the show on the road. Just two weeks after the idea first came about, they had already reserved the web address for Cuckoo Workout, an app that uses videos to guide office workers to exercise and stretch a couple of minutes during the working day.
The company was registered in 2014, and with some funding the first demo version was launched the same year. Things were progressing promisingly, but then something dramatic ground things to a halt: the company’s one and only software developer suddenly passed away.
“That really shook us. We had to glue things back together again.”
The next backlash was just behind the corner, as Cuckoo Workout faced financial difficulties the following year. Fortunately, the journey continued with a group of investors.
The luck turned: fast-forward to 2018, and Cuckoo Workout is used by multinational companies in about a dozen countries.
Exercise can be fun and games
The founders wanted to gamify the app to make sure people get emotionally involved, too. During her internship, Lehmonen noticed the little exercise moments had, on top of making people move, significantly improved the atmosphere and team spirit in the office. Hence Cuckoo Workout lets individuals, teams and companies compete against each other, with regular prize draws for best performers.
“For example, a global company’s office in Ecuador can compete with an office in Finland,” Lehmonen explains. “It increases the feeling of community and togetherness even when the teams are far apart.”
Lehmonen points out that Cuckoo Workout is not only a way to encourage workers to look after themselves in order to reduce sick leaves and injuries, but also a form of employer branding.
“Just like companies want to provide their employees with tools and practices that increase efficiency and make working easier, they ought to look after the wellbeing and motivation of their employees as human beings,” she says.
Also, companies competing to recruit the best talent should remember that many of today’s young professional pay attention to their employer’s social responsibility efforts. Cuckoo Workout also offers its clients a chance to support children to exercise by offering them access to Cuckoo School app designed for kids.
“Children’s exercise levels have gone down, and it shows,” Lehmonen tells. “By encouraging them to get on the move now, we can really make a difference in their later life.”