04/22/2013 01:16 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

Relax: A Guidepost to Health

A few months ago, I blogged about a letter my dad wrote me when I became president in 1964. It seems like such a long time ago. I was only 31 at the time. Included with the letter was his list of guideposts to being a good manager and leader. His letter meant a lot to me, and I reviewed it through the years. And, I guess it struck a chord with many of you, because I've received a number of comments asking for more about the guideposts.
After reading an article in the New York Times with the headline: "Relax! You'll Be More Productive," I was reminded of the first guidepost on my father's list: "Keep physically fit, mentally and spiritually strong."

My father recognized the importance of "down time" long before our frenetic work lives took a turn for the worse with 24/7 Internet and email. My father intuitively knew that relaxing and getting away from the office leads to better performance. As the New York Times article points out, however, this philosophy is "at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted."

In a study by Right Management, more than one-third of employees eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis. More than 50 percent assume they'll work during their vacations -- that is if they even take a vacation.

That was me for a long time - a real work-a-holic. Two heart attacks in the 80s and bypass surgery was my wake-up call. I needed to take better care of myself. Now, I do Pilates classes and workout on a treadmill. I'm in fairly good shape for an "old goat" as my younger brother, Dick, calls me. (Sibling rivalry and grandchildren play a big part in pushing me to maintain my fitness.)

2013-02-26-TakeCarePoster.JPG At Marriott, we've taken some big steps in this area. We have a company-wide health and wellness program called "TakeCare." We've had sleep seminars with tips from sleep experts. We offer yoga and meditation classes in our fitness center, midday group walks and lots of other programs to help our people get away from their desks and maintain their strong health and fitness.

Like a top athlete looking to boost performance, we all need recovery time to perform at our best. As the New York Times says, "It will boost productivity, job performance and, of course, your health."

So, pace yourself and don't be afraid to turn it off. Get some exercise and fresh air. And quit eating lunch at your desk. My dad would approve.

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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