my coworker does a shirtless workout in full view of our office windows

A reader writes:

Recently a water-cooler-type debate has arisen at my office regarding a coworker who performs an impressive lunchtime workout routine (think jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.) just adjacent to the office building, plainly viewable from the office windows and just a few feet off of the office driveway, which is used by our workforce as well as the occasional VIP visitor. I myself frequently find myself driving past him at lunchtime as he performs the regimen. He often removes his shirt for his exercises.

Regardless of his garb, some feel that his choice to perform the workout routine in such a public manner is inappropriate or unprofessional. I know it’s hard to generalize, but what do you think? It doesn’t particularly bother me. But I also wouldn’t want to be known in the workplace chiefly for my lunchtime workouts instead of my professional output.

I wouldn’t do it myself, and I would find it pretty amusing if a coworker were doing it, but I wouldn’t say it’s unprofessional exactly.

If it’s viewable from the windows of offices where people are working, it could be distracting, shirt or no shirt … but probably especially with no shirt, since most people aren’t used to seeing naked chests while they’re analyzing data or meeting with a client.

I do think it would be reasonable for the company to tell him, “Hey, we totally support you exercising at lunch, but it’s distracting to have you doing it right by the office windows and where visitors pull in. Can we relocate your workout area?”

What do others think?

{ 227 comments… read them below }

  1. Bend & Snap*

    I LOL’d at this one.

    Agree that maybe a location change is in order but other than that, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong.

  2. The Other Dawn*

    I personally wouldn’t do it, and I’d find it distracting to have someone exercising shirtless outside my window. Exercising in general wouldn’t bother me, but I just don’t want to see a co-worker, someone I’m forced to see all day in a formal setting, in such a casual way. It’s just weird.

    1. fposte*

      Though would it be different in an employee gym? Or is it that he’s alone and some sort of exercising sentinel? (Yes, I found it funny too.)

      1. Just another techie*

        I think in a gym is different, because you’re opting in to seeing whatever goes on in the gym by going to the gym yourself.

        1. fposte*

          That’s a good point–I was thinking it was different from a gym to me too, and this is a good way of explaining it.

        2. bad at online naming*

          We have some internal windows/skylights that look into the gym on the first floor. It’s very strange.

        3. LBK*

          But you probably wouldn’t work out shirtless in the company gym, no? I’d think that would be pretty weird (not having been to a gym myself I can’t say for sure, but my impression is that working out shirtless at any gym is frowned upon).

            1. QAT Contractor*

              In most gyms I have been to the people have a very loose interpretation of ‘shirt’. They range from men wearing normal t-shirts to the overly exaggerated tank top where the arm holes are open all the way to just the bottom seam of the shirt and the neck line drooping down to mid chest/back. Women seem to wear mostly tank tops (there are a few that do t-shirts) but most of these are cut to be just low enough to cover the very upper portion of the abs at best. Others just work out in sports bras or the same overly open tank tops I described for guys (with a sports bra under).

              So a dress code is almost pointless in the gyms I’ve been to, but I’m pretty sure they have the shirt requirement.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I suppose the guys lifting at my gym are wearing shirts, but it’s a very loose definition of the word shirt.

          2. OP2*

            Depends on the gym and the company. I’ve seen dudes shirtless in my office gym, but it’s always been the really ripped dudes. The ones with a bit of a paunch keep their tops on.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        That’s why I never go to the yoga classes/etc. offered at work. I’m just not interested in sticking my butt in my colleague’s faces.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        For me it’s the shirtless thing. Gym clothes, fine. No shirt, a little weird for me. However, in regular daily life I wouldn’t be weirded out by a guy jogging without a shirt on; it’s not a formal setting like the workplace can be.

        1. Anna*

          That’s what I think. I don’t know why it matters, but it’s the shirtless thing that’s off-putting to me. I used to do yoga class at work and one of the other locations at my former job had a bunch of employees go in on a personal trainer so they would be running around the building at lunch, but they were all wearing workout clothes and it didn’t bother anyone. So to me it’s definitely about the shirt.

          1. Afiendishingy*

            Ok, I have to quibble with that- exhibitionism would mean he is aroused by the thought

            1. Afiendishingy*

              Fat fingers. It’s exhibitionism if he’s turned on by other people watching him exercise shirtless, but we have really no evidence that that’s the case.

              The shirt doesn’t bother me, but solo calisthenics outside of a client meeting just seems like an odd choice. I think it’s just a cultural norms thing. Seeing people running outside for exercise is common, one guy doing squats and mountain climbers in a business parking lot is not. I think asking him to do it in a slightly more secluded location is reasonable.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            (Don’t know how I missed this yesterday) that was my first thought – it’s kind of like if a female coworker decided to sunbathe in a bikini in the parking lot at lunch just something slightly off putting about it

            1. Emily*

              Or, work out in just a sports bra and “booty” shorts (for the sake of a less gendered parallel).

        2. Chinook*

          I agree – it is the shirtlessness that crosses the line, not the work out itself. My first thought was if it was a man or woman , then if it was “salmon ladder” distracting (google “arrow salmon ladder” at home to see what I mean) or “ugg…no” distracting and then I realized it didn’t matter. At no point do I need to know what a coworker looks like shirtless while at work. Even when I have done hot springs with coworkers, we have worn conservative swimsuits or followed local customs and at no point was there a fear of anything jiggling.

          1. Chinook*

            I just realized that the shirtless salmon ladder issue is a known work hazard/distraction in Felicity’s workplace as is shirtless sword fighting and shirtless arrow firing (though DH is still trying to figure out how they do that without taking off a layer of arm skin). At the same time, though, when she remodeled, she did choose to put her work space so as to have the best view of said workout space, so I think she may be partly to blame for any workplace distractions.

            1. Pinkie Pie Chart*

              If you drop your shoulder while shooting you won’t hit your arm. Well, at least you shouldn’t hit your arm enough to skin it. I learned after I took the skin off my elbow. No fun.

              1. zora*

                +1 for the archery knowledge ;o) If you have perfect form, you won’t hit your arm when shooting. I do not have perfect form. ouch.

        3. JenGray*

          I agree with your point about the shirt. Seeing a shirtless guy at the gym or jogging on the street is one thing but no one really wants to think about their coworkers without their clothes on. And I don’t mean this in any sort of body shamming way for anyone I just think that there are some places where being shirtless would be to much of a distraction.

        4. JB (not in Houston)*

          I don’t like it when I see a guy jogging or doing yard work without a shirt on because it makes me want to stop and say, “You’ll actually be cooler with a shirt on if it’s the right shirt!” It bothers me that if they are trying to keep themselves cool, they might be doing the opposite.

          Of course, sometimes when I get sweaty exercising, I feel like my shirt is attacking me, what with how it creeps up in weird places and sticks to me, so I get wanting to take your shirt off regardless.

          1. Julia*

            Can you please elaborate on what kinds of shirts make you feel cooler while exercising? And are there sports bras in this magical category too? I’m moving to a very hot climate in a few weeks and I would love some tips for exercising in the heat!!

            1. Chinook*

              “Can you please elaborate on what kinds of shirts make you feel cooler while exercising? And are there sports bras in this magical category too”

              The brand you are looking for is called Under Armour (though I know there are others out there) and they truly are magical. They have this fabric that wicks away moisture and, with it, heat. I don’t know if they make sports bras with this material, but I do know that I need a sports bra when I work out (lest I put out an eye) and I wore my Under Armour t-shirt over it and never overheated (something I would do all the time wearing a t-shirt) and now only work out with this type of shirt.

              When you are looking for it, make sure the type you are looking for is meant to be worn doing your type of sport. There is a version for wearing under cold weather gear (think hockey) as well as ones meant for running, etc. And, despite the name, they do not need to be worn under anything – I have a black t-shirt version that I can wear on its own or underneath something if I need the warmth.

      4. FD*

        To me, it’s like an employee locker room. Go in, and you have to expect that others will be changing. You have to consciously make the choice to go in there, rather than just going into a bathroom.

    2. jmkenrick*

      It’s funny to see this post today, because just this Sunday my boyfriend and I were enjoying scones by the window at a hipster coffee joint, when an athletic girl took a break right in front of the window.

      She was really engrossed in her workout, and had clearly already been running awhile. She started doing lunges, push-ups, the works – a very impressive routine. All of a sudden my boyfriend is tapping me, laughing. “Uh, it’s not polite to stare at people.” Without even realizing, I had gotten distracted, mid-conversation and just started watching this girl do her thing! I didn’t even realize that I had started watching her; I hope she didn’t notice and feel uncomfortable!

      Just to be clear: any rudeness was absolutely my own. After all, it’s Sunday, right by the park – she should work out however she wants! It just made me chuckle to see this today.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Which isn’t to imply that it’s a problem. I don’t think the workout is unprofessional at all.

      2. Vicki*

        Is it really impolite? This was a performance, after all. No one says it’s impolite to stare at the theatre.

        You weren’t staring. You were watching.

        1. AW*

          This was a performance, after all.

          jmkenrick said this was right by a park so I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume someone working out is putting on a performance.

        2. MegEB*

          I disagree that someone working out at a park is “performing”. Just because they’re doing it in public doesn’t mean it’s a performance, or they’re doing it for attention. It just means that they’re working out in a place where you can happen to see them. And yes, I do think it’s rude to stare at someone when they didn’t invite it, because in this case, she didn’t. I think this line of thinking is getting uncomfortably close to the idea of “well if she’s wearing a skirt in public, it’s clearly a performance/she’s doing it for attention, so it’s okay to stare”, and I would hope that most posters here wouldn’t think that’s okay.

          FWIW, I totally understand accidental rudeness, and I’ve been in jmkenrick’s position myself, so I get that it happens. I just don’t buy the whole “someone working out in public is clearly doing it for the attention” bit.

          1. jmkenrick*

            I agree. There was a sturdy parking meter that she was using to balance, so I assume it was just a good place for her to stop.

        3. flying crowbar*

          It may or may not have been a “performance”, but it’s perfectly natural for human beings to watch other human beings do stuff. Especially if they’re doing the stuff on a higher level than most people.

  3. Colette*

    I used to use a gym at work, so I’ve seen a lot of coworkers in workout gear, and that wouldn’t bother me. However, I don’t want to see coworkers exercising without a shirt. To me, that’s over the line for work.

    1. Sadsack*

      I agree with this. Even gully clothed, I think management where I work would put an and to this as soon as they’d become aware of it, probably suggesting a more private area.

    2. BeenThere*

      Full disclosure, I loved working in the CBD of my home city because I got to sit and stare at all the attractive guys running around shirtless in summer!

      It is common in my culture to get out an exercise in your lunch break with coworkers, we worked long enough hours that going for a couple of kms run and coming back for a shower was no big deal. Actually it was an important networking activity, you needed to have some sort of activity you attended like this.

  4. A*

    I think it’s reasonable for his manager to ask him to wear a T-shirt and perhaps use a different location outside (maybe behind the building, if practical–I have no idea what your site is like obviously). But working out on a lunch break is not unprofessional.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      This is why I cut the guy some slack. My building has a 360 degree view of everything around it for blocks, and we have three other buildings across the street. It sounds like he’s making an effort to move out of the immediate area, although not too far. I mean, he could be air squatting in his cube. : )

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        It seems so obvious to move the workout to a more secluded location, I’m thinking there probably isn’t one? Then what? Is it worth telling the guy he can’t do his workout at all in that case?

  5. Sunflower*

    Does he know he’s in a spot that is so visible? It might be hard to tell from the ground if he’s in a place where everyone or no one can see him. However, I think if you really don’t have any clients coming through and it’s mostly coworkers, I don’t think it’s a big deal and I would let it go. Unless you can find a non-accusatory way to ask him about it ‘I see you working out a lot and you have a really impressive routine, where do you get your workouts from?’ except said in a totally non-snarky way. If he really doesn’t know he’s visible, this will let him know. And if he does know he’s visible, then I don’t think it’s a huge deal.

  6. Kai*

    Haha, this would depend so much on the person for me. If it were someone I already didn’t like much, I would be appalled and offended. But if it were a work buddy of mine, I’d think it was harmless (though I would definitely rib him a little about it).

  7. Bend & Snap*

    I don’t think it’s any different than using an on-site gym. Except for being shirtless. Which is still giving me the giggles. I’m picturing 1980s shorts and sweatbands.

      1. A Cita*

        Hahaha! If the coworker looked like that, I might suggest to him that the area right in front of my office window is a more ideal location for work outs.

        As to the question, I think it’s no biggie. It’s hard to find time in the day to work out, pick a routine, and stick with it. I’d encourage it, but then I think health is the more important issue.

        Besides, there’s a huge health trend in the US right now, so I think more passer-bys would be inured to it than, say, in 2001.

      2. Chinook*

        “I can’t be the only one flashing back to “Diet Coke break”?”

        Nope, though I keep flashing to the “Due South” version where they were waiting breathlessly to remove his hat.

      3. Dynamic Beige*

        They had something similar on Astronaut Wives’ Club last week — except the guy was jogging fully clothed. It was more that they were playing bridge (! I think) and a “it’s X o’clock!” kind of thing happened, and they all ran outside to watch him run past.

  8. HeyNonnyNonny*

    I agree that he should put on a shirt (or move) because 1, shirtless coworker is well into TMI territory, and 2, I’m always annoyed that it’s OK for men to walk around shirtless but not women. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a silly pet peeve.

    1. MicheleNYC*

      Come to NYC! It’s not against the law for women to be shirtless and that includes not wearing a bra!

        1. Chinook*

          Come north – Supreme Court of Canada has declared all toplessness legal up here (though we only recommend it in the summer months).

          1. MegEB*

            Topless winters in Canada sounds … extremely chilly. Although I’m glad your court voted it legal!

      1. Anonsie*

        I remember reading some blog posts from women in NYC walking around/sunbathing in Central Park topless (separately, not as a big topless critical mass) to test how people would actually react, and many (all?) of them were approached by the police about it. The police all acknowledged it wasn’t illegal and they wouldn’tmake them stop, but that they felt it was in bad enough taste that they strongly suggested it. In a few cases people had complained to the police in the park about it and the cops said they wouldn’t have approached the women otherwise, but there were others that did it on their own too.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I don’t have a problem with changing the law, but I have to admit I’d be uncomfortable if women were sunbathing topless in a public park. If it’s legal to go topless, am I supposed to stop equating it with nudity? Not sure I’m ready.

          (But I’m super non-confrontational so I’d either deal with it or leave and the sunbathers would be free to sunbathe regardless of my discomfort. I’m also uncomfortable when moms breastfeed in public but I don’t think they should be shooed into the bathroom.)

          1. MegEB*

            I don’t think it’s so much that you have to stop equating it with nudity (because well, it IS nudity), but that maybe it’s time to rethink our society’s general feelings/discomfort surrounding nudity in the first place. If men are allowed to go to the park topless, it’s only reasonable that women should be allowed as well. The point of the freethenipple movement and other topless movements is to challenge people’s discomfort over female nudity, and get us to ask ourselves WHY it is we feel so uncomfortable.

            1. A Cita*

              Yes this. It’s about de-fetishizing the breast. I work in medicine. When I took my premed biology class, we had models of all the body parts. Students were studious. The instructor lectured on the penis. We all took notes. Lecture on the vagina; took notes. Lecture on the breast, and all the male students start leering and giggling.

              The breast fetish is also a big part of the problem breast feeding mothers face when trying to feed their baby in public.

              1. Ad Astra*

                The discomfort, of course, comes from the fact that we’ve all been conditioned to think of female breasts as private parts. Nudity itself doesn’t bother me, but nudity in the park is highly unusual so it makes me feel weird.

                I can see why fetishizing the breast is problematic, but I don’t see how I could ever think of my own breasts the way a man thinks of his chest. Obviously women should be free to do whatever they want, I’m just struggling to wrap my head around wanting to walk around topless. But that’s just me.

                1. MegEB*

                  Well it’s not just you, it’s society at large, hence the reason it’s illegal in most places for women to walk around topless. It’s completely understandable to have a hard time seeing women’s breasts the same way as men’s. I’m a pretty outspoken advocate for public breastfeeding/de-fetishizing breasts/topless movements, and I STILL have a hard time looking at them the same way, because years of social conditioning have told me otherwise. So I totally get it.

                2. FiveByFive*

                  There’s different standards because our bodies are different! We can enjoy our differences sometimes, can’t we? It doesn’t mean men are evil or women are being oppressed, just because we cover different body parts when we jog.

                  The guy exercising in OP’s post is an exhibitionist. I wear a top when I jog, just like you. Everything’s OK.

              2. FiveByFive*

                So you had some idiots in your class. We’re going to change our culture and laws to try to de-idiotize people? Best of luck.

                The point is, why do we WANT to de-sexualize the breast? Isn’t sex supposed to be fun?

                And don’t worry, I’m not “uncomfortable” with nudity and I’m not offended by it. But if you start walking around topless, don’t YOU be offended when people notice.

                1. FiveByFive*

                  Oh, and as far as making the laws and norms be equal for men and women, make men keep their shirts on too. I’d fully support that.

                2. MegEB*

                  De-sexualizing breasts =/= making sex less fun. I honestly don’t even see the correlation, so I’m not sure where you’re going with that. And it’s not about being offended that people notice in the first place. It’s when it’s taken a step farther, and turns into open staring, leering, making comments, etc that it becomes a problem. That’s something people can, and should, try to prevent.

                3. A Cita*

                  Agree with MegEB.

                  Also, I deliberately did not use the word “de-sexualize.” I said de-fetishize. It’s a completely different thing. The fetizishization of the female chest is a cultural construct that’s embedded in all sorts of misogynistic and oppressive beliefs. Think about it: in terms of sexualization, mens’ nipples are also a highly sensitive erogenous zone in general. Yet it’s women who are required to cover up. But sure, let’s say men have to keep their shirts on if that’s the way equity wants to swing (though personally, I’m less agreeable with that direction). But it still leaves wide open the problem women encounter while trying to feed their child.

                  And btw, I’m speaking as someone who is child-free and pretty conservative about showing my body. I may never want to walk around topless and may always feel slightly uncomfortable viewing others’ casual nudity. By that’s my issue. I stand by the principle of the thing.

                4. Tinker*

                  Thing I notice here: in the story you’re responding to, the students already react to discussion of the penis and vagina with a degree of seriousness that is appropriate to the context — breasts, though, are an outlier. And yet somehow if the students were able to discuss the anatomy of the breast with that same dispassion, THAT would make sex not fun anymore?

                  It’s kind of hilarious that I of all people would say this but… is the penis not something that one would ordinarily expect to be involved in sex?

                5. FiveByFive*

                  I think you’re all misunderstanding. Meg, I know you used a different term than I referred to, but I wasn’t responding directly to you. Rather I was responding to the point that is generally made in these arguments, which is that men need to stop being aroused by female breasts, and that it’s society that has led them to that impulse. My point is – so what? What’s the end goal here? If women could always go topless, eventually breasts would lose their appeal to men? What will we have we gained by that?

                  Of course open staring and making comments is rude. Who would argue otherwise? But that’s true in any context, not just regarding naked breasts.

                6. Tinker*

                  You’re putting the cart before the horse. It’s not — to take your phrasing — “women’s breasts should be exposed so that men lose their attraction to them” but rather “men should lose their attraction to breasts so that women may perform activities that involve exposing them”.

                  Of course, it’s not ACTUALLY that men (and, incidentally, people of other genders who are attracted to breasts) should lose that attraction, but rather something more along the lines of that the fact that breasts are attractive to some people should not necessarily be regarded as the paramount and defining feature of said breasts regardless of context — a breast in biology class is not ATTRACTION THING!!!!! but the subject of biology class, a breast on a shirtless runner is not ATTRACTION THING!!!!! but the expected sight (which may yet be also attractive) when a runner who has breasts, for their own reasons, is shirtless. But, in a culture where “what men are attracted to” and “how men behave when they see things they find attractive” are seen as both exactly the same thing and as untouchably sacred, those statements are indeed apt to be read (or cast, possibly with some degree of intention) as being the same thing.

                7. FiveByFive*

                  Is it really so paramount to be able to jog without a top? I wear one every time.

                  So it’s part of our culture that breasts are sexualized. Big deal. We all have sexual organs and it’s customary to cover them. In this regard, men and women are different. Can we just enjoy the differences sometimes?

                  I smile at being accused of being uptight on this issue, when actually I believe it’s the other way around. We can all wear a little clothing in public, and we’ll be OK.

                8. MegEB*

                  FiveByFive, you are missing the difference between de-sexualizing and de-fetishizing, which A Cita explained admirably. No one is saying that people shouldn’t be attracted to breasts. People can, and are, attracted to a whole wide range of things, including breasts, and that is completely okay. A Cita’s definition of “de-fetishizing” is basically perfect, so I’m just going to refer back to that to reiterate my point.

                  And yes. When “enjoying the differences” mean women are held to different standards than men are, based ENTIRELY ON THEIR BODY, it is unfair and should be changed. Look, no one is saying you shouldn’t wear a sports bra when you jog, if that’s what you prefer. If you are more comfortable wearing a bra, then please, wear a bra. But we should be able to choose to go topless/braless if we choose, and still be treated the same as men who also go topless/braless. That’s all.

                9. Jaydee*

                  It used to be that women weren’t supposed to show their legs in public. Yet here I am, sitting outside on my lunch break, wearing a pencil skirt and heels and just flaunting my calves and ankles for the whole world to see. Are there still men (and I assume women) who are turned on by seeing a woman’s* legs? Yes. is there anything wrong with that? No. As long as no one is gawking, cat-calling, etc. they can go ahead and enjoy the fact that it is not illegal for women to reveal their legs in public.

                  Similarly, many women (and I assume men) are turned on seeing a guy shirtless. But it is legal for men to be in public without a shirt on. So as long as they don’t gawk, cat-call, etc., they can go ahead and enjoy it when they see a guy out for a run (or some lunchtime calisthenics) without a shirt on.

                  Now, there are still social norms regarding dress/nudity. This is why I am wearing a pencil skirt that comes to my knees instead of a mini-skirt that barely covers my butt. And this is why the OP and other commenters questioned the propriety of shirtless calisthenics in close proximity to the workplace. But that is the difference between these examples and female toplessness. It is actually *illegal* for women to be topless in most places (barring exceptions for nursing a child). Yet there is nothing inherently more sexual about the female chest than the male chest. Or legs. Or arms. Or feet. Or hands. Or faces. From a practical purpose, I think many women (especially those of us with cup sizes in the middle of the alphabet) would not make much use of legalized female toplessness. But it would be nice if both male and female bodies were held to the same legal standards regarding public nudity.

                  * I do not wish to mislead anyone here into believing that *my* legs would be attractive in a conventional sense. Just that women’s legs in general often are. Hence why high heels are still a thing.

                10. FiveByFive*

                  My current reply (whatever it’s worth) just posted a bit further back in this thread

    2. Amber Rose*

      Is shirtless coworker really that much worse than shirtless stranger?

      I mean. You already know we’re all naked under our clothes, and a little extrapolation means we all basically know what everyone else looks like naked anyway. How is that TMI?

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        I guess I’d say that at work we’re all expected to maintain professional norms above and beyond what we do, say, at the grocery store or walking the dog. I mean, I know that some of my coworkers drink a lot, but it wouldn’t be great to see that firsthand at work…

      2. QualityControlFreak*

        I think it’s TMI because … I really don’t WANT to extrapolate what’s under people’s clothes at work. I don’t want to know what my coworkers look like naked. Clothes can hide a lot of things, and at work, I want them to. As some folks noted above, in a gym, normally you opt in. I really don’t want to see Coworker Bob’s naked chest. Yes, he has one. We all do. I don’t know about unprofessional, but if it were me I’d want the chance to opt out.

      3. LBK*

        I have no stake in maintaining a professional mental image of a random stranger, though.

        That being said, I was one of those who wasn’t miffed by the idea of the office pool party a few weeks ago…but I think that is also a little different from looking out the window while you’re at work an unexpectedly seeing someone topless.

  9. BetsyTacy*

    This wouldn’t bother me at all personally- sitting at a desk isn’t great for your health and I’d much rather watch a coworker exercising than smoking, personally.

    That being said, if I were friendly with this person I would mention to them that they were getting noticed more for their topless workouts than for their performance and let them make the decision.

    At a previous job, we didn’t have a locker room and I was required to take a 1 hour lunch. I tried to change into workout clothes (we’re talking conservative shorts and a t-shirt here) and was told that by wearing that near my desk (where I would keep my bag with my work clothes), I was in violation of dress code and would be disciplined. Man, I can’t believe I stayed at that job for 2 years!!

    1. Anyonymous*

      Can’t he be known for both his work and his workouts? I’ve never known a coworker just based on their work. “Yeah, Tony down in editing is so good at wipes!” It’s more like,”Tony down in editing has the best T-shirt collection!” I guess I just consider work to be this thing you have to do and everything else not work related is much more indicative of a person’s humanness. I was always happy to be known as the best baker in my workplace rather than the fastest typer (which I also was).

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        I’m sure he could, but it doesn’t sound like that’s happening here. At work I’m known as the excel expert (I’m not really, but I am good at figuring stuff out). Due to industry conditions, the dress code at my workplace is extremely casual. I also became known as “GI Jane.” Guess who doesn’t wear camo to work anymore? I could if I wanted to. But at work, I’d rather be known for my work.

        1. Anna*

          But I think that’s beyond your control and while I want to be known for my work, I also am a lot more than my work. To me it’s weirder that your coworkers would give you that nickname and that you decided to stop wearing a print you like because of it.

  10. MicheleNYC*

    I have worked for a couple of big sportswear companies and working out at lunch is just part of the culture. It really wasn’t a big deal or uncommon to see co-workers or even executives running around campus with their shirt off. I don’t think of it as unprofessional just a little weird that he performs his workout by the driveway. It could be that it’s the only place with a spot of grass for him to do some of his exercises!

  11. Ashley*

    Depends if he’s good-looking or not….if he’s attractive, I wouldn’t mind that kind of distraction! ;)

    1. KT*

      I swear I’m not an ogre, but this is just gross. if a man said that about a female coworker, we’d tear him to shreds.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I was thinking about how I wouldn’t really want to see the return of those Diet Coke ads.

        The women-leering-is-okay-when-men’s-isn’t trope bugs me because it’s rooted in the assumption that we’re powerless and weak. If you make it the guy’s female boss, for instance, it’s more obviously creepy in a way we tend to notice more quickly when it’s a man doing the perving. Not saying it’s never any fun to look, but I don’t think we’ve found a way for this to be either acceptably egalitarian or a legitimate loophole.

        1. LBK*

          I’ve always wondered where gay people fall in that alleged loophole, too; is it okay for a lesbian to leer at another woman (because the issue is male staring, so it doesn’t matter if a woman does it) or for a gay man to leer at another man (because the issue is staring at women, so it doesn’t matter if you do it to a man)? Or is it completely specific to flipping the “men staring at women” trope and us gays are free to just do whatever we want with our eyes?

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Ok, see now I’m picturing someone bringing their jarred eye collection to work. “It’s a free country, I can do whatever I want with my eyes!”

          2. A Cita*

            That’s an interesting question (besides that leering is just gross anyway), because the issue is about power dynamics: who has the power to objectify another person (in a way that has real material effects). Is it ok for a gay white man to leer at a gay black man? Fanon would say no.

            2 issues: a. leering in general. b. a dominant group objectifying a historically oppressed group.

          3. AJS*

            As a gay man, I was happy to see the Diet Coke ad mentioned, as I had completely forgotten about it and was curious to see if it lived up to my memories. Well, all I noticed, really, was how godawful the hair styles of most of the women were.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Obviously a joke, but it is a good point to be sure TPTB are thinking about ALL employees, not just the one exercising now, when making any decisions about this. This summer’s workplace triathletes could recruit next spring’s New Year’s resolutioners, who may be less hot and attractive.

  12. The IT Manager*

    I don’t think it’s exactly inappropriate or unprofessional, but I find it odd that he picked a place that is so visible both to the people driving into the parking lot and from the office windows. It’s like he want the maximum number of people to witness his workout as sort of a performance.

    Let’s say he left the building and went for a run so it wasn’t a performance … I’d have no concerns about him running without his shirt outside but I think he needs to leave/put it on inside the building.

    1. The IT Manager*

      And if someone were to address it, I would not mention the lack of shirt as a problem, but just his choice of location.

      1. AW*

        I agree it’s not necessary to make the shirt an issue as long as he moves and it would probably be a less awkward conversation.

    2. MashaKasha*

      I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and assume there’s nowhere else to work out that’d be close enough to the office that he wouldn’t lose time driving or walking to and from the workout area…

    3. Anonsie*

      This strikes me as odd, too, but I also have no idea how the place is set up. Where I am now if I wanted to be discretely out of sight and/or earshot of the building and its parking, I’d have to go about a block away. I got a call from my dad’s doctor this morning and his current issue is a little, uh, sensitive and embarrassing. I had to go out & around & across the street to find a spot to call them back in a hurry. I could still be seen from the windows, though.

    4. Artemesia*

      I don’t think it is ‘odd’; I think it is no accident and an example of narcissistic and ostentatious display. He is showing off. It is childish; ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ It seems entirely unprofessional to me and if I were the boss I would ask him to find a more private spot.

      1. flying crowbar*

        I concur. I mean: all we have to go by is the letter, and there may be some vital detail we’re missing. But it sure sounds like he’s just showing off the goods.

  13. AdAgencyChick*

    An acquaintance of mine is admirably in shape, and he knows it. His company has an on-site gym and he takes it as a personal affront that he’s not allowed to work out shirtless there. His attitude is that we are all too puritanical about bodies and that no one should be squicked out by looking at his.

    I dunno, I like a good-looking bare-chested man as much as the next straight gal (or gay man), but that doesn’t mean I want to see it at work. If that makes me puritanical, so be it. I fully support his company’s decision to tell him to keep his shirt on.

    OP’s situation is a little different because the working-out isn’t occurring on company property, but I think his manager can still ask him to please put a shirt on because he can be easily seen from the office and it’s distracting.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Even the regular gyms I go to require that men wear a shirt and women wear more than a sports bra.

    2. Steve G*

      Why can’t he just wear a tank top then? Then you can still tell the person is ripped without it turning into a huge distraction.

  14. just laura*

    Curious if gender matters? What if it were a woman exercising in public (shirt on!)– I wonder if people would have more of an issue. (I wouldn’t– just wondering.)

    1. jmkenrick*

      Hm, I think some people might take a greater issue with a woman working out. I’ve certainly heard people opine that women’s athletic gear can be distractingly form-fitting.

      This is just a hunch, but I would guess that more than any gender discrepancy, there would be a prejudice against certain body types.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup, I’m a cynic, but I’m sure there would be.

        (And guys’ workout wear is pretty form-fitting too! But we do have some yucky double standards in this society.)

    2. hermit crab*

      Hmm, yeah. I think the female version of this scenario would probably be a woman working out in shorts and a sports bra. I can definitely imagine that being an issue somewhere.

    3. Anonsie*

      Partially I don’t want to play the guessing game on this one, but partially I do think if a woman were working out somewhere people could see there would be more people claiming she was doing it on purpose to get people to look at her and that intent specifically made it inappropriate. Maybe not here, but in general.

  15. Amber Rose*

    I honestly think this is harmless, just a bit distracting maybe. If the guy isn’t worried about his image, I don’t see why anyone else should be.

    As far as I’m concerned, you can’t work in a perfectly divided world where work and not-work never interact. I wouldn’t want to if I could! I see people from work around the city all the time. My coworkers have seen me in steampunk gear (my corset creates an amazing and probably scandalous level of cleavage) and there’s a park nearby where we practice battle in hakama (despite my best efforts, also rather revealing). Chances are good of being seen there by people I know. With that in mind, why bother being embarassed? In order to hide it I’d basically have to stop doing fun things, so might as well flaunt it. My guess is he may be in view, but you can avoid watching if you really don’t wanna see it. He’s not doing it in the lobby.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I completely agree with you. The line of reasoning is the same students use when seeing their teacher out of school (omg, she goes grocery shopping!?). Teachers are people too, just like your coworkers.

      On a personal level, I totally wouldn’t mind some eye candy at work (especially at lunch where I presumably have time to admire). Hell, I already have it; it’s just fully clothed. I can separate looks from working relationships. So while I subtly admire from afar, it doesn’t impact my opinion of this individual in his status as a coworker, his work ethic, work quality, etc.

      1. Chinook*

        ” I already have it; it’s just fully clothed. I can separate looks from working relationships. ”

        This comment made me realize that I had that at one time too. During working hours, I saw this former pro-athlete now teacher as just “teacher” and never though of him as eye candy. But, when he came by my classroom after hours while wearing his workout gear to ask for a textbook, I will admit to having forgotten how to form words for a moment. I could totally be professional (and even help deflect awkward teenage girl interactions with him on behalf of students) but will admit to being jealous of his best friend’s wife when she was asked, and was given permission by both teacher and her husband, to touch his six pack.

    2. AW*

      If the guy isn’t worried about his image, I don’t see why anyone else should be.

      They’re worried because of this:
      just a few feet off of the office driveway, which is used by our workforce as well as the occasional VIP visitor.

      I doubt they want to start every meeting with a client with a discussion about the shirtless guy flinging sweat around right by the entrance.

      1. Amber Rose*

        What if the guy didn’t work for the company?

        Maybe we could all accept that VIPs are also sane people who are probably not going to abandon business with a company over one individual doing a workout. I’m utterly baffled by this treatment of VIPs as snooty medieval royalty who will surely get the vapors over anything out of place.

        1. fposte*

          But he does work for the company. That’s the whole point. This is something the company’s behind or it’s not, but they can’t sever themselves from the permitted activities of an employee on work grounds during work hours.

        2. AW*

          What if the guy didn’t work for the company?

          Then he’s trespassing.

          Maybe we could all accept that VIPs are also sane people…

          Nothing about my comment implies that I think that they’re insane (kinda ableist) or that they would “get the vapors”. But just as the OP doesn’t want to be known as the “lunch time workout person”, the company probably doesn’t want to be known to potential clients as the “company that had the lunch time workout person”.

  16. kirsten*

    My husband and I were speaking about a similar issue recently. We work in the same office building (different companies) and my husband frequently uses the gym in our building. He said there is one guy who always takes his shirt off while working out in the gym. I don’t think anyone should do that in a corporate setting, even at a gym.

    For this guy, I would say the working out is fine but he should be wearing a shirt if all of his coworkers can see him. I would honestly rather see someone exercising when I pull in than smoking.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Pretty much everywhere ever does, for safety reasons if nothing else. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Pants are apparently optional. ;)

          1. Amber Rose*

            Ever fallen on a treadmill? Clothes prevent some of the worst scrapes.

            They also absorb sweat. Puddles of sweat are a slip hazard. Also: gross.

            1. AcidMeFlux*

              Also, sweaty skin making contact with weight benches, weight machine seats, exercise mats.

            2. fposte*

              But if that’s the safety consideration, no shorts or sleeveless tops/sports bras would be acceptable, either. I think the “safety” notion is bogus–it’s because of clothing conventions, same as it is outside the gym.

              1. KarenT*

                My gym’s sign says it is for hygeine reasons. Perhaps an attempt to limit bare skin on the machines/benches? It also doesn’t allow tank tops, though they don’t seem to enforce that one.

          2. Steve G*

            Or if you are benchpressing, if your shirtless and sweaty, you might stick to the plastic-covered bench, which isn’t safe, if you need to shift to put the weights back or down.

            1. Deb Y*

              Bare skin contact on workout equipment could allow staph infections, including MRSA, to be spread on non-disinfected equipment. Some of disinfectants take 10 minutes to be effective.

      2. MicheleNYC*

        I know my yoga studio has a sign posted in the changing rooms that clothing is required for class. It always makes me wonder who showed up at class naked.

        1. Adam*

          I have seen some ads for naked yoga studios. I don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to walk into one of those.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          I’ve definitely taken off my shirt in hot yoga (sports bra underneath) and at least half the men there never wear shirts.

        3. Connie-Lynne*

          There’s a naked yoga class at the studio where my husband does acroyoga.

          He does yoga naked at home a lot.

          I don’t understand it — I would never wanna work out naked, but whatever. His body, not mine.

          1. Ellie H.*

            It does sound a bit ridiculous but there is actually a huge advantage to naked yoga in that someone watching you can see really well which muscles you are engaging, the lines of your body very clearly, subtleties, etc. It’s really helpful for working on a pose – if my boyfriend is watching me he can give me more precise suggestions because of being able to see more clearly.

      3. Adam*

        Most mainstream gyms almost certainly do. Shoes too.

        You might find certain gyms of specific training disciplines (power-lifting, crossfit, etc.) where they might be a little looser on dress codes, but your standard commercial gym (24 Hour, LA Fitness) usually require tops everywhere outside of the locker room and pool areas.

  17. Biff*

    Wow. This would be a deal breaker if I was a manager. It just speaks to either narcissism or a complete misunderstanding of social norms.

      1. Beti*

        Right but just yesterday there was a long discussion about office culture (not closing the door for routine phone calls) and there were more than a few people who said if it’s office culture, deal with it. So isn’t this another case of what is considered a social norm in that workplace?

      2. fposte*

        Sure, but it’s still a thing you need to be aware of, and if the guy is consciously choosing to stick it to the man by going shirtless on office grounds, that means something for his personality, too.

    1. GOG11*

      Maybe I’ve been a part of too many ultramarathons, but in my world, shirts = bloody nipples. There are ways to prevent it (tape, lubricant, maybe wearing certain fabrics), but if you’re going to wear certain types of shirts, your nipples are going to bleed. I imagine one workout wouldn’t produce enough friction to do that, but I can’t imagine it’d be comfortable, either.

      To me, being shirtless says more about practicality than about someone’s personality.

          1. Tinker*

            ‘Twas a glorious day when I discovered that ordinary outdoor retailers sell swim binders — filed with the wetsuits, and called “neoprene vest”.

    2. Anna*

      I think if you were a manager making that leap, you’d be someone who was prone to assumptions, which is never a good thing as a manager.

    3. Tinker*

      So, it’s a relatively common thing for people to look at someone who is doing something that is very noticeably unusual and attribute the behavior to narcissism or “attention-seeking behavior” or something else along the lines of “on the spectrum of undue self-centeredness”.

      I won’t say that’s always wrong. There are cases where the totality of the circumstances do indicate that something like that is involved. However, there are also a number of other points to consider, one of which is this: What sort of thinking is it to look at someone who is doing a thing, particularly a thing that has at least one obvious purpose, and conclude “That thing that that person is doing over there is obviously all about me and my reaction to it”?

      1. Saurs*

        Yep. Sometimes you have to take responsibility for your own reactions rather than assuming that people around you, engaging in fairly commonplace behavior, have nefarious intentions. Women wearing (fetch me my fainting couch) yoga pants while grocery shopping are not trying to seduce you, and men jogging shirtless are not trying to impress you.

        The expectation that colleagues and officemates are obligated to preserve our sanitized little fantasies about them is a bad one, I feel. Adults shouldn’t need this kind of coddling. A person’s bare chest is not unprofessional when they’re on break and outside the office.

  18. mskyle*

    This reminds me of the first chapter for the wonderful Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse (here: in which the hero performs his daily exercises in front of:
    a) Two cabmen–one intoxicated;
    b) Four waiters from the Hotel Mathis;
    c) Six waiters from the Hotel Previtali;
    d) Six chambermaids from the Hotel Mathis;
    e) Five chambermaids from the Hotel Previtali;
    f) The proprietor of the Hotel Mathis;
    g) The proprietor of the Hotel Previtali;
    h) A street cleaner;
    i) Eleven nondescript loafers;
    j) Twenty-seven children;
    k) A cat.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ah, I love reading Wodehouse. He only has one plot, but he is such a charming writer that I enjoy reading it. It’s time to re-read a few of the dozens of his books I have.

  19. Adonday Veeah*

    Please give me your address. I’d like to do a drive-by before offering input. ;-)

  20. Ad Astra*

    I would feel self-conscious working out in view of my coworkers (even at a company gym), but it wouldn’t bother me to see a coworker exercising at lunch, even if it was without a shirt. If there’s a more suitable location, though, the boss should consider asking the employee to relocate. I can see how this would be a little off-putting for visitors to the office, though I don’t think it’s a huge deal.

  21. MashaKasha*

    I’d be more than happy to see coworkers working out – to me that would mean it’s socially acceptable in the office. Somehow sitting on your butt for 10 hours straight presents you as a dedicated professional, but when you work out at lunch, you’re somehow a slacker or at least are not to be taken seriously. For the sake of our own health, that needs to change. I actually have a few lucky friends who work in MajorCities at companies that have on-site gyms, and working out during office hours is considered completely normal there. A friend told me that they routinely bring their work to the gym and read the papers while on a treadmill or an elliptical. Good for them!

  22. Laurel Gray*

    Rather this as a distraction at work than Chatty Cathy, Gossiping Gary, Loud Chewer Larry, Mary Micro Manager, Keyboard Slamming Kyle, Gum Smacking Gina, Hungover Harriette, Too Many Questions Tony or Non Flushing Fanny.

    1. Adam*

      Yeah. While if I were the exerciser in question I would comply if I was asked to put a shirt on or move somewhere more discreet, personally this isn’t a big deal to me. Of all the things a co-worker might do that could be “distracting” to me I’d much rather have Workout Wiley over Salty Samson.

  23. Brooke*

    I think some may be overthinking this a bit.

    “Fergus, we’d like folks to be fully clothed during the workday when in view of clients or colleagues. Will that be a problem?”

  24. Brooke*

    I think some may be overthinking this a bit.

    “Fergus, we’d like folks to be fully clothed during work hours when in view of clients or colleagues. Will that be a problem?”

  25. Shirtless Sweaty Steve*

    Yeah, this would gross me out. I’d never be able to look at Steve in accounting the same again. But hey, your office culture, your call.

    1. Saurs*

      I’m fairly certain you’re being facetious, but if not and you don’t mind sharing: why? Why is this such scandalous behavior? Why is a human body sweating so gross? I’m totally confused by this.

  26. AnotherAlison*

    I think my take on this would depend on the building/road layout. It sounds like the guy is making an effort to go down the road a little bit, maybe as much as practical. . .at least without him being in front of some other office building and those guys wondering about the random stranger exercising on their lawn. I don’t think it’s out of line to request that he wear a shirt while in view of the building. He probably hasn’t thought about it. At the same time, I don’t think VIP visitors would think anything of it because they don’t necessarily know he’s part of your team. It’s only because you see it every day that it seems weird.

    In my head, he’s 10 feet off the front door doing jumping jacks in front of the conference room, and that would definitely be out of line, although amusing.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I have always wondered how lunchtime workout people don’t return to the office smelly, damp, and greasy. Maybe I just have high-maintenance hair.

      1. Lizzie*

        I try to make time to shower if I can, but if I can’t I use dry shampoo and clean up as much as I can so I don’t smell like sweat. There are body wipes designed to be used on camping trips (I think?) that are great for this, although I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve been positively dripping. They work in a pinch and get me through the day!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I do stair climbs at work and I keep baby wipes in my cube to freshen up with. I also change shirts before I go to the stairwell, and I have a fan under my desk so I can cool off. So far, no smell. It’s not like I get drippy sweaty, but it’s enough that I don’t feel comfortable doing it in the shirt I wore to the office (I hang up the workout shirt in my cube). In the winter, it’s less hot in the stairwell so I don’t sweat as much. The baby wipes are miles cheaper than the special cleanup or personal wipes.

  27. Sheepla*

    This is one that wouldn’t bother me at all. My thought was “good for him for exercising at lunch time”.

  28. pony tailed wonder*

    If this is the worst problem their office has, I want to work there. I think I would be uncomfortable with the no shirt aspect but not enough to say anything about it. He is an adult and free to make the choice he has made. I would be more uncomfortable with quashing it, too big brotherish for me.

  29. Brooke*

    Is the guy aware that he’s visible through the windows? Sounds obvious but possibly not?

    1. Afiendishingy*

      That’s a good point- I think he probably does and good chance he’s showing off a bit, but if it’s much brighter outside than in (likely), he can’t see the people inside nearly as well as they see him.

  30. Sunshine Brite*

    For me it’s more the location than shirtlessness. I’m one who hates wearing a shirt to exercise though and only do when I don’t work out at home and even then it’s usually got some sort of cut off sleeves/tank. I’m not one who’s stereotypically attractive or like lots of attention. I sweat easily and a lot and I notice restricted movement on my arms easily because I have pretty broad shoulders. The location reads as strange and out of place unless that little area is like a park.

  31. bridget*

    For me it’s the location, not the shirt. I would not think twice if I saw a coworker either starting or ending a lunchtime run, with or without a shirt. Same with at a gym, or some other location I’m not surprised to see people exercising. But I so rarely witness people parking themselves on a random patch of grass or sidewalk to do a lengthy stationary workout, like an “exercising sentinel,” to borrow fposte’s phrase. It’s just kind of odd in general, and the fact that his spot is in full view of people who will be there for awhile, trying to focus on work, makes the oddity even more distracting. If you see someone leave or return from a run, the distraction is momentary, and if you’re in a gym area, you are presumably not trying to do work. But someone doing a weird-for-the location workout outside of my office window would make me uncomfortable, no matter how many clothes they had one.

  32. Gwen Soul*

    My husband actually has this issue at his work. The twist is that the worker is a counselor at a prison and does this in view of her male prisoner charges. She was asked to stop due to the need to look professional at all times and to stop the cat calls. She has fought vigorously against this to the point of being wirtten up.

    1. Adam*

      That’s…a fascinating situation. If she’s a counselor I’m assuming she interacts with the inmates regularly. Has this never resulted in a problem for her?

      1. Gwen Soul*

        She has… boundry issues. It is one of the workplaces where firing someone takes an act of god, so she just keeps sticking around.

        1. Lizzie*

          If she has boundary issues, she doesn’t need to be working in corrections counseling. Or probably counseling in general. Find an act of god.

    2. the gold digger*

      She exercises, presumably not in loose, bulky clothes, as I do not imagine those would inspire catcalls. In front of men who see very few women. Who have not had sexual relations with a women for the length of their sentence.

      And she does not see the problem in this?

      1. Gwen Soul*

        You are correct, plus they are then supposed to see her as an authority figure and take her advice on how to better themselves.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I don’t think it would matter much if she wore jogging pants and a sweatshirt, as far as stopping the attention.

        I do think it matters if *she* thinks spandex booty shorts are okay.

        1. Gwen Soul*

          Honestly, I don’t think the clothing matters much, it is the idea of being professional and exhibiting what behaviors are acceptable in the workplace. I should also point out she was exercising in her office to the point of being super sweaty or going outside by the yard.

          1. Adam*

            I was a Psych major, and right now reigning in my internal armchair psychologist is like trying to control a dog that just spotted a squirrel holding a steak.

    3. Sunshine Brite*

      Counselors have a different set of boundaries they need to adhere to than a general office. If that place can’t follow-through on consequences then they need to consider reaching out to her professional board.

      1. Lizzie*

        So much of this. This is really situationally inappropriate behavior because, like it or not, it does damage her capacity to work with the inmates. It could pose a danger for her in terms of harassment and potential physical harm (female-presenting social workers – which in this instance may be different than a counselor depending on how your system works, but that’s my field so that’s what I know – in prisons get attacked more than you’d think) and also prevents the inmates from taking her seriously in a professional capacity when it is absolutely imperative that they do so and it needs to end, period. If she wants to work out at work, she needs to find a job where those factors are not at play. It’s time to tell her so.

  33. Techfool*

    I wouldn’t care myself, but I work with a Jessica Rabbit lookalike so I’ve kinda got used to some scenery about the place.

  34. Victoria, Please*

    We have a young couple on campus who like to do yoga right outside our windows in the courtyard. It would be totally fine except that the, er, temperature is elevated.

  35. Dynamic Beige*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but it seems this person has their own private office, not a cube. Did it not come with blinds? Given the location, yes I would say something to him about people being able to see but I would ask if he could just close the blinds when he chooses to workout, both inside and outside blinds to limit the distraction. This may be a limited time issue. He may not have enough lunch hour to get changed, workout, change again, eat and come back.

  36. Not An Actual Gawker*

    This post reminded me of a previous job. My office mate and I happened to be looking across a building entrance one day at lunchtime. One of the married guys (attractive, tanned and very fit) came back from a run wearing short shorts and no shirt. Fortunately he didn’t see us.

    I will never forget the look on D’s face–I haven’t seen anything like it since. It mirrored my exact thoughts, which were along the lines of “only in my wildest dreams……and what’s my husband’s name again?!”

  37. Stitch*

    I find it RIDICULOUS that exercise is so taboo in our culture, like it’s something that must be done sequestered, in private, where no one can see you. WTF? Exercise is good for you. It boosts your creativity, and often comes with a reduction in sick time needed. Employers should be trying everything they can to get employees to work out – yet office culture is so often counter to it.

    I used to work in a place with no easily accessible private areas. I’d do pushups in the effing hall outside the bathroom, feeling constantly guilty about it. But if I didn’t do that, I’d go INSANE from the sedentary nature of the job. Some coworkers sat on exercise balls, but doing pushups was inappropriate?

    This is probably why I’m not employed in a cubicle farm anymore…

    1. AW*

      Exercise is most definitely not taboo in US culture. It is not considered appropriate in all locations and situations but if we weren’t OK with folks exercising in public, we wouldn’t have gyms.

      Protein shakes are healthy too, but that doesn’t make it appropriate to run a blender at your desk to make one at work.

  38. KimPossible*

    We have a workplace fitness policy where you are allowed to use 3 working hours per week to exercise. While this can be done before or after work, many choose to do it in the middle of the day. We had a similar issue during the first week this policy was in place where someone returned to the office in a sports bra after a run. Our manager sent out an email explaining that dress code standards still apply and no one, male or female, is to exercise shirtless, shorts must be an appropriate length, etc. Would something like this work? Or is it simply the fact that he’s exercising nearby that’s distracting, not necessarily the shirtless aspect?

  39. Original Poster*

    OP here! I’m amazed by the number of comments. Too many to weed through! A few initial responses and additional details for anyone who is interested.

    -when I said “performs” I merely meant “does”. I didn’t mean to imply that there was a performance or exhibitionist aspect to the gentleman’s workout
    -we are located about .25 miles from pretty major urban park and we are also located in a building that is a former school with acres of grass surrounding it. For those that wonder if he could find a more secluded spot, the answer is yes, most definitely.
    -for those interested in the salacious details: he is in good shape—I believe the word is “cut”
    -there is an informal office practice for some, apparently, of watching the workouts from the windows (for entertainment, I assume)
    -said coworker works in a relatively solitary capacity, while many others in the building are more outward-facing w/ respect to clients and prospective clients
    -our organization encourages workplace wellness (there are classes, etc.)—so no stigma culturally against exercise, FWIW. A lot of people use some nearby walking trails and so on.

    I’ll add more if I think relevant to some of the issues raised above.

    All in all an entertaining conversation, thanks AAM and commenters!

    1. bridget*

      Thanks for the update! With acres of greenery around, I think it should be more than reasonable to use Alison’s script to ask him to relocate. Not worth the distraction or potential discomfort of VIPs.

  40. JD*

    No one in a right professional mind would do that in front of co-workers unless he was vying for attention. Crush on a certain lady that he is trying to impression with his routine? I would not let that continue in my camp. Incredibly unprofessional.

  41. Robert*

    Somehow I stumbled upon this form. But wow, what a group of up tight robots. Sound like the folks who live a boring 9-5 cubicle life, go home, eat, sleep, repeat and die. Probally suffering from back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and a host of other health issues. If your coworker wants to workout shirtless, let him have at it. Get some sunshine and fresh air, while staying fit. You’re grown adults, It’s the human body, get over it. It’s not like he’s having public sex in front of kids.

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