Reviewed by Dr Lee Smith, Associate Professor of Public Health
As many workplaces have gradually switched to a flexible working scheme, alternating between working in the office and at home, there is no hiding that employees may currently be struggling to
receive support for their physical health and keep active.
The NHS suggests that adults should be aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. In fact, prolonged inactiveness accounts for about 70,000 deaths per year in Britain alone.
What’s more, research shows that the rate of unexpected, illness-related absenteeism is more substantial in workers who are less physically active. Small tweaks in habits can have a massive impact on people’s productivity, absence rates, and overall health.
With some insights from Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, we take a look at how employers can prioritise employee wellbeing and encourage their staff members to be more active both outside and inside the workplace.
Setting up a culture of movement.
Workplace culture can have a significant effect on employee wellbeing and behaviour. A manager or leader who promotes the importance of physical health will truly encourage their workers to exercise more during the day. One way of embedding activity into the workplace culture is to include physical health support as a key feature of your wellbeing plan and strategy. Here are some policies you may want to consider:
- Offer discounted rates for equipment and gym access
- Schemes to encourage employees to cycle to work
- Educational fitness classes or exercise sessions that are free of charge
- Reserving time slots for exercise and physical activity during people’s shifts
- Standing desks and flexible workspaces
Of course, every organisation will take a different approach based on its needs and possibilities, but always make sure to ask your employees how you can help to keep them active while at work.
Share your exercise policies with your team and invite them to take advantage of the various options. To keep track of the effectiveness of your physical activity programme, make note of people’s engagement and evaluate the long-term impact it’s having on the business.
How to encourage your employees to move more and feel empowered
To ensure you are incorporating physical activity into the working day, it is crucial to enable your people to prioritise it. One idea could be to send out monthly wellbeing emails with resources, links to online workouts and general exercise tips.
Also, make allowances for managers to discuss physical wellbeing, as well as mental health, personal targets, and performance, during one-to-one meetings with team members. Ultimately, employees will feel empowered to make physical activity a priority if their managers are too.
As for in-office facilities, business owners can actively support their workers’ physical health by creating a designated area for exercise and activities within the workplace. Whether it’s converting a quiet corner or a compact meeting room, an active space with mats, resistance bands and dumbbells can become a huge asset to the office. In fact, it will certainly encourage and help employees enjoy some exercising at work.
If you don’t have enough space for an active space, consider offering your employees discounted memberships for popular chain gyms. This will help your team stay fit and healthy whatever their
Seven great resources to help get you started –
1. NHS physical activity guidelines – Exercise advice for people aged 19 to 64.
2. Sit less with Get Britain Standing – Tips and information to encourage employees to stand up
more during the day, whether in or outside the workplace.
3. Helpful Move More at Work guidance – Feel free to download these resources as a PDF and print out some useful workplace posters. You will also find some 10-minute workplace exercise videos.
4. Adaptable, active spaces – Advice on how to tailor active spaces to your workplace to get your people moving.
5. Pomodoro Technique and Tomato Timer – An online timer which reminds you to take short breaks every 25 minutes.
6. Health and lifestyle screenings – Confidential one-to-one health screenings for employees with an experienced coach.
7. Physical wellbeing webinars – Our own recorded and live webinars covering topics including posture and back pain.