Latest World Health Organization (WHO) data suggests that poor health reduces national GDP by 15%, but that investing in health and wellbeing can significantly reduce sickness rates and increase productivity among the workforce.
And, as Consultancy.uk notes, “far from being the sole responsibility of the state, every employer should be interested in the health and wellbeing of a nation’s professionals.”
So, are you doing enough to support the health of your team?
Why should you promote physical wellbeing to your employees
As an employer, you are ideally placed to motivate your employees to lead a healthy lifestyle and you have the best opportunity to help people fit fitness activities into their already busy daily routines. Some would go as far as to argue that employers also have a moral duty to take the lead.
In terms of business benefits, it’s a no-brainer: a healthy, active workforce tends to be happier, more engaged and more productive, which is good for your bottom line. What’s more, promoting physical fitness shows your team that you take their wellbeing seriously. Not only does this help to build a positive workplace culture, it turns your company into the kind of employer that jobseekers are increasingly looking for.
The importance of physical wellbeing has been well documented, and the benefits of regular exercise are even greater for people with sedentary jobs. Sitting down for long periods has been scientifically proven to lead to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and death from all causes. Regular physical activity can reverse these trends and lead to better quality of life. What’s more, it can also improve mental wellbeing.
Exercise relieves stress, improves memory function, helps you sleep better and boosts your mood. For example, did you know that regular cold water swimming increases your tolerance to stress? If you don’t live by the seaside, chemical-free “natural pools are designed to offer a similar experience,” says a leading industry expert. Activities such as yoga reduces tension in the body and mind, promotes relaxation and mental calm, builds inner strength and encourages self-care.
According to NHS recommendations in the UK, 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week are recommended, spread evenly across the days of the week. Here are some suggestions for promoting physical wellbeing at work.
1. Create active spaces in the workplace
If you want to promote physical activity among your team, where better to start than in the workplace? Not having access to the right facilities, or no time to get there outside of working hours, is one of the main things that prevents people from being active. Give your staff a space where they can be active and they’re more likely to make use of it.
A dedicated active space could be used for fitness classes or workout. But even if you choose not to kit it out with weights or gym equipment, the room can still be used for floor exercises and stretching, yoga or meditation. You could also think about providing secure bike racks and shower facilities to encourage your team members to cycle to and from work.
2. Offer free or subsidised gym membership
If it simply isn’t viable to create a dedicated active space on site or people would prefer to exercise in a professional gym, yoga studio, swimming pool, tennis club or other fitness facility, offering help with membership is a good alternative. The main thing is that the options offered suit the needs of your workforce.
Many people find it easier to exercise in a class environment. Having a company gym membership may increase team bonding, as co-workers are more likely to exercise together.
3. Set up group activity challenges
A little bit of healthy competition can go a long way to getting people active. Think up some fun incentives and challenges to motivate everyone to achieve their fitness goals, with a little reward thrown in for best performance and to boost morale. How about a prize for the highest step count in the month? A day off for the most workouts recorded per month?
Another way to promote physical activity is to enter into a team event and train together. Whether you sign up volunteers for a local Couch to 5K race, a charity bike ride or swimathon, the joint mission will help the whole team to get out and move, develop stronger team bonding and celebrate a sense of achievement at the end.
4. Encourage breaks from desk working
Sitting down at a desk all day every day is not a good thing to do, as explained above. Health experts recommend getting up at least once every hour to stretch your legs, even if it’s only to make a cup of tea or use the facilities. It’s important to reinforce the message to your entire workforce that they are expected to take breaks away from their desks – and to lead by example.
You could also experiment with walking meetings. Whether you would normally meet in the boardroom or on Zoom, mix things up and take the meeting outside (with headphones if necessary). Walking meetings are a great way to get some physical activity in while carrying on working. What’s more, many people find that being outside in the fresh air stimulates their creativity and problem solving abilities. It’s a win-win situation.
5. Set the tone and lead by example
Encouraging your team to be more active is all very well but don’t let it be a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Leadership and a healthy lifestyle culture starts from the top. Your active lifestyle initiatives have a much greater chance of being adopted across the piece if the management joins in too.
With COVID-19 fundamentally reshaping the ‘new normal’ in the workplace, now is an excellent opportunity for businesses to review and upgrade their approach to employee support when it comes to their mental and physical welfare.