Creating opportunities for movement in the workplace

25 January 2019

Get a move on it!

The average worker spends 8-9 hours per day sitting. And once it’s time to clock off, for a high percentage of people, the sedentary lifestyle continues. Cars, televisions and computers have all contributed to our decline in movement, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal problems, long-term health conditions and poor mental health.

In the workplace, the effects are also far-reaching –– a lack of physical activity affects staff productivity levels, increases the likelihood of presenteeism and contributes to long-term absences.

Currently, 27.5% of adults across the globe don’t meet the WHO’s physical activity guidelines of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, this epidemic - known as the sitting disease - is costing companies billions globally.

From small business owners to heads of international corporates, cultivating a company culture that encourages physical activity makes sense. Integrating opportunities for more movement at work can strengthen employee engagement, enhance productivity and bolster job performance, ultimately boosting the bottom line.

Whether it’s as simple as stopping to stretch routinely, taking the stairs instead of the lift or heading to a lunchtime fitness class, by making small incremental changes to the way your workforce behaves, it can help to improve the performance of your staff and company.

“Regular physical activity is critical for employee health and wellbeing and this has a direct impact on the cost of medical benefits and in turn, the bottomline.” Richard Roper, Managing Director, JLT Benefits Solutions (Asia).

Leaders, HR Managers and Supervisors have the power to influence their workforce, so put that influence into practice and get your staff on the road to a healthier lifestyle. In doing so, you’ll find company goals and objectives that bit easier to reach.

Benefits & Support

Whether it’s subsidising gym memberships, offering bike storage and showers for employees who actively commute or incentivising staff with prizes for reaching their goals, by showing your support and enthusiasm it can help to motivate your workforce to move more.

The key is to be proactive –– breaking down barriers to physical activity, creating a variety of accessible opportunities to move and rewarding employees when they do. And make it a team effort: find out what appeals to individuals, share personal goals and be in charge of making sure your staff stay accountable.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but bespoke initiatives can help your staff become more active.

Office Design

Office design can play a huge role in helping to nudge employees in the right direction.

Placing water coolers and kitchen areas further away from peoples' workspaces, providing stand up cubicles and creating layouts that enable your employees to move around more freely can all help to subtly reframe the way your workforce engages with physical activity.

Take Google, it's New York headquarters features a rock climbing wall where employees can go to work off some stress. MINDBODY Online, meanwhile, has a giant slide in its headquarters where staff can spiral down to the first floor before taking the stairs back up.

By creating buildings that encourage more movement in organic and intuitive ways, sustained changes in behaviour are more likely to take place within your workforce.

Fitness Classes

For larger offices, free on-site fitness classes, yoga and other forms of group exercise are an effective way to promote physical activity in a fun and inclusive way. For smaller buildings, outdoor run clubs, bike trips and partnerships with local fitness studios all offer the same benefits.

Exercise is known to help combat stress, improve focus and enhance memory, all of which are likely to lead to a more efficient and fulfiled workforce. However, without the flexibility needed to participate in these types of activities, employees are less likely to engage with them. So, encouraging your employees to take breaks in order to participate in physical activities is key.

By normalising this type of behaviour, it is much more likely to be adopted.

Education

Implementing the types of initiatives mentioned above are essential for increasing movement in the workplace. However, education is also imperative.

Employees need to understand why exercise is so beneficial, so start conversations about the benefits of physical activity, invite experts to teach workshops and get your staff involved in initiatives by creating business-wide campaigns.

A holistic approach with a consistent message will work best, so make sure your employees know what they have at their fingertips. Create a wellness portal, assign team leaders and implement a workplace physical activity policy that everybody has access to.

You’ve already made a significant investment in your workforce, by fostering a culture of physical activity you’ll help to maximize your ROI.

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This article was produced by Welltodo, in collaboration with JLT.

JLT specialises in providing employee benefits consultancy, insurance placement, health and wellness services to our corporate clients around the world. Our services range from a simple life cover in a single country to designing and implementing a global employee benefits strategy. Our focus is to help our clients manage and reduce their healthcare costs, attract and retain employees and increase productivity by creating a healthier and happier workforce.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact Richard Roper, Managing Director, Benefits Solutions (Asia).