How to support the physical wellbeing of staff

 

Work and physical wellbeing might not obviously go hand in hand. However, if employees are involved in some physical activity every week, they’re more likely to feel energised and motivated at work.

 

According to studies, sitting for long periods of time decreases mental wellbeing and has a knock-on effect on productivity at work. Prioritising physical wellness at work has proven to show results. For example, 81% report felling more motivated even after just taking a walk at lunch. It’s a no-brainer that HR needs to start prioritising physical activity.

 

With many jobs involving prolonged periods stooped over laptop screens and many employees wishing to be more active, employers have a duty of care to ensure staff don’t neglect their health. With this in mind, employee benefits provider, Sodexo Engage, has put together a short checklist of ways employers can support the physical wellbeing of staff, and not all come at a cost:

 

  1. Make it social

For many, sport is a bit of a chore, but making it social can add some pleasure to activities that are otherwise hard work. Employers might want to consider motivating the team by introducing an online channel for wellbeing and fitness, where everyone can share hints and tips and articles on the topic.

Introducing a fitness club including a programme of activities can do a lot to get people moving throughout the day. Employers can set up, or encourage employees to start up, team sports clubs, like work football or netball teams.

It could also be fun to incentivise physical activity, tapping into everyone’s competitive streak. Managers could create friendly competition that encourages employees to get active for a prize, which could be cash, a voucher towards new fitness equipment or a fitness tracker.

  1. Cycle to Work

Recent data from Sodexo Engage revealed the pandemic led to a cycle to work boom. This surge was likely generated by a number of factors - an aversion to the cramped confined spaces often found on public transport and a new-found love for the great outdoors created by lockdowns and the many walks we all endured. With many staff now back to commuting and working from the office, managers will need to prepare for cycling staff members.

Equipping the workplace with facilities, such as bike racks and showers will ensure staff feel comfortable. But managers can also encourage team members to get on their bikes by offering tailored benefits. Cycle to Work schemes allow employees to pay for bikes and biking equipment through salary sacrifice. Making physical activity accessible for employees will be a motivating factor for many staff members to get fit.

  1. Take advantage of lunch breaks

Shockingly, only 49% take a lunch break if they have lots on. It’s a familiar situation for many of us - the workload piles up and lunch is the first thing to be sacrificed, but this time is precious and without breaks, staff risk getting burned out.

It’s important managers make it clear that lunch is critical, through talking to staff or ensuring meetings don’t occur during this period. Employees can use this time to relax and reset, but they might also want to get sporty during their break. In the winter, when it’s pitch black after work, it’s particularly important that staff have time during daylight hours to engage in physical activity.

  1. Offer flexible working

It may sound strange, but finding the time to exercise is often the hardest part. Trying to squeeze a gym class in with a 9-5 and various personal commitments is no easy feat. What’s more, when working long hours, many people just want to make the most of their leisure time and relax.

However, being flexible with employees about when they start could give them time to exercise before coming to work, or if they can take a longer lunch to fit in a gym class in the middle of the day.

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:

The vast majority of us are well-aware the physical wellbeing is critical. Regular exercise is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Sadly, work can often get in the way of physical activity, and even be detrimental. Many of us spend long hours seated and squinting at screens, the effects of which will need to be mitigated with regular exercise and breaks away from the office chair.

“Given that employees spend so much of their lives at work, employers have a duty to support staff in this department and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. These very simple changes and offerings can help keep staff healthy, happy and productive.”

 

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