In today’s fast-paced working culture, prioritising employee wellbeing has become more critical than ever for organisations looking to attract and retain the best talent for their business. Encouraging physical activity at work brings with it a whole host of benefits to your workforce, from boosting the overall health and happiness of employees, to enhancing productivity, reducing absenteeism, and fostering a positive work environment. 

Here are some ideas for employers looking to help motivate their workforce to stay active during work hours.

Create a wellbeing culture

Creating a culture that focuses on the wellbeing of individuals is often considered one of the most important people-centric aspects of an organisation – and is the foundation for promoting physical activity in the workplace. Business leaders should prioritise employee health by implementing policies that value and encourage an active lifestyle. This can include providing flexible work opportunities that allow for breaks and physical activity during the workday, promoting a healthy work-life balance, and integrating wellness initiatives into company values and mission statements.

To begin with, leadership teams need to lead by example and endorse physical activity and initiatives in the workplace. Managers and senior leaders should be openly discussing the benefits of being active, which in turn can send a powerful message to employees, encouraging them to prioritise their health.

Provide access to active spaces

Offering employees access to dedicated ‘active spaces’ within the workplace can help to promote physical activity, leading to enhanced productivity once back at their desks or workstations.

It may be worth considering transforming under-utilised areas into designated exercise zones or wellness rooms, equipped with exercise equipment, yoga mats, or even movable walls that allow for larger breakout space if needed, which can be used during breaks or lunch hours. Additionally, consider partnering with a local fitness centre or gym to offer discounted memberships, making it part of the rewards and benefits package for your employees.

It’s important to make it convenient for employees to access these active spaces, which should be easily accessible, well lit, and properly equipped. According to research by Westfield Health, 47% of employees say they don’t have access to any form of physical activity provision or facilities at work. However, active space can be an affordable solution that entices professionals and helps to retain current talent.

Organise wellness challenges and events

Wellness challenges and events can be excellent initiatives to engage employees and make physical activity enjoyable. Consider organising step challenges, fitness contests, or team sports activities with clear rewards for the individuals or teams. These initiatives foster team building, boost morale, and create a sense of camaraderie among employees.

To maximise participation, involve employees in the planning process through steering groups, so they feel part of the journey – seek their input on the types of challenges or events they would enjoy. That way, they will be more likely to stick with it and perhaps suggest other initiatives in the future. If the company intranet allows, add progress trackers or online platforms where employees can monitor their achievements and interact with one another – this can be a great way of bringing people together.

Promote active commuting

It has often been said that allowing employees to adopt active commuting methods such as cycling can significantly contribute to their overall physical and mental health. Offering incentives such as cycle-to-work schemes, providing bicycle storage facilities, or even establishing shower facilities for those who prefer walking, jogging, or cycling to work, could increase the number of employees who change their commuting style.

Consider partnering with local bike shops or fitness retailers to offer discounts on bicycles, helmets, or other related equipment. By actively supporting alternative commuting methods, businesses not only promote physical activity but also contribute to reducing carbon footprints and easing traffic congestion.

Make the most out of walking meetings

Whenever feasible, suggest walking meetings instead of confining discussions to the meeting room. Walking meetings not only provide an opportunity to engage in physical activity but also enhance creativity and focus. Instead of sitting around a table, take a stroll outdoors or within the office premises with your team members while discussing ideas or conducting one-to-ones.

Walking meetings can invigorate both the mind and body, as the combination of fresh air and increased blood flow can promote innovative thinking, and lead to more engaging and productive discussions. Research shows that physical activity, such as walking, boosts brain activity and enhances creative thinking – making walking meetings a great initiative for workers both physically and mentally.

Utilise standing desks and workstations

Standing desks and workstations have gained popularity for their ability to combat the adverse effects of prolonged sitting without interrupting workflow. Post pandemic, searches for standing desks increased by 34% as back, neck and shoulder pain issues became more apparent in the workplace.

To ease the musculoskeletal issues that can occur through sedentariness, it’s a good idea to allow employees the opportunity to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day with adjustable desks. Standing helps improve posture, increases energy expenditure, and can make all the difference in a person’s long-term health. With modern-day standing desks, switching between a sitting desk position and a standing desk position is just at a push of a button.

Encourage frequent breaks

While the traditional working day has changed – whether in terms of flexible hours, working from home or remotely – regular breaks throughout the day remain essential for maintaining productivity and, with it, employee wellbeing. Managers should be encouraging employees to utilise their lunch breaks, as well as short breaks throughout the day to help increase focus. A trip to the kitchen for a drink or a brief stroll around the office, can help employees relax and recharge.

It may also be worth highlighting the importance of taking breaks for physical and mental wellbeing purposes. Offer resources such as meditation apps and tools as well as those for physical exercise that provide short workouts for mind and body that can be done during breaks.

By implementing active initiatives, businesses can create an environment that encourages and supports physical activity, ultimately improving employee satisfaction. Remember, a physically active workforce is more engaged, productive, and resilient, often leading to greater business success.

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