With many workplaces now split between home and on-site facilities, employees may encounter extra barriers to accessing physical health support. As leaders navigate the new normal, physical wellbeing policies may take a back seat to mental health and pandemic recovery.
The NHS recommends that all adults do some type of physical activity every day, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. Spending too much time sitting down is linked to around 70,000 deaths per year in the UK, but just 30 minutes of exercise per day can help counter these effects.
Research also shows that less physically active individuals have higher rates of unplanned illness-related absenteeism. With small changes in behaviour having a big impact on health, productivity and absence rates, how can employers encourage their people to be more active both in and outside the workplace?
Creating a culture of movement
Workplace culture drives behaviour, and employers who take a proactive approach to physical health will empower their people to move more throughout the day.
Leaders can embed activity into their culture by including physical health support as part of their workplace wellbeing strategy. Some potential policies to trial include:
- A cycle to work scheme
- Free online exercise classes or educational fitness webinars
- Flexible workspaces and standing desks
- Discounted gym access and equipment
- Allowing time for physical activity ‘on the clock’ as part of the working day
The approach will look different for each organisation, so it’s important to ask your people how you can help them to stay active at work and what support they need from you.
Remember to communicate new policies clearly and encourage employees to take advantage of them. Evaluate the success of your programme by measuring engagement with physical activity and its impact on the wider business over time.
Tips to help employees move more
The easiest way to build physical activity into the working day is to enable employees to prioritise it. HR teams could start by offering a monthly wellbeing email with physical health tips, resources and links to online workouts.
Managers across the business should be encouraged to discuss physical wellbeing in 1:1s alongside targets, performance and mental health. If managers make physical activity a priority, their team will feel empowered to do the same.
In terms of on-site facilities, leaders can invest in their people’s health by converting an area of the workplace into an active space. This could be a small meeting room or quiet corner with some simple equipment such as mats, dumbbells and resistance bands. A designated space helps employees feel more comfortable exercising at work.
If you can’t offer access to a workplace gym, consider an employee discount for popular chain gyms to help your people to stay fit whatever their schedule.
Links and resources
NHS exercise guidelines – Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64.
Get Britain Standing – Information and resources to help people sit less both in and outside the workplace.
Tomato Timer – A web-based timer which reminds you to take regular breaks using the Pomodoro Technique.
Active Spaces – Adaptable spaces tailored to your workplace to get your people moving.
Wellbeing webinars – Our live and recorded webinars include topics such as back pain and posture.
Health screening – Confidential 1:1 employee health checks with an experienced coach.