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physical wellbeing
24 Nov 2021

Physical Wellbeing at Work

Wellbeing is more than just being healthy. It more broadly encompasses the “feel-good factor”. The World Health Organisation defines wellbeing as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely absence of disease. There is evidence to suggest that staying healthy and active improves the ability to learn new things and maintain good brain function. 

Keeping fit and simply being active has many benefits for both mental and physical health. It is important for employees to keep active at work, especially those that spend the majority of their day sat down at a desk or in front of a screen. Inactivity has been described by the Department of Health and Social Care as a “silent killer”. Increasing evidence is being found to support the fact that sedentary behaviour (e.g., lying or sitting down) for long periods, is bad for your health. 

This blog will examine the implications of not being active, health benefits of keeping fit and outline what your organisation can be doing to enhance physical wellbeing for your employees. 

Health Implications of Inactivity 

People have become less active, technology has made lives easier, many drive cars or take public transport and many jobs involve minimal physical effort. Moreover, it was found that adults spend more than 9 hours a day sitting down, at work, on transport or in their leisure time. For people over 65, this increases to 10 hours or more. Office-based working has seemed to discourage an active lifestyle. Furthermore, it is thought that excessive sitting slows the metabolism. This affects our ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and metabolise fat. Consequently, this may cause weaker muscles and bones. 

Exercise can reduce the risk of major illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. Research shows that physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy as well as reduce the risk of stress, clinical depression and dementia  (NHS). This can make your team more engaged, energised and productive. Consequently, leading to a happier organisation. For example, 90% of business team leaders agree that wellness and a healthy workforce can influence morale, employee engagement and corporate performance, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. 

How Much Activity Should You Do? 

So, how much exercise should you be doing? The minimum amount of physical activity you should be doing is 150 minutes a week. It is also important to be active every day. The easiest form of exercise you can do is simply going on a walk or maybe a cycle! These two activities can be incorporated into your daily routine, in turn benefiting your physical and mental wellbeing. 

Furthermore, for those who spend long periods of time sitting, it has been recommended to break this up by a short one to two minutes of activity. For example, where possible get up and take a short walk around the office, or make a cup of tea! Either way, just stand up and get moving for a bit to break the prolonged sitting periods where possible!

What Can Your Organisation Do To Enhance Employee Physical Wellbeing? 

1. Build activity into your commute 

Encourage walking, cycling or running to work. Employees could potentially get off public transport earlier and walk the rest of the way. This incorporates fitness into their lifestyle and will improve strength and stamina and maybe even reduce commuting costs! 

2. Offer fitness tracking products 

Your organisation can offer free fitness tracking products to encourage employees to be more active! For example, they can have a step goal and work towards achieving this each day. A more cost-effective way could be to offer employee vouchers and discounts on fitness products through an employee reward scheme or even provide a savings club. This is where an employee can earn interest on money they put away, which can be used to spend on what they like! In this instance, encouraging spending on healthy foods or fitness related products. 

3. Incentivise physical activity within the organisation 

Moreover, organisations can encourage healthy competition. For example, creating organisational teams and having those teams attempt to walk the most steps each month could provide an organisational incentive to keeping fit! Staff could be incentivised by winning a prize e.g., money to spend on health and wellbeing products.

4. Build more activity into the workday 

Encouraging employees to get up and walk to talk to each other as opposed to emailing is a great way to get people away from their desks to take a short break! Also, encouraging regular screen breaks, stretch exercises or taking the stairs can be beneficial and build aerobic capacity. 

5. Having a gym on-site subsidising gym memberships 

Furthermore, having a gym on-site can encourage employees to be active around their working hours or on their lunch break! Even just having a space workers can use to stretch, do some yoga or meditate can be helpful. Furthermore, having showers will also be effective, not only if people want to exercise on their break but if they are building fitness into their commute. 

6. Go outside and be active at lunch 

Ensure to get some fresh air on your lunch break and maybe take a walk! Boost circulation and allow for mental recharging and reflection. Your organisation could have a lunchtime club for fitness, walking, yoga or other gentle exercises to encourage employees to participate in physical activities! 

7. Healthy snacks

Not only is being active important but so is diet and nutrition. Having healthy eating options such as fruit and healthy drinks at work can encourage healthy nutritional habits. Furthermore, allowing space to store and prepare fresh food on lunch breaks is also important. 

8. Give access to digital health care 

Technological advancements have made remote health care available with instant access to medical advice. This can reduce absenteeism caused by attending medical appointments and also presenteeism caused by the delay of seeking medical advice. For more broad, non-medical wellness advice, a Wellbeing Hub can be an effective solution to give insights into issues your employees need help with. Participate in sports leagues or charity events 

If there are sports teams in the community then your organisation could participate in these to encourage physical wellbeing. Furthermore, raising money for charity provides a great way to turn your fundraising into a physical event! 

Benefits of Physical Activity on Your Organisation

These simple organisational changes can alter habits your employees might be stuck in a cycle with. In turn, they can improve health and wellbeing on both a team and individual level. Having an organisational culture that encourages long hours or puts people under pressure is not setting a healthy workplace tone, therefore it is important to consider your culture as well as implement some of the above practices. 

Additionally, altering ergonomics and unhealthy environmental factors e.g., noise, bad lighting and desk space may improve physical wellbeing as well as collaboration and productivity within your organisation.

Employees are your most important asset. Without a healthy and engaged workforce, organisations will suffer. Organisations need to encompass mental, physical and financial wellbeing and help employees make the right choices. Overall, lack of employee physical wellbeing and its implications impact an organisation in terms of increased costs and decreasing productivity. A healthy workforce is essential for sustainable development and social wellbeing. A healthy workforce leads to a productive, efficient and healthy organisation. 

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