Healthy staff = a healthy business
Your employees’ health, fitness and well-being is not only important to them, it can also have big benefits for your business. We take a look at the benefits of improving health in the workplace, and also some initiatives and programmes you can set up to promote a healthy workforce.
From paper-based systems to digital platforms, from the letter to the email, from the call switchboard to the mobile smartphone. The digital revolution has changed the world of work. We can now do almost anything in an instant and from wherever we may be. However, this revolution may have had an adverse effect in terms of health, fitness, and well-being in the workplace.
Compared to 100 years ago our workplace activity levels have decreased. Instead of moving around the workplace we now seem to be tied to a desk or staring at a computer screen, and it’s having an adverse effect. To highlight the problem, a 2015 survey found that 45% of women and 37% of men spent less than 30 minutes a day on their feet at work; and nearly two-thirds were worried that sitting at work was having a negative impact on their health.
Stress and mental health issues have also come to the fore in recent years. It has been estimated that in 2015, 17 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety, and depression - costing the economy an estimated £2.4 billion.
So why should companies consider health, fitness and well-being programmes? What are the benefits to your employees, and to your business, and what initiatives can you use to promote a healthy workforce?
The benefits of health, fitness and well-being initiatives in the workplace
The most obvious benefit of health and fitness initiatives is that of physical health. By incorporating health and fitness in the workplace, participants should start to see benefits such as weight loss and an improvement in physical related health issues such as back pain. As an added benefit this improved physical health will lead to a boost in energy levels, well-being and also mean quicker recovery from minor illness due to an improved immune system.
As well as the physical benefits, health and fitness also brings with it an improvement in mental health. Even a modest amount of exercise can help. Studies have shown that exercise can help treat mild depression as effectively as medication, is a natural anti-anxiety treatment, helps relieve stress and can help you sleep better. What’s more, by exercising you release endorphins which makes you happier and puts you in a far better mood.
Reduced staff absence and lower staff turnover
The average UK employee takes 6.3 sick days a year costing businesses £16 billion, so anything you can do to reduce absenteeism will benefit your company. And of course one of the most effective ways is through health, fitness and well-being initiatives. It’s simple really: the healthier and fitter your staff, the easier they can fight off illness; they have more energy, they’re more productive and less prone to stress. Winners all round. It can also reduce staff turnover, as any initiative you introduce shows your loyalty to employees as individuals rather than just as workers.
Initiatives to improve physical health and fitness
For many, the term ‘fitness’ strikes fear into the heart. They see packed gyms, embarrassingly tight clothes, sergeant major type instructors, the sweat, the fear of being judged, and long runs. It’s enough to put anyone off. But it doesn't have to be this way, you could make it into a competition.
You could set goals and organise the workplace into teams (for those who wish to participate anyway). Make it fun and reward those who achieve their goals. Why not set up a running club - putting people into different abilities if you need to - and use GPS apps to see who ran the furthest this week, or who is the most consistent runner. You could utilise wearable tech to reward those who take over a set amount of steps each week. There are plenty of options, it’s just about finding the right ones for your employees.
If possible why not take your meetings out of the meeting room and onto the streets (or at least around the office). Not only will a walking meeting help improve your health and fitness, it may also improve the health of the meeting. We’ve probably all been in those meetings that seem to drag on for hours, going round and round in circles, going from one unrelated topic to another. But by holding a walking meeting, or at least standing, people won't want the meeting to drag and will, therefore, focus more on the tasks at hand.
Subsidised gym membership
For many, the gym is the location of choice to improve their health and fitness, and there has been an uptake from many employers offering on-site gyms. The on-site gym not only means that workers don’t need to travel but they can exercise before, after or even during the working day. However for most an on-site gym is a luxury. For those who can’t accommodate an on-site gym, it's worth checking the local area for gyms that offer a corporate discount. Most do it and it’s a great perk to offer your employees who would be otherwise paying the normal rate.
Using the stairs
One of the simplest ways of improving health and fitness in the workplace is to encourage workers to use the stairs instead of waiting for the lifts. Whilst it may seem like a simple idea, taking the stairs ‘burns more calories per minute than jogging and is officially classed as a ‘vigorous’ form of exercise by the UK Department of Health’; what's more, it’s free (if you have stairs that is). You could incorporate a competition or gamification-based element to get people motivated, and if you’re looking to be a little bit more advanced there’s plenty of tech out there such as smart signs and tracking apps.
Healthy office snacks
The workplace isn't the most healthy environment in terms of food sometimes. It’s always someone's birthday and that means there’s always a cake or chocolate there to tempt you at every turn. And don’t get us started when it comes to the Christmas period: the diet is well and truly out of the window. But how do you combat this?
Whilst it may be impossible to stop all the unhealthy snacking that goes on, there are ways you can help reduce it. One way is by offering staff healthy alternatives such as fruit. It may require a small investment but you can either provide fruit yourself or there are companies out there, such as Fruitful Office, that will deliver fruit to your office. This way your employees will have a healthy alternative, unhealthy snacking is reduced and of course, the benefits of eating fruit are well known.
Personal trainer park sessions
If you have a group of employees looking to improve health you could think about hiring a personal trainer and having a group class in the local park, or even in the office if you have room. It’s not for everyone one, but for those who like the idea it’s a great way of bringing the team together, improving fitness as a group and challenging each other. It will require some investment but employees who are looking to improve fitness and who may be considering hiring a personal trainer anyway will see this as a huge perk.
Improving employee mental well-being
Recognition and employee engagement
Everyone wants to feel valued for the work that they do and the contributions that they make to the company they work for. That’s why it’s important to not only recognise the success of your employees but to also give positive feedback whenever possible. However, for recognition to truly be effective it needs to be more than just the occasional compliment or pat on the back, it needs to be fully ingrained within the company culture, delivered in a timely manner and linked to your overall company values and goals.
It has been shown organisations utilising value-based recognition programs saw a positive uplift in employee engagement, employee happiness, and employee relationships; and helped the companies instill and reinforce the company values.
Greater employee autonomy and involvement in decision-making
Involving staff in decision-making and giving them a degree of autonomy can help improve all round employee well-being. ACAS says that well-being is increased when “employees have a degree of autonomy over how they do their job - this does not mean that people should ignore set processes, but could mean that staff have a level of discretion about how they undertake their work. Involvement in organisational decision-making can also be beneficial.”
By offering flexible working you demonstrate that you trust your employees to get on with their job whenever and from wherever they may be. This trust between yourself and your employees will not only improve well-being but could also have the benefit of sustained high job performance. And that’s not all. Flexible working gives your employees more of a work-life balance. They can now choose to work when it suits them best or could fit work around other commitments such as children. This balance is not only great for well-being it’s also good from a health perspective.
Health, fitness and well-being initiatives are just one way of improving and reducing employee absence. Find out more about how you plan ahead and reduce the impact on your business with our planning for unplanned absence guide.