What’s the Business Case for Physical Fitness?
What has the physical fitness of individuals got to do with employers? you may ask. In today’s drive for improved productivity and efficiency, employees often feel compelled to miss lunch breaks, to be visibly sat at their desks early in the morning and to answer emails well into the night. However, encouraging this type of culture is not only harmful to employees’ well-being, it makes poor business sense.
In their report “The True Cost of Poor Health“, Mayo Clinic Health Solutions details how poor health costs employers $millions each year in absenteeism and poor productivity. Yet, when we speak with clinical researchers they often report the challenges of fitting exercise into their busy working day.
According to the mental health charity Mind, physical exercise is essential not only for physical well-being, but also for mental well-being – a matter that employers need to take very seriously. Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) estimates that mental health issues cost employers £30 billion a year through lost productivity, recruitment and absence and questions : why aren’t we doing more about it?
Creating a Culture for Physical Fitness
The majority of employees work hard and are committed to doing a good job. They often spend long hours at their desks, in meeting rooms, in cars and on aeroplanes. This lifestyle can infringe on people’s exercise routines and opportunities to play sport. Which needs to be considered since we are not designed for sitting for long periods of time – walking is one of the things that defines us as human beings!
So what can employers do to create a culture that encourages people to move? Some organizations have the budget and space to set up social / exercise areas with gyms and table tennis facilities for example. However, providing these facilities is meaningless if people don’t feel that they can use them without being judged by others, therefore it’s important that employees are encouraged to make use of them – perhaps by managers leading the way.
For many employers it will not be possible to provide exercise / social space for employees. However, they can still take some simple, low-cost steps to support and encourage physical activity. Such as:
- Encouraging “walk and talk meetings” – this is something we’ve trialled at IAOCR and found to be hugely successful! Apart from freeing up meeting space, it encourages spontaneous discussion and we’ve found it reduces the number of unnecessary emails. Of course, it isn’t always possible to meet without paperwork, a projector screen or teleconference facilities. But, where it is possible for two or three people to talk through a challenge or discuss an issue we actively encourage people to walk around the business park.
- Use fitbits – Active staff members may already have one, however more sedentary employees that don’t find time to exercise may be surprised by how little they move on a normal working day. These relatively inexpensive devices can be loaned to staff for a week or so to help raise awareness of how many steps they are taking each day. Many can also be programmed to buzz at set intervals to remind people to move. Often a few days of changed behavior such as swapping the elevator for the stairs, breaking from screen time for a quick walk, etc. is enough to reprogram someone’s behavior. If teammates all encourage each-other to be more active this new behavior soon becomes the norm.
- Encouraging people to take active lunch breaks or join others for pre/post-work exercise – Office football (soccer) teams are often popular in the UK. However, other team sports and active options for people that aren’t particularly sporty are often overlooked. Speak with employees to get their ideas and input into what activities and exercises they would like to get involved in and how employees can work with the company to make it happen.
Small Investment for Huge Rewards
Providing a culture that encourages and enables physical exercise is essential for employee engagement. It can be done relatively simply and at a low cost, but the rewards are huge for both employees and employer.
Warning : if you do this successfully you won’t see your employees sat at their desks for hours at a time without moving! But what you will see is increased interaction, increased productivity, improved health and lower absenteeism.
Have a chat with your team and find out what would help them to get more active.
Join Us on the 3rd Thursday of Each Month
On the third Thursday of each month, throughout the Clinical Research Year of Engagement, IAOCR will be sharing simple-to-implement ways employers can engage their workforce by taking a “whole employee” approach – considering the wellbeing of employees’ minds, bodies and souls. By doing this employers will benefit from intrinsically loyal and healthy workforces that are committed to achieving success.
Share your ideas and join the conversation on our LinkedIn Group or follow us on Facebook. We’d love you to engage with us and share great examples about your team. How do you keep fit and active? How do / can you encourage each-other?
It’s Time to Get Engaged!
Spread the word in your organization – email us and we’ll send you a poster to email out to your team and pin up on the notice boards.
How Engaged Is Your Workforce?
It’s about results!
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