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Get A Move On

30 June 2017 | Updated 01 January 1970

Graham Bird explains why workplace exercise can be of benefit to both employee and employer.

Earlier this year, the British Heart Foundation announced that more than 20 million people in the UK are considered to be ‘physically inactive’. The study found that the average man in the UK spends a fifth of their lifetime sitting -an equivalent of 78 days each year (74 for women). Given that so many of our working lives revolve around our desks, it’s no shock that our working behaviour is one of the main causes of such inactivity.

The average busy lifestyle means that getting down to the gym for the NHS’ recommended 75 minutes of vigorous, aerobic exercise (per week), can seem like an impossible task. Which is the very reason why both employers and employees are starting to recognise the benefits of incorporating exercise into a working day. 


The benefits of a working-work-out

A recent study by Leeds Metropolitan University found that exercise during regular work hours can have a significant positive impact on employee performance. The study, which examined the influence of daytime exercise among office workers (with access to a company gym), found that on the days the employees exercised, their experience at work changed.

They reported an improvement in time management, were more productive and were also more socially cohesive. Furthermore, they went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day, partly because they didn’t have to squeeze exercise into their own personal time, thus improving their work-life balance. And the benefits don't end there. Studies have also found that active employees take fewer sick days, bring more energy to work and are generally happier people.


So how can exercise at work become a reality?

You’ll be pleased to know there are a vast number of ways to do this. For larger companies, corporate gym memberships may be the simple answer. Allowing employees to head to their gym during working hours will encourage them to exercise in work time. If your company is smaller, then you could try something as simple as encouraging employees to go for a jog during the working day. You could promote this activity further by installing shower rooms (if you have the space and budget). If you are lucky enough to have an empty room- you can create your own gym, as it doesn’t take a great deal of work or money to add few items of equipment.

Most businesses will have a moment in the day- be it early morning or even within a lunch break- when staff can assemble to exercise, in an unused meeting room or even outdoors, (weather permitting). You may have a staff member that is a budding Pilates instructor- or someone who can lead a boxercise or yoga class, but if instructors aren’t available, a simple workout DVD could suffice. Some organisations set up five-a-side football ‘lunchtime leagues’, that different departments can compete in - which can easily be played in near-by public parks or green spaces.

Another way of encouraging exercise is to implement a secure bike shed with a communal tool box with showers and lockers. This will certainly promote healthier methods of travel in a working day. The Government’s ‘cycle to work’ scheme is a popular employee benefit, and provides excellent tax savings on bikes and equipment.

Consider also the small cultural differences you can implement, such as encouraging the use of the stairs over the lift, increasing office movement by banning internal emails, and distancing staff from shared equipment such as printers and photocopiers, to promote extra mileage in their everyday workplace journeys. 

Regardless of how creative you get in encouraging workplace exercise, reframing it as an acceptable part of a working day will make it a lot easier for staff to allow time for it. Your workforce will then be less stressed, more focussed, and the time spent exercising will have an enormously positive effect on their productivity and well-being.

Picture: Obviously this is not an image of the author - Graham Bird, Workplace Director of Where We Work

Article written by Graham Bird | Published 30 June 2017


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