Workplace Wellness: Promoting a Culture of Physical Activity

people taking jump shot inside a gym
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More and more companies are starting to add wellness programs to their employee benefits. Increasing physical activity increases productivity and decreases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Countless studies have also shown that being active relieves mild anxiety and depression, and improves a person’s general sense of well-being. Physically active employees also require less sick leaves and have lower healthcare costs.

Aside from improving employee health, a wellness program helps attract and retain quality employees. The 2018 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer – the world’s largest human resources consulting firm – revealed that today’s employees and job candidates prefer to work with companies that focus on employee health and well-being.

The question is: how can companies create a sustainable program that promotes physical activity in the workplace?

A Culture of Health in the Office

There is no one-size-fits-all physical activity program, as each company has different budgets and employee needs. However, the crucial step to success for any program is a culture of health. Dr Nico Pronk – founding and past-president of the International Association for Worksite Health Promotion – describes a culture of health as the idea that employees can fit physical activity into their workday without asking permission from their supervisor.

Offering active leadership support is a significant component in building a culture of health. Aside from allowing employees to participate in physical activity, managers themselves should participate in the wellness programs themselves.

Creating the Company Wellness Program

man working in a standing desk in the office

Introducing an organisation-wide wellness program involves looking at the existing policies of other companies. Inviting input from work personnel such as human resources, and other staff, goes some way making the program as inclusive as possible.

The following are common programs that promote physical activity at work:

  • Look at the existing office space and maximise it to be conducive for physical activity. The changes don’t have to be drastic, and they can be as simple as encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Several businesses in busy cities such as Sydney and Melbourne introduced sit-stand desks in their offices to reduce long hours of sitting.
  • Adopt flexible working policies so that employees can juggle work and trips to the gym.
  • Encourage employees to walk or bike to work. Offer secure bicycle storage at your office.
  • Partner with nearby gyms and fitness studios to offer membership discounts for employees.
  • Work with the local government to increase the opportunities for physical activity, such as improving sidewalks for increased walkability.
  • Sponsor community activities such as fun runs and encourage employees to participate.
  • Run a competition to encourage employees to stay active. For example, the worker with the most number of steps within a month wins a gift certificate or a cash prize.

Physical activity plays an important role in a person’s health, well-being and quality of life. Healthy employees benefit businesses as they are more productive and require less sick leave. Creating an overall culture of health and developing a successful physical activity program will benefit employees and businesses alike.