Published: 05 January 2017
How to take an active stance on employee wellbeing
It’s no secret that long days spent sitting at a desk and working on a computer at the office can have a detrimental effect on employee wellbeing and productivity. For many industries this is hard to avoid, but some companies are realising that promoting activity in the workplace can not only improve staff wellbeing, but can also unlock the true potential of their workforce in the process.
Companies that actively acknowledge the benefits of a healthy workplace by taking steps to promote wellbeing at work, through the likes of subsidised gym memberships, exercise classes and workout facilities, are likely to reap the benefits in terms of workforce productivity and positivity. In doing so, employers are allowing their staff to take a flexible approach to staying active, while being able to fit it around their daily work schedules.
Initiatives that firms could consider encouraging employees to engage with are:
- Subsidised schemes – such schemes include the Government-led Cycle2Work Scheme - which allows staff to buy bikes at discounted prices, as a means of travelling to and from work.
- A fruit swap - a workplace trend which is quickly gaining pace is offering free fruit bundles or healthy alternatives to the usual sweet treats that are often available.
- On-site exercise – many employers are now promoting wellbeing by providing employees with gym and showering facilities on-site in order to help weave exercise into the working day more easily.
- Common room classes – inviting external experts such as yoga instructors to commandeer the communal common areas of a workplace and conduct a session for interested staff.
- Company-wide initiatives – such as the FitBit challenge that Shakespeare Martineau is already doing.
However, with all the options available, there are still businesses that are lagging behind when it comes to encouraging staff to get active and, whilst the responsibility does not lie solely with the employer, business heads should lead by example and set the standard for keeping active at work.
Taking the sporting world as an example, every team has a leader who members look to for inspiration, and this works in very much the same way in the office. If junior team members see their managers taking an active and responsible approach to wellbeing, they are much more likely to examine the way they work and adopt similar practices.
Outside of the workplace many people play sport and undertake physical exercise as a way to clear and focus the mind. Encouraging staff to take a similar approach at work can have the same positive impact. Just as athletes use time on the pitch to let off steam and regain focus, HR managers and employers should also ensure the workday is segmented with times where employees are not at their desks.
There are some simple steps that carry no cost at all and therefore there really is no reason not to introduce them. These include:
- Going for a walk at lunchtimes
- Taking the stairs rather than the elevator
- Getting off the tube a stop earlier
- Eating lunch outside, as opposed to in front of your screen (weather permitting)
- Walking to another floor or department to learn something new about a member of the team
Tweaks to the daily routine which are as small as this could prove incredibly effective for not only promoting physical wellbeing, but also to help employees to unwind, meet new team members and increase their alertness before the busy working afternoon gets underway.
Employers should also do their utmost to ensure staff are able to adopt a healthy work-life balance. Early starts and late finishes can invariably lead to tiredness and lethargy, and ample sleep and regular exercise are not only vital to staying healthy, they are also the key to keeping a sharp mind at work. Employees that are considerably exceeding their working hours should be a clear indicator to business owners that something has gone awry and shouldn’t be encouraged. This could be due to an excessive workload or a need for training around a particular task.
Balancing a healthy lifestyle and a demanding job is definitely not easy and any steps which can be taken by an employer to help workers adapt their daily routines to include more exercise are invaluable. The resulting increases in productivity, wellbeing and happiness will be hard to miss.