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Published: 21 February 2017

Why exercise in the workplace could be the answer to a happy, healthy team

A business’ workforce is its most valuable asset, and a healthy mindset is crucial for maximum productivity, focus and happiness for employees. It’s no secret that physical and mental health are intrinsically linked, so why are the benefits of physical exercise so often overlooked by employers?

Our ambassador, Professor Greg Whyte, explores the role exercise can play in promoting the overall wellbeing of staff and the ways that HR managers can encourage more physical activity in the workplace.

Mental health was once a bit of a taboo subject, but more recently it is getting the recognition it deserves and must be tackled in order to reduce its impact and safeguard the very thing that keeps this country going, its working people.

In the last week, the Government announced plans to increase the support and resources available for employees who suffer a mental health illness in the workplace as part of a wider scheme to aid people with mental health issues. As mental health has significant implications for the healthcare system, for businesses and for the wellbeing of individuals across the country, failing to tackle it effectively can cost the economy and people dearly.

Mental health issues count for almost a quarter of NHS activity and cost the British economy approximately £15bn per year in productivity and long-term sickness expenditures. A full assault on how to avoid, prevent, deal with and overcome it is vital to keep businesses and their workforces happy.

Impact of mental health on the workplace:

  • Reduced performance
  • Reduced productivity
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism
  • Gaps in activity and efficiency
  • Increased medical care costs
  • Unhappy atmosphere and culture

In today’s ‘always on’ society, coping with stress is an ever increasing issue for employees and employers alike. As well as stress, some of the most common mental illnesses that face the country’s workforce are anxiety and depressive disorders, of which have enormous economic and workplace performance costs. Therefore, it is in employers’ best interests to put measures in place to keep the wellbeing of its employees front-of-mind. According to a study by the Research Institute for Sport & Exercise Sciences, suggest up to 40 days a year are lost due to depression. Although it may not provide the entire answer when used in isolation, introducing health and wellness initiatives into the workplace can have a direct impact on the mental health of employees and shouldn’t be overlooked when considering an employer’s duty of care to staff.

Improving our understanding of the connection between employee health and performance and identifying strategies to enhance wellness is an investment in human capital that can lead to greater organisational success.

As well as getting your legal house in order by making sure there are appropriate reporting systems, procedures and provisions in place for team members who are battling with mental health issues; softer and equally beneficial health and wellness initiatives can be introduced to improve the situation – for example: Work Site Health Promotion (WHP). Such initiatives can include subsidised gym memberships, group fitness sessions or programmes, lunchtime yoga/pilates sessions, deskercise,  intercompany tournaments and walking meetings to name a few.

Introducing team fitness can help people interact with other team members that they may not have crossed paths with ordinarily – improving team cohesion in the process.

For employers, it is crucial that they don’t just implement or offer such initiatives and not participate themselves. The most successful health and wellness programmes include senior management support and involvement. At the very least, if employers are practicing what they preach and getting involved in the action too, employees are provided with an opportune moment to get to know the boss a little better and that can only be a good thing!

Greg Whyte

Read more from Greg Whyte

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