We are constantly being reminded of the importance of physical wellbeing, with media messages and government campaigns combining to reinforce the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Despite these positive messages, around 20 million people in the UK are deemed physically inactive. One in four UK adults are classed as obese, whilst a third of adults get less than the recommended six hours of sleep per night. In the second of our series of three blogs looking at the key aspects of wellbeing, we focus on the physical.
A healthy workforce is more likely to be a happy and productive workforce. Those who do naturally opt for a healthy lifestyle often look to their employers to help facilitate that lifestyle.
An estimated 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in 2016, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). These sick days cost employers an annual average of £554 per employee.
By contrast, people who exercise between three to five times a week show increased levels of energy and productivity. Their powers of concentration are boosted, sleep patterns are improved, and they take less time off sick.
The case for positive changes is a clear one, but employers should think beyondcorporate gym memberships. Although they are a welcome benefit, they can be costly, and many employees will prefer other options.
Workplace wellbeing programs are not just for large organisations: small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can benefit too. The benefits of workplace wellbeing include boosting morale, reduced absenteeism and improvements in productivity, which can be shared across all types of businesses. Following some simple steps mean these don’t have to be expensive.
Taking time out
Taking appropriate breaks during the working day is one of the keys to maintaining physical wellbeing. Breaks give employees the opportunity to recharge physical as well as mental batteries. In many cases, several short breaks can prove more beneficial than one long break. For those engaged in physical work, breaks can help fight fatigue, while for those who work in sitting positions, short breaks allow time to stretch limbs and give tired eyes a rest from screens.
Designated meal breaks should be long enough to give people the chance to eat properly, preferably away from their work stations. Quick snacks encourage a poor diet of convenience food rather than proper meals that will provide enough energy for the working day.
Providing fresh fruit is a simple way to encourage healthy snacking in the workplace and could be substituted for the cakes and sweets that are commonly shared in many workplaces.
Promoting cycling to work
Something as simple as a bike rack can help encourage employees to cycle to work by giving them somewhere safe to store their bicycles during working hours. The installation of a shower, if physical space and financial budgets allow, would not only further encourage cyclists but also give lunchtime exercisers somewhere to freshen up afterwards.
Providing details of nearby walking and cycling routes that people can use during their lunch breaks is another simple option. Also, if external meetings are taking place nearby, consider encouraging walking to and from the venue.
Allowing flexible working hours means people can fit exercise into their their daily routines. It can also help with family and personal commitments. Flexibility can be vital for those with dependents, and it is little surprise that employers who offer greater flexibility in working patterns often report reduced sickness and absenteeism as well.
Laying down the challenge
Setting a physical challenge for staff can have a number of benefits, whether it is running, walking, cycling, rowing or something completely different. It will help motivate people to get fit, promote teamwork and provide the perfect opportunity to raise some funds for a chosen charity.
Digital wellbeing apps grant employees access to free, personalised information about health and wellbeing issues, such as healthy eating, losing weight, sleeping better, lowering stress levels, and simply being more active.
Helping employees maintain a positive physical wellbeing makes good business sense. A healthy workforce is overwhelmingly likely to be a happier, more productive workforce, and a few simple steps can help. For more information on physical wellbeing in the workplace, please visit www.gov.uk/government/collections/workplace-health.