In today’s hybrid office organising physical activities at work to bring staff together to improve employee engagement, team spirit and wellbeing can be very effective. However, they need to be inclusive so that everyone can get involved and feel part of the team.
One of the more obvious choices is to introduce a charity challenge to run 5k – especially for things like Race for Life or a local 10K fun run to raise money for charity. These will only attract a small proportion of your workforce though and the dropout will be high the nearer the day as they realise that they have not trained for it and therefore feel too unfit to participate.
An employer has an obligation to look after the health and well-being of all their staff. This includes maintaining physical activity, which has the knock-on business benefit of reduced work stress and time off work for sickness.
With lost water cooler moments due to more hybrid working, team challenges and sports are more important than ever to encourage collaboration and team building. Creating a company-wide policy that includes recommendations for a physical activity programme will help line managers to incorporate movement and be more physically active during the working day.
Physically active employees are less likely to suffer from major health problems, less likely to take sick leave and less likely to have an accident at work (Dishman et al. 1998).
The cost of physical inactivity in England, including the direct costs of treatment for major lifestyle-related diseases and the indirect costs caused by sickness absence, has been estimated at £8.2 billion a year (DH 2004)
NICE guidelines on physical activity in the workplace acknowledge that increasing levels of physical activity in the workplace could have an impact on equality in the workplace, since not all employees may be able to participate in all the activities on offer (for example, shift workers or people with disabilities may be excluded from some activities). PHIAC emphasised the need to implement plans that give everyone an equal chance to improve their physical activity levels at work.
What can managers do to encourage employees to move more without feeling intimidated?
Advice by WellGiving MD, Paul Rhodes, is to offer a wide variety of exercise options, he says “You don’t have to run a marathon to be physically active, you just need to move”. One company that used the WellGiving platform performed over 37 different types of exercises. Employees were encouraged to choose what they felt most comfortable doing and focus on that for their challenge goal.
Here is Paul’s 18-movement checklist for managers.
- Set goals for how far they will walk, cycle or how long they will do an aerobic workout for or how many times they will practice yoga during the week.
- Set up a fake commute for those working from home – enjoy listening to a podcast, reading or meditating during the time you would normally be travelling to work. Go for a walk or bike ride if that is how you used to travel to work.
- Find inclusive sustainable activities that everyone can get involved in such as litter picking or clearing up an old orchard or river.
- Introduce a leaderboard for some healthy competition, it is amazing how individuals rise to the challenge when they can see how well they are doing against others.
- Using a charity as a motivator is a good way to encourage staff involvement, raising money for others makes them feel good and they will always invest their time and energy into a good cause, especially if it is one close to their hearts.
- Invite them to try something new, perhaps taking them out of their comfort zone. They will feel a sense of achievement at the end of it.
- Organise a photo competition, it gets people walking outside in nature and focused on a subject they are interested in.
- Do the sports you love, not the ones that you think you should do. Help employees to feel comfortable in their choice and not do something because that is what most people are doing.
- Be flexible to allow staff to move freely throughout the day when they are most motivated such as during the working day, before work or to leave a bit earlier to exercise after work.
- Personalise the activities for each team member to make it feel more tailored to them.
- Allow staff the time to exercise, it will be more effective if senior staff members are paving the way forward and developing a culture where it is OK to exercise and build it into your work routine.
- Introduce a team sports day and give people plenty of notice to practice for the events they enter for.
- Make it acceptable for employees to do challenges that are individual sports activities, they don’t always have to be team sports.
- Introduce standing desks into the workplace. These can improve motivation, increase energy levels and as a result better productivity.
- Use Gamify to turn movement into a fun game where leaderboards and rewards can be introduced.
- It is important to focus on minutes rather than distance. Not everyone wants to run a marathon and they might prefer to practice yoga or barre. WHO recommends that people move for 150 to 300 minutes of activity each week.
- Reward everyone who joins in and gets involved. Celebrate success and motivate others to try something new and have a go at a challenge.
- The most important thing is to have fun!