Exercise on the job: why you should pay your employees to workout

Exercising in the workplace isn’t a new idea, but it’s still quite radical in some sectors

Moving well and often is one of the most important things that we can do for our body and mind, especially during the workday.

However, according to Sport England’s Active Lives survey, in 2017/18, 25 percent of people in England aged 16 years and above were “physically inactive” — meaning that they undertook less than half an hour of “moderate-intensity physical activity” per week.

Exercising in the workplace isn’t a new idea, but it’s still quite radical in some sectors and organizations. Unfortunately, some business owners and employers view it negatively, but with statistics proving that the health of people of working age in the U.K. on the decline, progressive businesses now pay attention to and reap the benefits of allowing their workforce to exercise on the job every day.

Revisiting the Benefits

Far from being a waste of time or resources, letting your employees carry out regular workouts can have a transformative effect on their performance as well as that of your business.

It’s no secret that stress is one of the biggest barriers to mental health for modern employees. With the results of LinkedIn’s recent survey of British workers showing that 70 percent of employees struggle to get the work/life balance right, stress levels in the workplace are higher now than they’ve ever been before.

Stressed workers can experience difficulties making decisions, thinking clearly and focusing, so it’s important for the health and well-being of your business — as well as your employees — to minimize it wherever possible. Regular exercise can reduce cortisol levels in the body as well as release pleasure-boosting endorphins, which can better equip your workforce to handle the demands of the day.

The mental benefits of regular exercise can also lead to increased productivity in the workplace. A 2014 Harvard study found that exercise enhances creativity, improves concentration, increases awareness and sharpens the memories of employees.

While a similar study carried out by Leeds Beckett University discovered that employees who could workout during “office” hours were more productive with their time at work, carrying out their jobs with improved efficiency and job satisfaction.

Daily physical activity will also go a long way toward strengthening the immune systems of your workforce, not only making them less susceptible to viruses and colds (thereby reducing sick days and absenteeism) but also by keeping them hormonally balanced and improving their heart health.

Then there’s the increased social connection that comes from giving your workforce the opportunity to connect with their colleagues outside of the formal “working” environment. Group exercise encourages peer-to-peer interactions and support, generating healthier professional and personal relationships in the process.

Exercising together can strengthen the social bonds between your employees and increase productivity

How to Get Your Employees Moving

In an ideal world, modern workplaces would have on-site gyms or fully equipped workout areas where employees could spend 30 minutes a day. But this isn’t an ideal world, and not every business has the resources to invest in such facilities — no matter how good the long-term benefits are.

That said, however, there are several ways that you can get your employees moving regularly, which are also much more cost-effective than corporate gym membership packages.

Many have spoken before about the benefits of mindfully moving with modalities like Pilates and yoga. It’s easy to incorporate these awareness-based movement practices into the workday, with even professionals working in diverse industries like poker reaping the benefits of a five-minute practice daily.

What’s especially great about mat-based activities like these is that no special equipment is necessary — you only need a space large enough for your employees to lay down and move freely — and there are many professional teachers throughout the U.K. who will come to your business premises to deliver classes.

Walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay fit and healthy. Whether your premises are in the countryside or in the city, you can still encourage your employees to take a brisk 30-minute stroll every day (outside of their lunch break).

If you want to foster accountability, then purchase some inexpensive pedometers for your staff so they can monitor their daily steps. You could even provide incentives for those who achieve 10,000 steps or more a day over a sustained period like 21 or 30 days.

You could also easily arrange and schedule other activities like swimming, group cycling, jogging or calisthenics. Even further, it may be possible to partner up with other local businesses who could provide reduced rates for group activities and schedule in various sessions per week.

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