With many workplaces now split between home and on-site facilities, employees may encounter extra barriers to accessing physical health support. As leaders navigate the new normal, physical wellbeing policies may take a back seat to mental health and pandemic recovery. This can create multiple challenges for HR teams and how they implement workplace wellbeing initiatives.

The NHS recommends that all adults do some type of physical activity daily, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Spending too much time sitting down is linked to around 70,000 deaths per year in the UK, but just 30 minutes of exercise per day can help counter these effects.

Research also shows that less physically active individuals have higher rates of unplanned illness-related absenteeism. With small changes in behaviour having a big impact on health, productivity and absence rates, how can HR teams encourage their people to be more active both in and outside the workplace to enhance their physical wellbeing? The health and wellbeing experts at Westfield Health explain all…

Creating a movement culture

Workplace culture drives behaviour, and employers who take a proactive approach to physical wellbeing will empower their people to move more throughout the day. Leaders can embed activity into their culture by including physical health support in their workplace wellbeing strategy. Some potential policies to trial include:

  • A cycle-to-work scheme
  • Free online exercise classes or educational fitness webinars
  • Flexible workspaces and standing desks
  • Discounted gym access and equipment
  • Allowing time for physical and holistic activity ‘on the clock’ as part of the working day

The approach will look different for each organisation, so it’s important to ask your people how you can help them stay active at work and what support they need from you. Then, your HR team can personalise the needed initiatives and policy updates.

Remember to communicate new policies clearly and encourage employees to take advantage of them. Evaluate the success of your programme by measuring engagement with physical activity and its impact on the wider business over time.

Top tips to help employees move more

The easiest way to build physical activity into the working day is to enable employees to prioritise it. HR teams could start by offering a monthly wellbeing email with physical health tips, resources and links to online workouts.

Managers across the business should be encouraged to discuss physical wellbeing in 1:1s alongside targets, performance and mental health. If managers make physical activity a priority, their team will feel empowered to do the same.

Regarding on-site facilities, HR teams can push to invest in their people’s health by converting an area of the workplace into an active space. This could be a small meeting room or quiet corner with some simple equipment such as mats, dumbbells and resistance bands. A designated space helps employees feel more comfortable exercising or meditating at work.

If you can’t offer access to a workplace active space, consider a discount for gyms or classes in your employee benefits package to help your people stay healthy, whatever their schedule.

Useful links and resources to get your team started:

  • Move More at Work resources – Download this information as a PDF, plus our free printable workplace posters and 10-minute workplace workout videos.
  • NHS exercise guidelines – Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64.
  • Get Britain Standing – Information and resources to help people sit less both in and outside the workplace.
  • Westfield Health’s Health screening – Confidential 1:1 employee health checks with an experienced coach.
  • Tomato Timer – A web-based timer which reminds you to take regular breaks using the Pomodoro Technique.
  • Westfield Health’s Active Spaces – Adaptable spaces tailored to your workplace to get your people moving.
  • Westfield Health wellbeing webinars – Live and recorded webinars include topics such as back pain and posture.
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Workplace Wellbeing Professional is an online magazine featuring news and analysis on a broad range of employee wellbeing topics, focused on a UK based audience.