In at 9.00am, done by 5.00pm, with a full hour for lunch somewhere in the middle of all that. Predictable workflow, manageable levels of stress, a to-do list that’s ticked and done by the end of the day and a mental switch that flicks off the moment you walk out the door, so you don’t think about work again until the next morning.
Wait, what, your job isn’t like that?
No, we don’t suppose it is. For the majority of us, the question “What does your typical working day look like?” has no clear answer – other than that it’s long. And even when we do manage to drag ourselves home from the office, there it is, our mobile phone, flashing up those work emails just when we’re most in need of some down-time.
Little wonder, then, that stress is a major cause of absenteeism – and presenteeism, where people are at work but not fully functioning – across the developed world. Indeed, in 2018, for the first time, work-related stress, anxiety and depression accounted for over half of all working days lost to ill health in Great Britain: in total, 15.4 million working days were lost as a result of these conditions, up from 12.5 million the previous year. All the evidence suggests those numbers continue to grow.
In fact, there is a simple solution: exercise, with its many-times scientifically proven ability to lower our levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
But these invaluable benefits so often elude us, with work, family and social commitments making it difficult to establish a regular workout routine. Indeed, some 80% of adults blame their busy schedules – and resulting low energy levels – for their failure to hit their activity targets for the week.
Over to you…
If you’re a business owner, what can you do about all this?
First of all, you should be aware of the value of keeping your workforce fit and well. This isn’t just some altruistic thing, investing in fluffy initiatives to convey a caring image to employees and would-be employees. Hard data is on-hand to quantify the impact of physical activity on businesses’ bottom line.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Building the Case for Wellness report highlighted a number of Benefit-Cost Ratios (BCR) that a company might expect to achieve as a result of creating an employee wellness programme. The average BCR was found to be 7 – that is, a benefit to that company of £7 for every £1 spent on its wellness programme – but the best result was an impressive score of 34.
Meanwhile, a study by Swedish university Karolinska Institutet analysed a corporate wellness programme involving 472 workers throughout 2010. They found that, in spite of taking time out of their working hours to exercise, workers still achieved the same – or in some cases even higher – levels of productivity. “This increased productivity comes, on the one hand, from people getting more done during the hours they are at work – perhaps because of increased stamina – and, on the other hand, from less absenteeism owing to sickness,” say the researchers. Physical activity is, after all, proven to boost the immune system.
A Harvard study highlighted further productivity benefits, establishing that exercise can enhance creativity, sharpen the memory, improve concentration and promote quicker learning.
And a recent global study by non-profit research institute RAND Europe and insurance giant Vitality found that if people who are currently physically inactive were to reach the World Health Organization’s recommended levels of exercise, employees would gain up to five additional days of productive time each year. This would result in the global economy growing by an estimated US$220bn every year.
Address the real issues
So now you have your business case. The next step involves a bit of creative thinking.
We’ve mentioned already that “I have no time or energy left” is people’s go-to excuse for not exercising. So, ask yourself: is your offer of a corporate gym membership really the solution? It might be a perk financially, but workouts are still something your employees need to somehow fit in to their non-existent lunch hour, or else slog their way through at the end of the day when all they want to do is go home and collapse on the sofa.
Time, then, to think out of the box.
- Introduce a culture of walking meetings, which have been shown to boost creativity, productivity and mental wellbeing.
- Let it be known that every employee can take an hour off to exercise every day, either all at once or broken into shorter periods to suit their preferences.
- Provide tools that make being active easy and convenient for your employees. Rather than investing in corporate gym memberships, invest instead in putting fitness opportunities and programmes into the palm of their hands via their mobile phones – precisely the way people consume fitness these days.
Let activity be part of every working day. Woven into it. Enhancing it. A stress reliever exactly when your employees want and need it.
To find out how Wexer can help you create exactly this sort of employee-centric wellbeing programme, please contact us at email@example.com