Physical Wellbeing

Physical wellbeing plays a crucial part in the health, happiness and productivity of all employees but can be easily overlooked in some contexts.

In some instances where roles are of a more physical nature, physical wellbeing programmes can rightly focus on areas like manual handling training, adequate equipment provision and appropriate breaks from physically demanding jobs.  For us at MCS Group, as for many of our clients, the threat is perhaps a little more subtle.

A recent study from Fellowes identified that over 80% of UK office workers spend between 4 and 9 hours a day sitting at their desk.  So potentially serious is the issue, an additional major study of over one million adults found that sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent.   It’s fair to say that in an age where an increasing number of roles involve sitting behind a screen ensuring the physical wellbeing of employees requires intentional thought and some adjustment. 

As an employer, taking measures to reduce the impact on individuals and support their physical health can offer serious benefits to the organisation as a whole, including:

  • Recruitment and Retention improvement

Office culture is fast becoming a primary differentiator for recruitment and retention in the battle for talent and organisations that can demonstrate tangible efforts to improve the physical wellbeing of employees are gaining an advantage in the war for talent.  It could be that’s in creating ergonomically designed workspaces or running office-wide fitness initiatives, or it’s in weekly fresh fruit deliveries and regular “walking meetings”, but the demand is there across the board and not only on the wish-list of those who are already physically active.

  • Higher levels of productivity

Taking steps to look after the physical health of employees has been shown to both improve workforce productivity and reduce absenteeism, both of which are key metrics for the HR departments of any organisation.  Incredibly, over 130 million working days are lost in the UK each year due to illness or injury.

Encouraging physical exercise amongst employees has also been shown to have significant benefits to how people feel emotionally (which impacts on motivation and productivity), on their ability to maintain attention in a task and even on how they perceive their experience of work.  Providing a workplace experience that facilitates and encourages breaks from sitting and that takes into account factors like posture at the desk has been shown to boost productivity and discourage restless habits.

  • High return on investment

Given that many of the steps that can be taken to improve employee physical wellbeing are low-cost measures, interventions can offer significantly higher ROI than other areas of expenditure.  Encouraging a ‘movement mindset’ throughout the day can be enough to make a difference without causing any negative impact on output, but even more formal interventions are often relatively inexpensive.  These could include:

  • Encourage employees to walk more at work: hold walking meetings, park the car further away from the office, take the stairs rather than the lift, etc.
  • Keep movement going throughout the day by rotating postures at the office or by providing a sit-stand desk option where possible. Encouraging standing to make phone calls can be a great and easy way to get people moving more. This can often result in a better outcome on the call as standing can lead to better decision making in this authoritative stance!
  • Provide complimentary fruit or healthy snacks in the office as an alternative to the usual unhealthy choices found in most offices or offer nutritional seminars on making healthy food choices
  • Join corporate initiatives that encourage competition and participation; these could be corporate sports leagues (tag rugby, 5-a-side football etc), charitable events (Run in the Dark, GT Runway Run etc) or simply programmes designed to encourage participation across the board like the 100 Day Challenge.  Social accountability often improves participation and brings wider benefits of its own.
  • Use low-cost technology to encourage movement.  Using an app that tracks sitting time for example or measures steps is increasingly common.  These are now widely accessible and affordable as both desktop and wrist-worn options.

These are just a small sample of some of the initiatives and measures can be put in place to improve the physical wellbeing of employees within any business.  Even small steps can make a big difference and there are a wealth of resources available to give ideas and help encourage people to be more active.

For more information on what you can put in place in your business today, get in touch and one of our MCS Life Ambassadors will be happy to share some insight on the initiatives we’ve seen have a big impact in our business and that of others.