Poor physical health in the workplace can be costly, inconvenient, even disastrous. But effective ways to boost physical health in the workplace can be easy to implement.
How many minutes will you spend sitting down today? Lack of mobility causes stiffness, postural changes, joint and circulation problems and poor health.
The HR specialist’s schedule is busy: recruitment, employee relations, retention, admin, rewards, benefits etc. leave little space to think about physical wellness. But physical illness costs.
Elke van Tienen, HR director at brand experience agency Geometry, said:
More than anyone else, HR managers can see the impact poor health has on the performance of individuals and of the business.
You have the power to boost wellbeing for every employee. In terms of return on investment (ROI), corporate wellness programmes are an investment into organisational health.
The Costs of Ill Health
You probably know absence levels in your workplace. The UK average is currently 5.9 days per employee, per year. This is the lowest level on the CIPD’s record, so why should we be concerned?
According to Vitality’s Healthiest Workplace report, 36 days of productive time are lost per employee every year. This is equivalent to 13.6 per cent of working hours, 12.5 per cent due to presenteeism, and 1.2 per cent due to absenteeism. Presenteeism is more damaging as unwell employees turn up for work, resent being there, under-perform and spread germs among colleagues.
Physical Health in the Workplace
Along with mental health and stress, musculoskeletal injuries (e.g. back and neck pain, RSI) and acute medical conditions (e,g, stroke, cancer) remain the most common reasons for absence (CIPD 2019).
Sedentary time spent at the desk is not the only issue. Last year’s TUC report found the average daily commute to work outside London is 58 minutes, equivalent to over 27 working days each year. For Londoners the average rises to 1 hour 21 minutes.
The effects of poor nutrition on productivity are well known. Population Health Magazine published a survey of nearly 20,000 employees demonstrating that employees with poor nutrition habits were 66 per cent more likely to be less productive than employees with healthy diets. Total Jobs survey of over 7,000 people found more than half don’t take a full lunch break due to work pressures.
Prevention is Better Than ‘Cure’
Aon’s 2019 Benefits and Trends Survey revealed companies are taking a range of actions to boost physical wellness. 76 per cent of employers see employee health as their responsibility and many are adopting a data driven wellbeing strategy. Aon’s advice is to have equal focus on:
- Prevention and education
- Detection and early intervention
- Long term support
In terms of retention, competition is fierce and talent will seek a workplace with the most potential to thrive. In terms of accountability, many of the gains are quantifiable. Aon observed employers, ‘accessing a wide range of data sets to help inform their decision-making process and guide strategy’.
Benefits of Boosting Physical Wellbeing
Exercise and eating well are proven to reduce stress and have a positive impact on physical and mental health. At Innerfit, we see four business benefits to boosting physical wellness in the workplace:
- Talent – Attract and retain top talent to a vibrant, healthy and high performing workplace.
- Togetherness – A cohesive team who understand each other, communicate and work well together
- Tuned in – Employees that are at work, physically and mentally
- Performance – Healthy, clear thinking, creative individuals who work effectively and efficiently
How HR Can Boost Physical Wellbeing in Your Workplace
1. Put yourself first – Lead by example and take care of your own physical wellbeing. “We need to be healthy and well, both physically and mentally, to enable us to deal with the demands of the role,” Terri Bailey, Chartered FCIPD, interim director of culture and wellbeing at NABS.
2. Run a health risk assessment – Identify all risks to people’s health and wellbeing and target actions accordingly. Listen to employees and consider the whole organisation to decide what matters.
3. Movement quick wins – Assess ergonomics to determine ways to support physical wellness. Promote physical activity: use stairs, walk, stretch, workshops, Pilates, yoga, standing desks, discounted gym memberships, physiotherapy, massage.
4. Nutritional quick wins – ‘You are what you eat’. Make drinking water easily accessible and food healthy by adapting the provision.
5. Evaluate and Improve – Measure the impact of changes across a broad spectrum of elements for stakeholders and for continuous improvement to optimise results. Include everyone’s feedback.