Staff ill health has cost implications for business through loss of production, early retirement, staff turnover and absenteeism (both through sick pay and temporary staff)

According to health promotion experts, an organization-level commitment to focus on employee health as a corporate goal is one the most influential and cost-effective changes to implement.

Evidence shows that physical activity can benefit an organisation because active workforce tend to report less absences and lower staff turnover.

Active staff report higher satisfaction in their work and are more productive than inactive staff. Physical activity is a natural mood elevator — studies show it relieves mild anxiety and depression, improves energy, and increases a general sense of well-being. It’s not a big stretch to suggest that the extent to which workers are physically active on and off the job affects company morale. And supporting worker exercise efforts sends a strong message of support to employees — which in turn can positively affect job satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

In addition, employees who exercise regularly have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, and some cancers — big health care cost drivers for most companies.

12 Ways to Promote Physical Activity at Work

1. Conduct a workplace walk-ability assessment to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for walking. Outside benching and seating will encourage staff to venture outside on breaks.

2. Offer secure bicycle storage and showers for employees who actively commute. No-one wants to cycle to work if they have to struggle to change in a tiny cubicle and carry their gear around with them all day. If you want the productivity advantages of an active workforce, think about how you can support active lifestyles with your team and what this may require.

45% of workers complain they have a stressful journey to the office. Reduce those stress levels by encouraging exercise. Install cycle racks, showering and changing facilities and lockers.

3. Implement flexible scheduling where feasible —making it easier for employees to carve out time for exercise while juggling work and home responsibilities.

4. Make stairwells more appealing with paint, artwork, and motivational signage.

5. Negotiate a corporate discount with local gyms; low-cost gym membership benefits are sometimes available through medical benefit vendors.

6. Offer a variety of workspaces to encourage staff to move about during the day rather than staying seated at one fixed station. This will also improve team collaboration and reduce mental fatigue.

7. Offer free or reduced-cost pedometers to employees. Run a simple steps-per-week team competition to drum up peer support for increasing daily steps.

8. Sponsor or promote employee participation in community events like 5K or 10K runs, basketball leagues, or charity walk-a-thons.

9. Organise lunchtime walking, running, bicycling, or yoga groups.

10. Encourage walking 1:1 meetings.

11. Make standing or pacing vs. sitting at long meetings an acceptable option.

12. Encourage workers to be active at their workstations as much as possible — Sit stand desks are proven to reduce musculoskeletal problems, aches and pains and increase productivity.

A Smart Business Move Employees spend a significant amount of time at work. Businesses already have a significant investment in each worker in terms of hiring, training, compensation, and benefits packages. Driving a culture of physical activity helps protect that investment — and maximise the returns in cost savings, cost avoidance, productivity and human capital.