Active Workplace for an Active Nation

In our post last week on active design for an active nation we also asked “what about our work environment”? For the nation to truly become active we need to look beyond our leisure time and the design of our communities and find solutions to make our work environment less sedentary.

Workers in a typical 9-to-5 job can spend up to three-quarters of their day sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. This sedentary lifestyle can result in a long list of preventable health conditions such as obesity, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, stoke, as well as back injuries, stress, depression and anxiety. Indeed, work-related stress, depression and anxiety is now the main cause of workplace absenteeism in the UK accounting for 15.4 million lost days in 2017/18 according to the Heath & Safety Executive (HSE).

A recent Government ‘Fitness at Work’ report put the cost to UK business of work-related ill-health at £32 billion annually, but what about the cost to the individual?

Even for those who do manage to fit physical activity into their busy working week all this good exercise can be undone by sitting for long periods. Sitting is thought to “slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat”. The Department of Health Sedentary Behaviour and Obesity report recommends that taking a break from sitting every 30 minutes and moving for just one or two minutes will help mitigate the risks of being so sedentary.

So, how can you spend less time sitting at work?
  • Try to use the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Go for a short 20 to 30 minute walk rather than working through your lunch hour.
  • Take a walk to a park to eat your lunch instead of sitting at your desk.
  • Set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes.
  • Stand on the train or bus instead of sitting.
  • Consider walking or cycling to work or getting off the bus or train one or two stops earlierĀ andĀ then walking the rest of the way.
  • Need to have a chat or short meeting with a colleague?
  • Think about going for an outdoor walking meeting or having a stand-up meeting.
As an employer, how can you help your staff become more active at work? Here are some good examples:
  • Encourage employees to take part in events such as Bike to Work day.
  • Organise a company sports team and play matches against other workplace teams.
  • Purchase pedometers such as Fitbits to encourage employees to walk more.
Helping your employees to be physically active can result in a healthier and more productive workforce but also bring a number of tax saving benefits.

The government provides guidance to help employers provide tax-free recreational or sports facilities and secure discounted membership rates with local gyms and leisure centres to pass on to employees. Through the Cycle to Work scheme, if an employer provides an employee with a bicycle and cycle safety equipment which is used for work purposes, the employer will not pay tax or National Insurance Contributions on the cost of the bike and equipment.

It is well documented that exercise has proven physical and mental benefits for workers. CEO of ukactive Steven Ward said, “Healthy and happy workforces are more productive, healthier and stay with their companies longer, driving revenue for their employers”. And from a recruitment perspective, who wouldn’t want to work for a company that offers great fitness perks?

Companies with a purpose, a mission, are also more likely to retain younger employees. Making the UK more active is a great ‘purpose’. As so many components of producing an active workplace are also good for the environment, what if a way of encouraging and motivating employees to get active can be also be used to track a company’s carbon footprint? The ‘purpose’ just got much stronger - who wouldn’t want to work for that company?

At tahdah, we have developed the software platform that would enable that reality of employees tracking their own activities (both in and out of work). Add in a sprinkle of in-company competition, a dash of carbon monitoring and the recipe is there for an active workplace for an active nation.

tahdah, the future, today.