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For the vast majority of us, we’ll enter the workplace as young adults, and we’ll be in our 60s (at least!) before we’re in a position to retire. That means we’ll spend around 40 years tied to the workplace; we average out at 82,068 hours clocked in during our lifetimes – and that’s not to mention the additional time spent commuting!
Whether our roles are more physical – for example those working in construction, in retail & leisure – or whether they are more sedentary and take place sat behind a desk, there is no doubt that what we do for a living will take a very physical toll on us. Indeed for many, when we do eventually get to contemplate retirement, we find our hopes for this time are limited. We’re restricted to a slower pace of life, as age, physical decline and ill health start to make themselves felt. But what if we stop treating this deterioration as inevitable? And how about looking to our workplaces to help promote physical and mental wellness which, not only helps us to thrive during our working lives, but will also set us up for a physically active and full retirement too?
If we look at this from a business perspective, it’s clear that a physically and mentally healthy workforce is the ideal; healthy staff are less likely to need time off due to sickness, are less likely to suffer with issues around stress and anxiety, and are less likely to need to need early retirement on health grounds. The government estimates that annually, 131 million working days are lost due to sickness, costing around £100 billion every year. Surely then, there is a huge case for prioritising workforce health and wellbeing?
Over the last 46 years – since the introduction of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act – we’ve seen a significant increase in the introduction of health & safety measures in the workplace. To a lesser extent, we can also now expect improved accessibility features. As a nation though, we’ve still got a way to go before we require the workplace to make provisions to improve our general health and wellness.
A professor of organisational psychology and wellbeing at Lancaster University, Susan Cartwright sums up the current approach to these sorts of provisions, “When we’ve got a lot of competition for jobs, more perks come into play. When there isn’t, these perks disappear.” Provision of some form of employee health and wellbeing facility then, is considered a perk of the job rather than a prerequisite.
As highlighted in a 2019 review, 20% of organisations offer at least one health care plan, while the majority (79%) offer two or more types of health care plans to employees. It’s difficult to find any UK-wide numbers around companies offering workplace fitness incentives, but the popularity of health-care plans makes it clear that the focus is very much on cure once something has gone wrong, rather than preventing ill health in the first place.
So how can businesses improve their physical and mental health provisions, and help to create a fit, active and engaged workforce? We’ve put a variety of the different schemes, ideas and options that are out there:
Before employees even get to work, there are ways to encourage people to keep fit and active. Over 40,000 employers have joined in, and upwards of 1.6 million commuters have benefitted from the scheme so far. Any employer of any size can make use of the scheme, and qualifying is fairly straightforward; at least 50% of the cycle use needs to be for commuting to work, and the offer of hired cycles must be made to all of the workforce. In a nutshell, employees agree to give up a portion of their pre-tax salary in exchange for a benefit – in this scheme, it’s hiring a bicycle and/or associated safety equipment. Tax is then only paid on the remaining salary, which means the employee pays less tax and NIC, and the employer makes a lower National Insurance contribution. There is also the option to buy the bicycle and equipment outright at the end of the scheme, which has the potential for further savings to be made. Find out more here.
Where space and facilities allow, a great perk for employees is being able to offer them an on-site gym or fitness centre. Some larger companies even provide employees with on-site health screening and clinic access. As well as being a big draw for potential new talent, and a reason for current workers to stay, for companies with bigger workforces investing in an on-site facility could actually work out cheaper than paying annual gym subscriptions for each individual employee.
A combination of costs involved and available space can often mean that setting up an on-site gym just isn’t a possibility . But, one option could be to bring in a local fitness provider (like The Fitness Truck!) who can use the space you do have to hold regular exercise classes. Whether it’s in the board room or in the car park, group sessions are the perfect way to offer a fitness perk to employees without having to adjust the current set-up. One of the great advantages here is that these sessions can be a perfect way to build on company culture and introduce some team building too, with staff at all levels getting involved. For our sessions, we come fully equipped with everything the groups will need to work out (including a sound system!) – make sure you check what’s included with your chosen provider, as some may need you to invest in basic equipment, or will perhaps have certain space requirements.
A popular option for workplaces who don’t have space to provide on-site fitness is to sign-up with a local or national gym facility. Discounts can be around 20% – 30% off regular membership costs – usually these sort of perks work on a salary sacrifice basis, with the company paying for an annual membership up front, and employees contributing on a monthly basis. One thing to watch with this sort of scheme though, is that employees are engaged with and actually taking advantage of the benefit, otherwise this is a huge cost with little return.
One of the most cost-effective ways for companies to incentivise staff to keep moving is to organise activities in an informal way. Creating a social committee an be a good way to help put plans into motion, but things like staff football teams, netball teams or running clubs are very easy to organise and involve little-to-know initial outlay. Try combining staff activities with raising money for charity – there will be lots of local options, things like 10K runs or Tough Mudder type challenges, which will not only bring people together but can also involve fundraising for great causes.
If you’ve had success setting up a health & fitness initiative in your workplace, or seen a great one in action, drop us a message in the comments and let us know! If you’d like to learn more about how you could benefit from our corporate fitness service, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org