5 Tips For Keeping Your Employees Fit

Have you ever considered what impact your working environment is having on the health and fitness of employees? The combination of stress, convenience eating and hours spent stationary can have long term effects on both your staff and your business.

If you want to improve the wellbeing of your workforce, here are 5 tips for keeping your employees fit - regardless of how much time they spend chained to a desk. 

Bike to work scheme

The chances are that the majority of your office drives to work. Now while this makes perfect sense for those that might have a fair old commute, what about those that live a little closer to the office?

As part of the Government's Green Transport Plan, employers and employees can sign up to a Cycle to Work scheme. This initiative works by employers buying a bike, which the employee then hires over the next 12 months, covering the initial cost. The employee then buys the bike at the end of the period, for an approved Fair Market Value (FMV). 

Now, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that cycling offers a multitude of benefits, but regular cycling can:

  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Improve mental health 
  • Decrease stress levels
  • Lower body fat
  • Boost immunity to everyday illnesses
  • ... and of course, it helps the environment!

The average commuting cyclist travels 10 miles to work, which could burn between 200 and 450 calories depending on the weight and speed of the employee. You can work out how many calories would be burned by using a simple calorie counter, such as this one by the British Heart Foundation

Combine fitness and team bonding

Did you know that getting fit doesn't ALWAYS have to feel like such a chore? Sounds crazy, right? But employers can actually combine physical exertion with a little team bonding and minimise the negative attitude towards getting a sweat on. 

Company away days have become popular within many business and are used to improve morale, encourage better communication or just to reward a high performing workforce. While ideas could range from paintballing to room escape, there are events out there that focus on getting staff into shape such as circuit training, assault courses and military-style boot camps. 

If you don't think that your staff would be completely up for that idea, setting up some sports teams might be a more welcomed initiative. I'm sorry to stamp all over your dreams of lifting the Champions League trophy here, but we're not talking about anything too serious.

Inviting staff to enter a local 5-a-side league or to set up a bowling team* will give workers the opportunity to get fit, without feeling pressured to do so. Again, this can also help in building relationships and might even promote a little brand awareness. 

*Interestingly, an hour of league bowling (which includes rotation) burns nearly 200 calories an hour. 

Bring in healthy eating

I hate to be the purveyor of bad news, but it might be time to wave goodbye to Fatty Fridays (or Fromage Fridays, depending on how middle class your office is) and replace it with something more nutritious. It's thought that we consume around a third of our daily calories during work hours, and many employers will only add to this intake by providing incentivising treats.

Now, while you may think that bringing food to the office will motivate staff, few of these nibbles are accompanied by little more than sugar and caffeine. Cakes, pastries and sweets are all popular catalysts for productivity, but they're not necessarily the most conducive to a healthy workforce.

This calls for the implementation of healthier snacks, which while not as easy on the tastebuds, are a little kinder on the waistline.

Ideas for healthy eating:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Biltong
  • Boiled eggs
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Wasabi peas 
  • Seeds

Okay, so we all know that you don't win friends with salad (thank you, The Simpsons), but if your office is like ours, your staff are unlikely to turn free food down. Furthermore, you might even find that people embrace this new healthy eating lifestyle ... maybe ...

Get staff on their feet

The thing about office jobs, is that they're not exactly the best environments for keeping fit. The nature of the computerised 9-to-5 means that sedentary lifestyles are the norm for most office workers, with the majority spending three quarters of their working day sat behind a desk. 

Last year, we analysed Standing vs. Sitting in the office and found that employers should encourage staff to spend more time on their feet - and less on their behinds. As well as lowering the risks of diabetes and heart disease, standing can potentially burn up to 300 calories a day more than remaining sedentary. 

So how can you get staff out of their seats?

Unsurprisingly, there can be some reluctance from staff to keep moving, so employers might have to take matters into their own hands. So here's three tips for getting people out of their seats.

1. Encourage staff to get some fresh air on their lunch break. Lunch is the ideal time for employees to stretch their legs, but only 13% of workers get away from the desk for a full hour. As well as impacting physical health, not taking a break can lower staff morale, productivity and make the office more susceptible to the post lunch slump.

2. Standing desks are slowly making their way into the workplace and they offer an innovative solution to the drawbacks of an office setting. Usually adjustable, standing desks allow employees to alter their work station as they see fit. This means that they can stand for some portions of the day and sit for others. They can be pricey though.

3. Set a timer that tells staff when to stand up. Forcing the office to stretch and walk around for a couple of minutes every hour, can make a big difference to health and provide a welcome break from staring at pixels. 

Invest in tech

The wearable technology industry is booming and employers are starting to recognise the benefits that smartwatches (although other forms of wearable tech are available) can bring to their company.

Rather than directly improving health, smartwatches act more as a tracker of health and can tell wearers a whole manner of things. Whether you want to see how many steps you've taken or how many hours of 'good' sleep you're actually getting, these innovative pieces of wristwear promote an awareness of personal fitness.

Perhaps more interestingly, from an employer point of view, this data can now be shared and viewed by multiple parties, meaning that HR departments can regularly monitor the wellbeing of staff. I know this all sounds a bit big brother-ish, but companies are starting to use this data to keep an eye on employee health, as well as more business related issues such as productivity. 

Be warned though, there may be a reluctance from some quarters to being tracked, while smartwatches can also be costly to implement if you have a large workforce. So while it might work for some companies, wearable technology isn't a practical solution for all organisations. 

Your workforce is your most valuable resource, so why wouldn't you protect it? Keeping employees fit not only benefits the individual, but also the company as a whole, so employers should work to create an environment that looks after employees, as well as pushes them.

Written by Dan Whitelegg