Yes, I am proposing that you give your employees time to exercise during the workday in addition to their lunch break, with good reason.
Here’s the truth, whether you choose to accept it or not. Your employees are only productive an average of about 3 hours of their 8 hour work day according to a study conducted by Voucher Cloud, the UK’s largest money saving brand. The study polled about 2,000 UK office workers, and 79% of them admitted they were not productive the entire work day. They were asked to break down their day and estimate how long they were spending on the top 10 distractions listed to include browsing social media, reading news websites, taking smoke breaks, making personal calls, texting, eating snacks, and even searching around for new jobs. All activities combined, these employees spent over 4 hours NOT working. This didn’t even include their lunch break.
Your employees already seem to be distracted, and I would argue that these “distractions” are actually much needed mental work breaks on a subconscious level. In an article on Psychology Today, Meg Selig stated that taking routine breaks from work throughout the day can increase productivity and creativity, restore motivation, and reduce decision fatigue. Breaks away from work are necessary for the mental and physical well being of your employees. Now that you know most of that time spent at the desk is focused on non-work activities, why not establish a work culture that embraces this reality by providing a constructive way to get away from work?
In addition to fostering a work culture accepting of mental breaks at work, allowing your employees time to exercise on the clock has been shown to improve work performance, productivity, focus, and mood in a study conducted in Southwest England. For the 201 participants in the study, they found that all of these factors improved on days when they exercised at work in comparison to the days when they didn’t exercise.
Helping your employees get more out of their work time AND down time during the work day is a win-win situation. They get more done, have less sick days, and are healthier, happier human beings. I haven’t even discussed the financial benefit of giving time back to your employees for exercise while on the job yet, if you’re still not convinced.
A study of General Motors employees found that moderately active employees who exercised 1 to 2 times per week had approximately $250 lower annual health care costs than sedentary employees. This saving jumped to $450 when analyzing the obese sub-population of the company.
A look at American Cast Iron Pipe Company’s Wellbody Program established in 1990, resulted in a staggering 9% reduction in health risk and an average return on investment of $1.70 for every dollar spent on the wellness program. The Wellbody program included on-site comprehensive wellness support, including an on-site fitness facility. Your company is actually losing more than it would gain by not allotting exercise time for its employees, according to the current research.
So you haven’t been implementing exercise in the workplace, but would like to. Where do you even start? Or maybe you already have on-site fitness facilities and walking paths, but employees are not overly encouraged to use them. How do you begin fostering an active lifestyle in the workplace? Here are some ideas on how to approach this change.
1. It has to start from the top. Employees often don’t take much needed breaks from their desk because they want to display that they are dedicated employees. This has been demonstrated in a study conducted by Staples. Although the employees and employers in the study agreed on the importance of routine breaks from work, 55% of the employees felt that they could not leave their desk.
Reinforcement of mental and physical breaks from work is a must. Let your employees know you are 100% on board for the health benefits to them as an individual as well as the entire organization. Show them by participating in on-site exercise as well.
2. Dedicate a room to exercise (if you don’t have an on-site fitness facility). You don’t even have to invest in a ton of pricey equipment, if any. There are many body weight workouts that can be completed with the proper amount of space. If you don’t want to invest in equipment, encourage your employees to bring their own (within reason of course), and allot them time to get a workout in. This is more than enough to get started.
3. Hire a group exercise instructor. Bringing in an instructor as little as 1-2 times per week can have profound benefits on your employees’ health. Take a poll to gauge interest on the type of classes to offer, and offer them during the work day.
4. The extra hour (or even 30 minutes) to workout could be incentive enough. Just knowing that they have time built into the workday to improve their physical well being may be all your employees need to take advantage and feel better about their workplace and jobs, but other incentives are always a plus. You could run exercise challenges with chances to win a gift card or even paid time off just for participating.
5. Start an exercise club. Another barrier for regular exercise is a proper support system and accountability. Creating a club dedicated to getting more physical activity may help provide the support your employees are looking for when it comes to physical wellness. The club could focus on a variety of physical activities from recreational sports, to going for group walks, to structured group fitness classes.
Healthier, happier employees make healthier, happier organizations. Investing in your employees by simply giving them 30 to 60 minutes out of the workday to move and do something for the betterment of themselves is for the betterment of the company. It’s time to start integrating regular exercise into the workday.