Opinion: Take up the challenge and discover the benefits

By Lee Mason, Chief Executive, County Sports Partnership Network, which runs Workplace Challenge.

Employees should be encouraged to bring physical activity into and around the workplace and it’s about more than just keeping fit.

How many of us have said we’d like to do more exercise? All too often, time is the issue – we all lead busy working lives and the busier we are, the less spare time we have: ‘The afternoon meeting was longer than I thought,’ ‘I’m working late to meet a deadline,’ ‘I have to be up early in the morning to get on the motorway.’ We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, too many of us are still there. Recent figures from Sport England show that 57% of adults do not play sport and Public Health England research has shown that 40% of us do not exercise enough.

It is having a damaging effect on all aspects of society – on our health, on the NHS, on the development of our younger generations and, of course, on our employers. A healthy worker is a productive worker, and businesses from Carlisle to Cornwall are counting the cost of unhealthy staff, even if they don’t know it. In fact, conditions associated with inactivity cost the nation £7.4 billion each year.

On the face of it, it’s simple. We, as a nation, need to do more exercise and time is the biggest barrier. We spend up to 60% of our waking hours in the workplace – so what better place to start?

This is the driving force behind Workplace Challenge, a national programme from County Sports Partnership Network funded by Sport England which aims to engage workplaces in sport and physical activity. We want to inspire businesses and their employees to get active in and around the working day, by taking up the challenge.

In May we celebrated the second annual Workplace Health Week, which saw thousands of employees from all over England take part in a host of activities organised by their employers and by their local County Sports Partnerships. We saw people dancing, running, walking, cycling, playing sport and much more with the support and encouragement of their employers – all with the aim of meeting NHS guidelines which state that adults should try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week to stay healthy. Participants could even track their progress towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise with their own personal dashboard on the Workplace Challenge website.

It was another fantastic initiative, but the hard work must not stop there. If employers can put physical activity right at the heart of their core values, providing the support, encouragement and the flexibility that employees need to be able to get active, we will all see the benefit.

It would not only help to raise levels of exercise closer towards the government target, thus improving the health of our working population, but it can also reduce absence through sickness, improve productivity, boost morale, improve company culture and deliver better results for businesses – unlocking the bottom-line benefits.
In fact, if we can reduce the average number of sick days per person per year by just one day through the effective promotion of health and well-being in the workplace, it could save businesses across England an estimated £2.8 billion. That is certainly not a figure to ignore.

Help your business save £££s by revolutionising the lunch break and getting your staff active around the working day. Employees can sign up for free. We’re calling for a shift in culture for more employers to provide opportunities and enable employees to be active. Please take the time to read our ten-point manifesto and consider how much your business could save by tackling poor health.

Read the well-being thought pieces:

Financial well-being needs to become part of well-being at work strategy

Wellbeing in the workplace

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