Managing Wellness

How Encouraging Employee Fitness Can Promote Productivity and Reduce Absenteeism

  • Most employees have little time to focus on fitness during their workday
  • A culture of fitness in the workplace can create happier, healthier, more productive employees and help attract and retain top talent
  • Today, HR can provide a wide range of fitness opportunities beyond employee wellness programs to create a culture of fitness and foster a more productive workforce
Posted by May 14, 2019

Most employees spend the majority of the workday at their desk, leaving little to no time to concentrate on fitness during a solid eight—or more—hours. But through exercise, workers get an endorphin rush that boosts their self-confidence, energy, and gives them a more positive outlook. This is one reason why more and more companies are offering employee fitness initiatives, because when workers make time for exercise, employers reap the rewards, too.

When an employee is happy and healthy, they often experience fewer instances of illness and a reduced state of stress. For companies, that means increased productivity and a stronger workforce overall—a win-win. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 53% of organizations want to create a culture that promotes health and fitness. Employees are also on board, with 78% saying they would exercise more if their employer gave them the opportunity.

Promote Employee Fitness at Your Office Through Activities

HR knows that fit employees tend to be more productive, deliver a superior quality of work and may even boost company morale. But aside from traditional workplace initiatives like discounted gym memberships and employee wellness programs, there are other ways that HR can promote employee fitness, including:

  • Rolling out an in-house yoga class. Help employees combat stress, mental fatigue and back pain from sitting too long with an in-house yoga class. Corporate Wellness Magazine says that because 50% of employee healthcare costs are lifestyle related, and, in turn, preventable, on-site programs prove to be a low-cost, preventive investment with strategic returns.
  • Encouraging walking meetings. The late Steve Jobs was well-known for his fondness of walking meetings. HR can encourage a culture of wellness by adopting this healthy practice, giving employees the option of a walking meeting when handling HR or any other business matters.
  • Promoting midday exercise breaks. Encourage lunchtime gym sessions, walks or runs. SHRM reports that some companies provide a 30-minute paid exercise break to run, stretch, walk or hit the treadmill, finding employees that focus on fitness are typically the most productive.
  • Organizing a workplace team. An after-work sports team offers employees an opportunity to move, compete and bond over fitness. Plus, they’re healthier than happy hours. Consider forming a bowling, softball, volleyball or soccer team, to name a few.
  • Bringing in fitness professionals for a tutorial. Invite a local sports pro for a 30-minute talk and hands-on active demonstration where workers can both move and learn, or improve a new fitness pursuit. Tai chi or self-defense make for exciting sessions.

Incentivize Employee Fitness with Rewards

Incentives like prime parking spots and extra vacation days can encourage workers to step up. And when this concept is applied to employee fitness, it can help drive engagement there, too.

You can incentivize workplace wellness by awarding employees for their participation or progress toward a goal. Instead of offering incentives for the most weight lost, which can lead to low morale or unhealthy habits (the opposite of what you’re trying to promote), base rewards on achievements like steps taken or finishing a local 5K.

The options for incentives are endless and come in every budget—from low-cost rewards like sports bottles or backpacks, to higher-ticket items like exercise class passes and equipment. HR can also reward wellness with flexible schedule opportunities, free half-days and good old-fashioned office recognition.

Make Pursuing Wellness the Convenient Choice

Sometimes encouraging employee fitness and wellness means going the extra mile to make it easy for them. By providing healthy food options, a serene and safe place to walk or a bike sharing program, HR departments can inspire exercise among current staffers and potentially attract new talent with these stellar workplace perks.

Making time for exercise isn’t easy when there’s a job to do. But fit employees mean happier, healthier workers and ultimately, better companies. And when your workers feel good, it creates a vibrant work culture which can improve your company’s image. What better reason for HR to encourage fitness?

Searching for more tools and resources to help your colleagues manage benefits, like wellness and mental health days? Check out the Employer Toolkit.

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