Exercise in the workplace

07 November 2018. Features.

Following our recent Workplace Wellbeing Survey conducted in partnership with The Stress Management Society, here we expand on one of the four initiatives for businesses to help tackle and reduce workplace stress – encouraging exercise.

Increasing endorphins

When working towards lowering stress in the workplace, exercise is a vital part of ensuring your wellbeing. When taking part in any physical activity, the amount of endorphins your body releases is increased and this in turn helps improve your happiness levels. According to the NHS, adults aged 19-64 should be active daily and partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week (such as brisk walking) as well as doing strength exercises (weights, resistance bands, Pilates) on 2 or more days a week.

The positive link between exercise and mental wellbeing is undeniable, however according to the Workplace Wellbeing Survey, only a disappointing 36% of respondents said that their workplace supports and encourages exercise. 50% of employees said that they feel they would benefit from exercise facilities and 49% would like to see the introduction of a yoga and/or meditation room. So how can you get your people moving and boosting those endorphins?

Physical exercise

A great first step is to provide facilities that encourage these behaviours. For example, if you installed a shower and changing facilities in your office as well as lockers and perhaps bike storage, employees may be more motivated to cycle to work or go to the gym before work or at lunch time.

Employers should respond to workers’ calls for facilities that encourage exercise (50%) and yoga and meditation (49%) by assessing whether the workplace can be adapted to accommodate them. In most offices there is underutilised or unused space which can be used for something more beneficial – a workplace assessment will help businesses discover these areas and a modest investment can transform these spaces into a meditation room or shower and changing facilities (like our client Nicoll Curtin did).

If you simply don’t have the space in your office for a shower and changing room, then consider setting up a company membership at the local gym or yoga club. Alternatively, see who is interested in which sports and encourage them to set up a club for walking, running, cycling or badminton in their lunchbreak or after work. It’ll get people connecting and exercising at the same time.

Sports or games equipment is also now becoming more commonplace in the office in the social communal areas – bringing people together and getting them more physically active. Our clients such as MOO and JustGiving have table tennis and pool tables, and Fintech XTX has retro arcade games machines.

Creating an active office

Space planning is also a key element in seeing how the office layout could be designed to encourage people to sit at their desk less and move around the office more. A strategically placed printer, coffee machine or recycling point in a central location, for example, will get people moving away from their desks and make them more mobile, active and social. When planning the layout of an office, it’s also important to ensure that people aren’t in a dead end, cut off or isolated form the main hub. Everyone should feel part of the culture and connected to their colleagues.

Introducing new group initiatives with incentives is a great way to motivate employees to get active for their wellbeing. For example, putting people in to teams and setting weekly goals, such as step, cycling or walking challenges, gives people a sense of competition as well as feeling of being part of a team. They may start using the stairs more or even hold walk and talk meetings!

Taking a stand

Sit stand desks could be a great additional to your work environment as each person can then change the height at any time to break up the amount of time they would usually spend sitting. Just as it isn’t good for our bodies to be sat all day, it also isn’t good to be stood for extended periods so having a sit stand desk to find the perfect balance would be highly beneficial to employees. The sit stand desk also helps to maintain a healthy weight and to burn more calories – being sedentary all day expends far less energy.

Standing meeting tables are also a great initiative as they help keep people alert, release endorphins and increase energy levels. Hopefully this can make meetings more energetic, collaborative and more succinct!


You can read a summary of our Workplace Wellbeing Survey here. We would be happy to see how we can help you encourage exercise in your workplace - please drop us a line.

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