How to take care of movement in the workplace?

What can employers do to encourage more healthy exercise?

How to take care of movement in the workplace?

We generally regard physical activity as an area belonging to "after hours" time. However, in practice, this approach may prove detrimental to our health, especially since physical activity is one of the six key elements of well-being. As a result, movement is also worth considering in the workplace, which is also important because we live in a world of work-life integration. What can an employer do to encourage employees to get more healthy exercise?

A move towards welfare

It is said that we are a three-chair civilization – one we sit on at work, the second is the seat in the car or the seat on the bus we use to commute home, and the third is the couch in front of the TV. This pattern of functioning is worth fighting against, because our well-being largely depends on physical activity, movement, fitness, conditioning.

The nationwide study, conducted by Benefit Systems in cooperation with under the direction of Natalia Hatalska, highlighted six main, interrelated areas of well-being:

  • physical health,

  • mental health,

  • inner peace,

  • comfort of life,

  • relationships with others,

  • contact with nature.

According to the report "Well-being of Polish women and men", summarizing the survey conducted, 68% of Poles considered good physical health as a factor supporting their well-being. In contrast, closely related mental health was cited by 63% of respondents.

Movement is of great importance for physical health – it strengthens the circulatory system, increases the body's immunity (active people get sick less often, but also recover faster) and reduces the risk of diseases of civilization, such as diabetes and hypertension [1]. Physical activity also has a real impact on mental health, lowering tension levels, increasing resistance to stressors and helping to regulate mood [2].

It is easy to see that movement affects the human body both temporarily, such as improving mood, and long-term, preventively. Not surprisingly, employers are increasingly trying to build support for physical activity into their ongoing efforts to target employees. [MT2] [MT3]

Watch the documentary "How to change the mind with movement"

Healthy body, healthy mind

From the employer's point of view, the efforts to “get the teams moving”, have only advantages. Lower sickness absenteeism while increasing efficiency, creativity and productivity are the most commonly cited benefits to the company from this. Active people also have higher self-esteem [3]. Experts also point out that by taking care to promote movement and support healthy lifestyles, the company gains image and increases its attractiveness in the labor market [4].

Action in this area is in the interest of both the employer and employees. The first step should be fact-finding. For this purpose, it is useful to use the Wellbeing Score, a tool for measuring wellbeing available on the MultiLife platform. Based on individual surveys completed online by employees, an employer can get a signal about the need to promote the value of physical health throughout the organization.[MT4] In turn, the employee, immediately after completing the survey,[MT5] will receive expert recommendations along with a proposal for services on the MultiLife platform to take care of his physical activity (e.g., consultation with a trainer).

Sports in the benefit

One of the simplest, yet highly effective solutions is to include physical activity in the set of benefits offered by the company. Employers can reach out for a MultiSport sports card, but there are many more options, such as the "Design Your Form" courses. You can also use the MyBenefit cafeteria module with a variety of offers for the physically active, or the Yes2Move online workout platform (available through MultiLife), the largest in the country, with more than 1,100 different workouts and exercise instructions.

The exercise zone

A certain kind of tool to use is also... the office itself. Let’s start with the sitting issues. Experts warn that this position negatively affects the condition of the body, especially the spine [5]. It is therefore worth considering equipping the office with solutions that are alternatives to traditional desk+chair type workstations, such as movable desks for standing work, kneeling chairs, seat balls and even stationary bikes [6].

Where possible, it's also a good idea to set aside space for an exercise area and provide employees with simple equipment such as dumbbells, bands, yoga practice mats, etc.

Sporty means of transportation

Promoting an active form of transportation to the office may also be appropriate. Here, solutions such as bike racks (with repair facilities) will work, but active employees should also be provided with shower facilities. It is ideal not only for cyclists, but also for joggers and even people who choose to walk to the office instead of a car or public transportation.

Physical activity as a team project

Supporting the movement is worth combining with integrating the team and building a positive atmosphere. At the company level, for example, this can be done by supporting employee teams and organizing charity sports challenges. Employees can also be encouraged to participate in external campaigns based on gamification mechanisms, such as the Summer Game, in which MultiSport cardholders collect points for activity, including training at new facilities, and gain the chance to win valuable prizes.

Another solution is to organize regular classes (e.g., yoga, back exercises) in the office. This is a welcome development, because then employees exercise in a healthy, safe way, under the guidance of trainers [6].

Time to take an active break from work

Taking care of employees' physical activity is worth including more broadly, as part of the work culture. It is a good idea to plan so-called active breaks and make them a permanent part of your schedule. Such a break could consist, for example, of team relaxation exercises [5] conducted in the office by a physiotherapist or personal trainer. Sessions of this type can also be held in a nearby park to provide employees with an opportunity to interact with nature at the same time.

When it comes to the type of exercise, it is worth following a simple rule – any activity is better than none [3]. Simple mindfulness breathing exercises will already have a positive impact on employees' health. It's also important to remember that the office is not the place for intense aerobic workouts, so stretching exercises targeting the spine in particular will work best.Stretching is excellent for supporting muscles weakened by hours of sitting and helps model the figure [5].

Healthy food in the company's cafeteria

Physical activity in the workplace can be supported by a healthy diet. Again, the employer has an important role to play in an organizational sense. First of all, it can set aside adequate space in the office to allow meals to be eaten in peace and quiet, rather than in a hurry and at a desk. And secondly, it can also ensure that healthy products are available in the office – not only in vending machines, but also in the company cafeteria. An additional option to take advantage of are the so-called fruit days, already organized in many companies once a week.

Education for health

Educational activities also play a major role in promoting physical activity in the workplace. We have already mentioned how valuable training and consultation with experts are for employees. The same is true of knowledge gained from training courses, workshops or webinars. It is worth remembering that this opportunity can be used not only for desktop work in the office, but also in hybrid or completely remote mode.

The right tool to use for this purpose is the MultiLife platform, which provides personalized solutions related to, among other things, taking care of physical activity (as well as taking care of mental health and proper diet). Employees can benefit from online consultations, and experts help create individual programs to achieve a specific goal, such as taking care of the figure.

The iconic MultiSport card, on the other hand, is now not only an opportunity to enter more than 5,200 sports and recreation facilities and access to more than 45 activities, but also training to exercise in a healthy and safe way.

In terms of both tool selection and expert sourcing, employers increasingly have many options. Physical activity is worth including as one area of an overall wellbeing strategy at the company level. An important role to play in this regard is played by the Wellbeing Score tool, which allows you to take care of the wellbeing of your team based on the acquired data, on the basis of which you can build a specific strategy.

Expert commentary

Ewa Hartman, PhD: Physical Activity Is One of the Foundations of Our Lives

The importance of physical health is crucial because it significantly affects other areas of wellbeing, especially mental health. It should be emphasised that our brain, by itself, has very small energy reserves, and is therefore fuelled by, among other things, the body and physical activity.

That is why exercise is so important, because when we don’t exercise, we cut off one of the pillars of our brain’s power supply, and thus also the energy, desire and will to act, for example at work. Physical activity is therefore one of the foundations of our lives, so efforts should be made to enable it in the company as well, such as by doing small exercises during breaks.

Undertaking even a limited activity (for example, taking the stairs to the second floor instead of using the lift) will make the brain work more efficiently, and our work will benefit from this. Scientific studies have shown that we generate ideas much better when we are on the move, for example while walking. When generating ideas, it is enough to work standing up rather than sitting, because the raised energy level will then make the creative process more efficient and produce better quantitative results.