2017: It's time for businesses to "Step it Up"
It’s the New Year and people across the country are a week into their resolutions for 2017.
A lot of us make personal resolutions to lose weight and get fit; wouldn’t it be great if companies and corporations across the country did the same?
Studies conducted over the past several years all point to the benefits of physical activity and integrating movement into every day life. What better way to do this than bringing wellness solutions directly into the workplace?
And what better time to implement some new solutions than the New Year?
In a 2015 article in the American Journal of Managed Care, Jack Groppel, PhD, co-founder Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, says research clearly shows that a healthier workforce is better for business, but many employers have not yet grasped the benefits of offering opportunities for physical activity at work.
“Our own research demonstrates that if employees not only are physically active but get up and move often, and at regular intervals throughout the workday, they are more focused, more engaged and more energized both at work and at home,” says Groppel. “They are more motivated. Think of the impact that can have on productivity and overall job satisfaction.”
In September 2015, the US Surgeon General’s office issued a “Call to Action” for the US to get moving again.
Specifically, to get walking!
At the time, it was noted by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, that only “half of adults and about a quarter of high school students get the amount of physical activity recommended in national guidelines.”
We know not everyone has access to fitness facilities, or spare time in which to hit the gym. But with a solution as simple and accessible as walking, this country has run out of excuses. Walking is a small thing that can have a profound positive impact on citizens’ lives personally, in their communities, and in the workplace.
In his report, titled Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD cites evidence that walking promotes optimal health and mental well-being as a preventative measure. “Physical activity is critical for both preventing and treating many of the chronic conditions we face today.”
Second, he emphasizes “walking…requires no specialized skills or equipment and is a great first step (pun intended) for anyone who has been inactive.”
Third, his Call to Action recognizes “everyone should have access to spaces and places that make it safe and easy for us to walk or wheelchair roll—whether in urban, suburban, or rural settings.”
In short, this call is directed at city planners, law enforcement decision makers, community leaders and business leaders. “Walkable communities are good for social connectedness, good for business, good for the environment and, most importantly, good for our personal health.”
Dr. Murthy goes well beyond simply citing the evidence and stating the facts; he is clearly inviting change. From acknowledging that city planners need to do a better job creating safe and walkable communities, to urging employers and school leaders to implement productive change, such as “breaks during the day or walking meetings.”
In 2013, there were almost 150 million US adults in the labor force, many of whom spend a significant amount of the day at a workplace. In Canada, that number is closer to 18 million, but can you imagine the dynamic change that would take place if employers would set the tone for an active workforce in the New Year?
In an American Council on Exercise article on fostering a culture of physical activity in the workplace, health promotion experts say “an organization-level commitment to focus on employee health as a corporate goal is one the most influential and cost-effective changes to implement. When leaders regularly communicate the importance of employee health and well-being—and walk the talk—it becomes part of the corporate identity.”
The article goes on to say, for employers, “supporting worker exercise efforts sends a strong message of support to employees—which, in turn, can positively affect job satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.”
By implementing programs which support walking and walkability, companies can positively impact the satisfaction and productivity of their employees. And, in effect, positively impact their bottom line.
So, how do companies and business leaders engage a healthy workforce?
Change doesn’t have to be difficult. Businesses can provide opportunities to walk during the day, such as introducing on-site equipment like treadmill desks, sit stand desks and desk pedals, or facilities which allow employees to be physically active, like a gym.
If a company doesn’t have the resources to offer onsite equipment, employers can still encourage and support walking by offering walking meetings or walking breaks. Sometimes just a little fresh air is all that’s needed for a fresh perspective.
Offering incentives, such as free—or subsidized—activity trackers for employees and using them to issue challenges for daily and weekly steps is also a great way to engage employees, boost morale and integrate fitness into the workplace for a considerably lower investment.
So, it’s 2017. It’s time for employers and businesses to “Step it up” and set some New Year’s resolutions for positive change.
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