The modern workplace is changing. The pandemic has necessitated a reevaluation of priorities and investment in employee wellness programs that meet the needs of the moment. As many offices transition to a hybrid work environment, this is perhaps the perfect time to reimagine how the workday is structured. Employers should consider building time for exercise into the workday for happier, healthier employees.
Making time for employees to be physically active during the workday is an investment in the overall health of the company. The CDC reports that inadequate physical activity among U.S. adults costs $117 billion in health care expenses annually. Helping employees achieve an active lifestyle saves employers money in health care costs and lost productivity, and the benefits for the company culture are just as great.
In addition to saving money, building exercise into the workday promotes:
In response to the pandemic, employers are investing in mental health resources more than ever before, including stress management initiatives. This is money well spent. The accumulation of stress, known as “allostatic load,” can adversely affect cognitive functioning over time. A high allostatic load is also associated with depression and impaired memory. It makes sense to prioritize stress management in the workplace.
However, allowing for exercise during the workday is often overlooked as a stress management solution, despite the wealth of research demonstrating that exercise reduces stress. Exercise reduces levels of stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevator.
The number one thing millennials want from the workplace is an employer who cares about their wellbeing, according to a Gallup poll. It is important for employers to take this request seriously, because employees who feel cared for are more engaged and aligned with the company goals. Setting aside time for exercise during the workday demonstrates that your organization prioritizes employee health and wellness.
A study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that employees who exercise during the workday feel more productive and satisfied. The study included 200 participants at three different workplaces: a computer company, a university, and a life insurance firm. Participants completed questionnaires about their mood and job performance on days when they exercised and days when they didn’t. Typically, on exercise days, employees spent 30 to 60 minutes engaged in the physical activity of their choice.
A staggering 60% of employees reported better time management skills, cognitive performance, and ability to meet deadlines on days when they exercised at work. An analysis of the findings also revealed a performance boost of 15% overall.
The same study asked participants to rate their mood in the morning and then again in the afternoon. As expected, employees felt happier in the afternoons after they had exercised. During focus group discussions, employees explained that they also felt better prepared to handle the demands of the job after exercise.
The type of exercise didn’t matter, nor did the duration. Any exercise is linked to improved mood and productivity, all employees need is the time.
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