Elaine Rossall: Workplaces that encourage activity can improve employee wellbeing

Elaine Rossall

Once, the office was a fairly uniform place. We turned up in similar outfits, working in similar grey offices and then we would head home. Working life was largely sedentary, and for many it still is.

However, the very best modern offices not only look and feel different to those of years gone past, but they also encourage their occupiers to behave differently. They have activity designed into them.

A cynic may question the point of this: sure, it is good for people to move more, but why should a business care about how active its employees are?

Well, the Wellness matters research, published by the British Council for Offices (BCO) in June 2018, provides a clear answer. The report outlines how activity improves employee wellbeing, making staff not only happier, but also more productive. In turn, this improves a business’ bottom line.

It is an idea that reads nicely on paper, but it can be hard to implement; after all, an employer cannot just prod an employee out of their seat and onto an exercise bike.

The answer, then, is to create a workplace that encourages activity as part of an employee’s daily routine.

For inspiration, organisations might look to Deloitte’s refurbished offices in New Street Square, London. The building has a central open-plan staircase to encourage employees to use the stairs rather than the lift, along with a dedicated active space with a rolling programme of activities where, for example, employees can come together to play table tennis or air hockey.

Another great example is Kirkstall Forge in Leeds. Here, employees are provided with running and cycling clubs, bootcamps and a full range of events dedicated to health. This enables staff to easily stay active and it benefits their work-life balance, too, since they no longer have to give their evenings to the gym.

Of course, there is no silver bullet for how to successfully promote activity in the workplace. However, the key is to make activity convenient for staff, and to design it into their daily routine. Do this, and the benefits of wellness will flow.

Elaine Rossall is chair of the British Council for Offices (BCO) research committee