Lisa Purcell: Should employers encourage staff to take up fitness activities?

After a long day at work, many of us come home feeling tired and drained.

However, we are likely to be exhausted by stress and mental strain rather than by physical activity.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) research, carried out in December 2012 with YouGov, found that nearly one in five workers (18%) do absolutely no physical activity during working hours and only 27% manage 20 minutes or less over the entire working day.

But encouraging staff to get fit and keep active is a great idea for employers.

Being glued to their desk all day can make it hard for employees to deal with work stress and two-fifths of employers report that stress related absence has increased over the last year.

Workplace absence can have a big effect on businesses’ bottom line, with the average annual cost of absence per employee coming in at about £600.

So, improving the wellbeing of employees may benefit the financial, as well as physical, health of an organisation.

At the BHF, we run a free Health at Work programme for employers that want to take steps towards a healthier futre. As part of this, we are asking employers to take on our Pedometer Challenge this spring.

We will provide a how-to guide, posters, progress chart, pedometer and everything else employers need to inspire staff to get moving, and it won’t cost a penny.

Taking on challenges such as this can boost wellbeing and morale while promoting a healthy competitiveness in the workplace.

Lisa Purcell is a project manager for the British Heart Foundation’s Health at Work programme