We’ve all heard companies preach wellness mantras, but many still doubt the link between wellness in the workplace and employee productivity.
Though research exists suggesting increased levels of low-intensity physical activity — such as walking, cycling and swimming — can deliver individual health benefits, there was less reported scientific evidence to show these expected health benefits can also benefit employers — until now.
The “Multi-Business Study of the Effect of Low Impact Physical Activity on Employee Health and Wellbeing,” published in 2011, found a direct correlation between moderate, low-impact physical activity and performance in the workplace. It was conducted by the Lancaster University Centre of Organizational Health and Wellbeing on behalf of the Foundation for Chronic Disease Prevention in the Workplace (FCDP). This research provides evidence of the impact of daily low-intensity physical activity on employee productivity.
FCDP research teams evaluated the progress of 752 employees participating in a corporate health program called Global Corporate Challenge. During this time, the employees’ physical, emotional and physiological responses were measured via self-reporting questionnaires and biometric testing.
The results show significant improvement in self-reported productivity levels in tandem with increased physical activity levels. At the end of the study, more than half of all employees (58 percent) cited excellent levels of productivity at work, a 17 percent increase on initial reporting. Improved productivity was recorded in concert with step activity, with employees who achieved more than 10,000 daily steps reporting increased improvement levels.
Furthermore, results suggest that increased productivity stems from improved confidence levels (30 percent increase in employees reporting regained self-confidence), performance under stress (24 percent increase in employees feeling better equipped to overcome difficulties) and concentration levels (12 percent increase in employees reporting improved concentration levels).
“Regular physical activity is associated with a range of positive health outcomes, which in turn support improved performance,” said David Batman, FCDP research director. “Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk and symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood, concentration and self esteem. The results of this study clearly demonstrate this.”
Organizations around the world — including Rolls-Royce, Taco Bell, Kraft and Adobe as well as the number-crunching likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG to name just a few — have implemented similar workforce wellness initiatives.
Organizations need to have a framework for wellness program structure and implementation. Here are some key considerations to that end:
• An authentic and organization-wide culture of health where employee well-being is a priority integrated into overarching business objectives and supported at all levels of the business from top to bottom will facilitate an environment for wellness success.
• An evidence-based and holistic approach can secure employee confidence and also deliver both immediate and long-term behavioral change, for sustained results and benefit over time.
• An all-inclusive wellness platform, which is accessible and attainable by all employees — regardless of their age, ability or health level — will maximize employee participation and program results.
• Consistent fun and excitement are crucial for engaging and retaining genuine employee participation and facilitating an enjoyable journey toward improved well-being.
• A program structure that provides timely support and motivation through a schedule of tailored communications, built-in mini-challenges and milestones as well as direct access to a support network and information source can sustain employee engagement throughout the program. It can also support employees’ adoption of healthier lifestyle habits for long-term well-being.