Only 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical exercise is recommended by public health agencies to achieve huge health benefits. That’s only either 21 minutes of moderate (or 10 minutes of intense) exercise every day to vastly improve your life and increase your physical wellbeing.
As good health is so important, and so easy to achieve, nationwide health promotions and campaigns seek to increase the proportion of adults who meet these minimum guidelines for physical activity.
Furthermore, in the world of work, an increase in the physical fitness of employees will not only improve motivation and productivity, as healthy and stimulated employees are proven to work faster and to be mentally restored than those who are not, but it will also result in fewer absences from work. From the perspective of the employer, fewer absences will result in a vast increase in productivity and the success of the business, and for an employee, a sick day results in less pay and is therefore extremely undesirable.
The economic impacts of a healthy workforce are prompting employers to enact different strategic measures to obtain positive economic impacts. One of these measures is offering financial incentives to employees who enrol in fitness challenges that allow them to self-report their physical activity. While these incentives will firstly appeal to employees who already have a level of physical fitness, it is hoped that such incentives will eventually appeal to more sedentary individuals in the workplace and initiate some physical activity that can be transformed into a lifelong habit or passion.
There are issues with this method, however; while financial incentives do depict a positive influence on attendance at screenings and getting vaccinations, these activities are simple and cannot continue into habit. Encouraging daily or weekly exercise is more complex; to be successfully incorporated into everyday routine, it requires a lifestyle change.
Here are 4 ways organisational wellness programmes can better incentivise physical activity:
- Highlight physical and mental health as a core value of the organisation
More personal communication between leadership and employees can often play a role in motivating employees, as it impresses the importance of physical health to the company. A clearly articulated wellness campaign can invest in financial incentives and have far more success than places who touch on physical wellness as a vague goal. Communications between employers and employees should be carefully tailored in terms of optimum timing, placement and frequency. It is important that the message does not get lost, but equally vital that the pressure to maintain physical health is not overbearing.
- Encourage exercise as a social group activity through clubs and group sports
There is a strong correlation between people who maintain exercise and their social support; social interaction is one of the most common reasons for participating in sports. Not only will this help spur an entire group of employees to reach the companies health goals, but it will also unite the workforce and develop between relationships, improving not only their physical health but their mental health, as the group comradery will create a far more pleasurable working life.
- Set realistic goals
About 54% of adults achieve the recommended amount of aerobic activity, and this percentage is slightly higher for those under 65 years of age. Furthermore, one’s educational attainment has a significant affect on the likelihood of achieving physical goals, and thus it is vastly important to cater different physical goals to different groups and ages within the workforce. Paying attention to this will help gauge whether financial incentives attracts employees who are inactive, or just those who are already meeting the guidelines but see an opportunity to make money. The latter is unlikely to be a good use of resources, and so identifying different demographic characteristics of the workforce and altering the different guidelines appropriately.
- Link incentives to social responsibility
Reinforcing exercise behaviour with a charitable donation may be particularly appealing to participants, as it appeals to an altruistic nature and also promotes the importance of social responsibility for both the company on the whole and for the individual. Fitness challenges are already being linked to large charitable donations in large companies, including Microsoft.
These incentives highlight the importance of physical and mental wellbeing for the workforce, and, when implemented, could vastly improve not only the individual but the company on the whole.