Having the space to focus on humans, not resources, has remained a key challenge for HR teams throughout the pandemic. What if you could make HR more human?
Unfortunately, it was almost an inevitability that a year of social restrictions would have a negative impact on the physical health. With stay at home orders being brought in place along with the sudden absence of the daily commute, many found themselves overnight, living a far more sedentary life than anticipated.
The impact of the past year on physical wellbeing is already being felt A study by Sport England found that 30% of people surveyed felt they had become physically weaker over the course of lockdown and according to research by the RSPH , 39% of people surveyed have claimed to have developed musculoskeletal problems as a result of working from home.
More worryingly still for business leaders is the impact this has had on the engagement levels of their people: Research by the Royal Society for Public Health found that 36% of people surveyed found they were experiencing disturbed sleep and feelings of irritability linked to a lack of physical activity.
It is clear that as businesses look towards the future of their workplace that they cannot afford to disregard the impact the events of the last year will have had on their people. As employees begin to make a return the office space, there is a clear indication that physical wellbeing is now ranking far highly on people’s lists of priorities when compared with pre-pandemic.
Sport England found that 58% of people they surveyed said that they were looking to greatly increase their levels of physical activity after the restrictions end. It is imperative that businesses are taking these considerations into account when planning the future of their workplace moving forward in order to ensure they are safeguarding the wellbeing of their people
Top tips to promote Physical Wellbeing in the workplace
- Make the office space more active- After a relatively sedentary year, many people will find the idea of returning to the old, inactive ways of office life unappealing. With a greater appetite for physical exercise a priority for many, businesses leaders should look at the office space and consider how to make the workspace fit around these new requirements. Standing desks can offer people a way to bring a more active element into their day to day roles, whilst the implementation of walking meetings can help break up the sedentary nature of office life. Employees should also be encouraged to leave the office space for periods of time throughout the day, going for short walks, getting away from their desks for a time and resetting their focus.
- Promote workplace benefits- Many workplaces already provide benefits and reward schemes relating to physical wellbeing. These traditionally have come in the form of on-site exercise facilities, organised workplace sports activities such as five a side football competitions and subsidies such as gym and leisure centre membership discounts. As employees return to the workplace, it is more important than ever that organisations are taking into account this new appetite for exercise and ensuring that any such benefits are being communicated clearly and effectively to their people. HR teams have a key role to play in this and the systems they use can help effectively communicate any reward schemes to employees, regardless of whether they are primarily office or home based.
- Rethink the workspace- When looking at a return to the workplace, business leaders should be prepared to rethink the setup of their office and to see what steps they can take in order to ensure that they are prepared to meet the needs of a returning workforce who are placing a greater emphasis on physical wellbeing. Investments in ergonomic office equipment such as office chairs with proper lumbar support, wrist rests for keyboard use and additional monitors will all enable your people to work as comfortably as possible. Also assess the break space within the office- where possible, create a separate break area away from the main workspace in order to encourage employees to take a break from their desks.
- Eating Well- Keeping energy levels up at work is vital in order to ensure that you are making the most of your day. Unfortunately, there has traditionally been a trend for people to snack unhealthily throughout the course of the day, leaning on crisps, chocolate and cakes to provide that quick energy boosts. Businesses can play a key role in championing a healthier lifestyle by providing healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts as well as providing healthier lunch time alternatives or discounts for healthier food outlets.
- Incentivise active commuting- An active commute such as walking or cycling into the office can be a fantastic way to fold an element of exercise into your daily routine. The office space should be set up in a way to encourage this style of commute- provide bike racks or specific areas to safely store employee cycles and where possible offer and encourage the use of on-site shower facilities to ensure that people who are taking an active approach to their daily commute, still start their day feeling fresh.
These tips are by no means comprehensive and are meant to serve as guide and a touchpoint to hopefully spark discussions around how to make your workplace more active. As more businesses move towards a hybrid workforce, it will also be crucial that businesses are aware of the various requirements of their people, particularly as they are split between home and the office location. It will be vitally important that any initiatives and benefit schemes designed to promote physical wellbeing are equally weighted to benefit employees regardless of where they may be working from.
Effective HR systems can help bridge the gap between remote and office workers, providing a single platform for organisations to promote and create awareness of any benefit schemes or exercise initiatives. Organised team sports activities within the workplace can also provide an opportunity to reintroduce a social element which may have suffered over the course of the past year and allow remote and office based teams to bond.
Ultimately, the key to driving physical wellbeing in the workplace will fall at the feet of business leaders and HR teams. The creation and promotion of a company culture which not only drives discussions around physical wellbeing but also provides clear opportunities to introduce a healthier, more active element to the working day will no doubt be appealing to many employees who will have felt the impact of the past year on their physical wellbeing.
Organisations who take a proactive approach to championing a healthier, more active culture will be able to demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of their people and ultimately find that their employees feel happier, healthier and more productive. As ever, the adoption of new technologies and platforms will serve an invaluable role in promoting any benefits or initiatives, allowing you to remain connected with your people wherever they may be.
If you think these tips have been helpful and you would like to know more about how focusing on resetting the work-life balance of your people can help drive productivity and profitability within your organisation, our latest whitepaper contains a whole host of useful information to help you get to grips with the return to the office and the continued development of your hybrid workforce.