Traditionally, corporate wellness programs focus on nutrition, physical fitness, smoking cessation, and blood pressure management. The goal is to help employees make healthy lifestyle changes by providing educational resources, expert guidance, and incentives.
Including movement challenges in wellness initiatives is a great way to get employees moving at the office. Examples include deskercise, walking meetings, active breaks and challenges, and standing workstations.
Get Moving at Your Desk
By now, everyone has heard that sitting too much is a major risk factor for heart disease. Even if you have a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight, sitting too much can negatively impact your health, just as smoking does.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to incorporate movement into your workday without leaving your desk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk whenever you can. If you have a coworker nearby, go visit them instead of sending them a text or calling them over — it’ll get your blood pumping and stretch those calf muscles. If you can, try standing up every time you make or receive a phone call to increase your movement. If you’re on a conference call that lasts a long time or needs to be energized, march in place, pace in a circle, or keep your legs moving with leg raises.
You can also use your lunch breaks to move around a bit more. If you need to refill your water bottle or run to the restroom, try doing a circuit of quick exercises in place, like jumping jacks or sit-ups. You could even strap on ankle or wrist weights and practice bicep curls, lateral raises, and rows during calls or when working on a project that requires more focus.
If you have the budget and space, a treadmill desk or elliptical pedal machine will let you walk while you work. Companies such as FitDesk make desk attachments for many popular treadmill models, allowing you to place your laptop on the over-bike shelf while slowly pedaling away. You can also try a mini exercise bike that fits under your desk. Just be sure to get a good quality model with an adjustable height so you can adjust it as your body changes. You can even keep a squeezable calf stretcher by your desk to loosen tight calves. These little movements throughout the day will help offset hours spent sitting at your desk and can boost employee productivity.
Get Moving Outside the Office
Getting beyond the desk is a great way to bring movement into corporate wellness programs. Encourage employees to walk, hike, run, and cycle outdoors. Organize group exercise classes like yoga and tai chi that can be done at lunch or before/after work. Provide incentives for employees to track their physical activity through wearable devices and apps. Create a dedicated office gym or fitness class facility equipped with workout equipment and yoga mats.
Many companies are rethinking their workplaces and work-life balance following the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that are open to the idea of more movement-minded workdays can offer flexible work schedules, allow for flex time, and even pay for workout equipment or memberships at a local gym. Other strategies can include setting up a movement-minded working environment with ergonomic furniture, standing desks, movable monitor stands, and chairs and encouraging employees to take their breaks outside.
Having an employee wellness program that incorporates movement can be easy to promote, especially with the use of social media and mobile apps. Companies can also make it easy for employees to find healthy food choices with in-office cafes that are part of a nutrition and fitness program.
When it comes to incorporating movement into corporate wellness, the key is to present options that will suit all body types and abilities. For example, in a yoga class that’s designed to increase flexibility and strength, remind participants they can move close to the wall to support their balance, practice seated or stand or rest at any point. This approach prevents some employees from feeling left out or less capable and may increase participation rates. Likewise, in a Tai Chi or Qigong class, remind attendees they can move at their own pace and can use the practice to slow down, relax, and reduce stress. This approach will increase the likelihood that employees will continue to engage in these activities and feel empowered to make healthy lifestyle habits at work. This will result in better health outcomes and a higher ROI for the investment. The benefits of a movement-minded workday are clear: happier, more productive employees who are willing to go the extra mile for a healthier life.
Get Moving Together
A well-executed wellness program can reduce healthcare costs, augment productivity, and increase employee retention. While most corporate wellness programs focus on nutrition, physical fitness, smoking cessation, stress management, and biometric screening for cholesterol, blood pressure, or glucose tolerance, there are two key aspects of workplace wellness that are particularly important in white-collar jobs: reducing sitting time and promoting movement during the workday.
A sedentary workplace can lead to lower levels of alertness, decreased problem-solving skills, and reduced creativity. Employees who are physically active and moving throughout the day enjoy improved alertness, higher performance, and greater job satisfaction.
Incorporating movement into workdays is easy for companies to do. Identify the right equipment, such as standing desks or adjustable office furniture, and encourage employees to use it during the workday. Be sure to test out equipment before making large purchases so you can be confident that it will fit the needs of your workforce.
Organize group exercise classes during lunchtime or after work. These classes can be on-site or offered remotely and can include exercises such as strength & conditioning, HIIT, barre sculpting, or yoga. The social aspect of these classes can be a great motivator for employees to participate and stick with their workouts.
Encourage employees to track their daily steps and physical activity with wearable technology or mobile apps. Provide incentives for employees to get active and move around, such as gift cards or health-related prizes. Make stairwells more accessible and attractive and provide common areas that allow for movement. Consider partnering with local fitness centers to provide on-site or on-demand exercise classes.
Provide education on reducing sitting and incorporating movement into workdays, including information on the negative effects of long periods of inactivity on the brain. Reiterate that movement is essential for healthy brain function and that inactivity can slow thinking speed, cause memory loss, and reduce the ability to learn new information.
Traditionally, employee wellness programs rely on hard-copy handouts and instructor-led classes that are difficult to deliver for workers who often travel or work remotely. But web-based solutions can deliver the same information to a limitless number of employees, 24/7 and at a fraction of the cost.
Get Moving at Home
Aside from the obvious benefits of physical activity, corporate fitness programs greatly impact employee retention. Studies show that employees who prioritize their health and participate in wellness activities during work hours are more satisfied with their jobs and happier overall.
Traditional wellness programs often rely on printed handouts and instructors that come to your location, making them inaccessible for employees who work remotely. Online platforms allow for a more flexible, scalable solution that can be delivered anytime, anywhere, and at a fraction of the cost.
Creating a culture of movement in the workplace starts with introducing policies that promote and advocate for movement throughout the day. This can include moving meetings, adjustable workstations, movement-friendly clothing options, and more. Educating employees and leadership on these new policies is essential to their success.
One of the best ways to get more movement is by simply getting up from your desk throughout the day. Sitting for too long can lead to poor posture, back pain, and even a flat butt. If you have a job where sitting for the majority of the day is necessary, try buying a standing desk or DIYing one with stacked boxes or crates. If you work from home, squeezing in some movement during work by shifting around or fidgeting at your chair is totally fine (your dog won’t mind either).
At-home workouts can be just as effective as those done at the gym. A variety of videos exist on YouTube featuring exercises that can be done at your desk or in your living room. These include stretching, chair exercises, and even using everyday objects like water bottles or tins of beans to do some low-intensity workouts. Lastly, make it a point to take a three-minute dance party break during your lunch or when you’re finished with a project. It’ll help you end your day on a positive note and boost your mood! You can also encourage your team members to do this together to boost motivation. It can be a fun and social way to get some extra movement in at the office or from the comfort of your couch!