How to Support Your Employees to be More Active - A Focus on Managers and SLTs
Written by: Khalil Rener, Workplace Movement Manager and Founder & Director of Rener Wellbeing
What a year 2020 was... especially if you had any direct reports to manage! For some, it was a tough enough year to look after ourselves, let alone others. This blog looks at how you can boost your physical activity levels as a manager, as well as how to empower your direct reports to do the same.
The Importance of Physical Activity for Our Work:
You may have read the previous blog post I wrote about how physical activity can lead to many health, happiness and work benefits.
These benefits were well summarised through the comments made by attendees of the interactive Workplace Movement virtual training sessions that we ran last year. Employees from companies including PwC and NHS, as well as representatives from several local councils attended, sharing throughout that they feel more productive, more engaged, and better able to perform at work after they are active.
Other benefits include reduced absence rates, stress, and anxiety, in addition to improved teamwork, self-esteem, confidence, mood, sense of wellbeing, concentration, and focus.
We can even see it in the bottom line, where the British Heart Foundation highlights that there is an ROI of up to £34:1 when implementing physical activity interventions at work!
With benefits like those, it’s hard to ignore the importance of supporting your employees to be active… but also yourself, first and foremost! - more on this later.
How to support your staff:
Having run virtual workshops on different workplace wellbeing topics, including the Workplace Movement training sessions, with various organisations across the world last year, I polled 100s of employees about their wellbeing and physical activity levels. It may not come as a surprise that some found it more difficult to integrate physical activity into their lives. Yet for others, it was easier.
We found that the most effective way for individuals to sustainably improve their levels of physical activity was through taking into account their unique barriers, enablers and reasons for being active when coming up with action plans.
Time (or, a lack thereof) is usually cited as the most common reason for people not to be active, or not to engage in workplace wellbeing initiatives. Whether we actually are too busy or not, this perception causes a barrier. If being more active becomes another thing people have to do on top of all their normal day-to-day duties it’s not likely to happen, unless they were active before. To help the average employee, physical activity has to be embedded into the working day or through something they enjoy.
As a line manager, creating this cultural shift is likely to be a gradual process, but can be a simple one, with small iterations making a big difference.
Start by being more active yourself. It will not only help with your own wellbeing, but if you can also talk to staff about how much better you feel and prove you have the time to do it yourself, they are much more likely to engage. On an ongoing basis, we recommend the following:
Encouraging small changes to existing working practices rather than adding extra things.
Including wellbeing as a standing agenda item at all team meetings and employee one-to-ones.
Standing or walking meetings and one-to-ones, or regular standing during longer meetings/training sessions
Encouraging use of the stairs instead of lifts
More manager support tips and support can be found on the Workplace Movement website.
How to support yourself as a manager: Many well-meaning managers, who so dearly want to support their employees’ wellbeing, often neglect their own. In order for you to be the best manager that you can be and to support your team well, you need to look after your own wellbeing too! Think about the safety instructions on a plane, (...when flying was still a thing pre-COVID) you get told to put your own air mask on first before helping others, right? It’s the same here.
It’s important to find something that you enjoy, so start with small and sustainable changes and find ways to schedule physical activity into your working day if you can. Read more in my last blog post for more tips.
Workplace Movement, a platform run by Active Partnerships in partnership with Sport England - as seen in their Jan 2021 Active Employees Toolkit - can help you sustainably improve your physical activity levels and create a culture at your organisations that enables the same, organisation-wide. Click here for more details or contact Nicki Couzens or Khalil Rener.
Nicki Couzens - Business Support and Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org
Khalil Rener - Workplace Movement Manager: email@example.com
About the Author:
Khalil Rener graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc Hons in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport Management, focusing his research on workplace physical activity. He has over 10 years of coaching and wellbeing consulting experience in different contexts. He is the Workplace Movement Manager at the Active Partnership National Team as well as the Founder and Director of Rener Wellbeing, a workplace wellbeing consultancy working with global corporates, NGOs, schools and startups across different industries - focusing on sustainably improving mental health, physical activity, sleep and nutrition across the board.
Editor: Zaki Gulumani