How to keep your employees moving in a restricted world

We’re all well aware of just how much the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduction of lockdown have impacted our daily lives and particularly our health and wellbeing. With many office workers now working from home and the intermittent restrictions on gym and sports access, as well as going out, it’s not surprising that it’s had an impact on our overall activity levels. Vitality data revealed that although cardio workouts increased in the first lockdown, daily steps decreased significantly more, resulting in general activity being much lower.

How to keep your employees moving in a restricted world

And it’s not just our physical health that’s affected. Mental health is proven to be as important to overall health as physical factors and the pandemic has certainly taken a toll on our mental wellbeing. Vitality data shows that of the employees surveyed, 20% felt more anxious and 25% felt more stressed than before lockdown. Added to lack of exercise – something that helps improve mental health –it’s more important than ever for employers to address these areas of wellbeing.

But with the shift to remote working, how can you continue to effectively engage with your people and encourage them to keep on top of their health? Despite the current circumstances, this could be a good opportunity to strengthen your culture of health and wellbeing while people are apart, so that when things do return to normal, it is already well-established.

Changing employee needs

As your employees’ needs are likely to have changed as a result of lockdown, start by finding out what the key concerns are now and how they may differ from before. We know that activity levels have decreased in general, but you can’t assume this is the case for everyone and blanket interventions are rarely the best way to inspire behaviour change. Having an up-to-date picture of employee health and behaviour will allow you to effectively tailor your offering based on what they tell you.

Think about other options for exercise given the lack of gyms etc. As part of our Vitality At Home package, we gave our staff and members access to fitness apps Jennis and Peloton. They offer a range of workouts from HIIT and yoga to strength and stretch that can be followed on-demand from home, and are suitable for all fitness abilities. This gave our people the chance to fit exercise around their schedule and without the need to invest in pricey equipment.

Encouraging engagement with wellbeing

Introducing the right initiatives is the first step, but it’s no good if no-one takes part. Our goal is to help people build healthy long-term habits and have incentivisation to achieve this. So, by rewarding people when they undertake healthy activities, it encourages them to continue along that path. We found that those who engaged with our programme, specifically with the added incentive of an offer on an Apple Watch, were on average 34% more active. It’s an approach that can be tailored to work for your own employees. Gauge what incentives resonate and it’ll give you a better idea of how to motivate them.

Communicating wellness benefits

Finally, it’s a good idea to promote your existing benefits. Britain’s Healthiest Workplace findings from 2019 showed that only 28% of employees surveyed were aware of what was available to them, so it’s likely that there are benefits people aren’t utilising. Many of our business members found this approach to be effective. Not only that, but when existing benefits are included as part of an astute communication plan, it has the added benefit of creating a sense of inclusion and community.

Health programmes are also proven to be most successful when the whole employee population takes part, according to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Data 2014-2019. As such, consistent advocacy and support will mean employees are far more likely to reap the benefits.

While things are still uncertain, health and wellbeing don’t have to be the areas to take the hit, especially when the benefits are so abundant. Successfully navigating this period, helping your staff stay healthy, happy and active will undoubtedly yield positive long-term outcomes for both them and your business.

The author is Pippa Andrews, director corporate business at Vitality.

This article is provided by Vitality.

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