In today’s fast-paced work environment, the mental health of employees is becoming an increasingly critical issue. For employers, it is essential to recognise that the wellbeing of your workforce directly impacts productivity, engagement, and the overall success of the company. For this year’s Mental Health Awareness week, we are focussing on movement as an effective way to promote mental health in the workplace. Incorporating physical activity into the workday can have profound benefits for both mental and physical health.

Understanding the Connection Between Movement and Mental Health

Physical activity is well-known for its benefits to physical health, but its positive impact on mental health is equally significant. Regular movement can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost mood, and enhance cognitive function. Exercise increases the production of endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones, which help alleviate stress, improve sleep, and enhance an individual’s wellbeing. I personally find that getting by doing 10,000 steps in the day, attending cardio classes like spin or box fit at the gym, and engaging in weight sessions helps provide a release from the pressures work often brings.

The Cost of Inactivity in the Workplace

In a typical office setting, employees may spend most of their day seated. Sedentary lifestyles are linked to numerous health problems, including mental health issues. Prolonged periods of sitting can lead to increased feelings of stress and anxiety, which can lead to reduced productivity, concentration, and lower morale.

Practical Ways to Encourage Movement at Work

To create a healthier, more productive work environment, employers should implement strategies that encourage movement throughout the day. Here are some practical suggestions:

1. Promote Walking Meetings: Encourage employees to hold walking meetings instead of traditional sit-down meetings. This practice not only promotes movement but also can lead to more creative thinking and collaboration.

2. Flexible Breaks: Allow employees to take short, frequent breaks to stretch or take a quick walk. These micro-breaks can help reduce stress and prevent burnout.

3. On-site Fitness Facilities or Partnerships: If possible, provide on-site fitness facilities or partner with local gyms to offer discounted memberships. Having convenient access to exercise can motivate employees to stay active.

4. Ergonomic Workstations: Invest in ergonomic furniture, such as standing desks or adjustable workstations, which allow employees to change their posture throughout the day.

5. Wellness Challenges: Organise company-wide wellness challenges that encourage employees to engage in physical activities, such as step-count competitions or virtual fitness classes.

6. Encourage Active Commutes: Support employees who walk, bike, or use other forms of active transportation to get to work. Providing bike racks or shower facilities can make this more feasible.

7. Incorporate Stretching Sessions: Offer regular stretching sessions or offer yoga classes during lunch breaks. These activities can help alleviate the physical strain of sitting and reduce stress.

Creating a Culture of Wellness

Encouraging movement is not just about implementing programmes – it’s about fostering a culture of wellness. Investing in your employees’ mental and physical health through movement has numerous benefits. A healthier workforce is typically more engaged, productive, and loyal. Reduced stress levels and improved mental health can increase engagement and staff retention, ultimately saving the company money in the long run.

By prioritising movement and encouraging physical activity in the workplace, employers can significantly enhance the mental health and overall wellbeing of their employees. This proactive approach not only supports a healthier, happier workforce but also drives organisational success.