Working in a healthy space – Should you focus on physical wellbeing in the workplace?


Welcome to the final installment of our three-part series on workplace wellbeing. We’re going to dive into the topic of physical wellness and discuss the benefits it can bring to both employees and employers.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge. That’s why it’s essential for employers to encourage and support their teams in staying physically fit. By promoting physical wellness, businesses can not only create a more productive and positive workplace but also save money on healthcare costs.

In this article, we’ll explore the numerous benefits that physical wellness can bring to the workplace. From increased productivity to lower healthcare expenses, we’ll cover it all. So, let’s get started and discover why investing in your employees’ physical health is a smart move for any business.

What do we mean by physical wellbeing?

As you will know, the awareness of mental wellness and care has grown recently, and it has now become a focus area for many business owners and HR professionals. While it is wonderful to see this growth, the effectiveness of any wellness agenda will be reduced if it is not implemented wholistically. Mental wellbeing is intimately connected to physical wellbeing and both combined are a powerful force.

When it comes to physical wellness there are two distinct areas.

The first is the legal responsibilities of your employees. As an employer you must make sure that your workforce is safe and by reducing risk and ensuring you have the appropriate legal requirements in place. These include, to name but two examples, a Health & Safety policy and prevention of harm by risk assessing and removing hazards. If you fail in these duties, you will be potentially legally responsible and could find yourself defending your actions in court, on the receiving end of a fine, or even potentially prison time in the most extreme cases.

The second, and the focus of this article, is the promotion of wellness in the workforce. What we mean when we talk about physical wellbeing in this context is the workforce having access to the things that help them be healthy, fit, and comfortable while working. There is no legal requirement here but, as you will see in the last section, there are significant benefits to implementing a good wellbeing strategy.

The workplace in the context of wellbeing

What constitutes the healthy working environment is very different than it was as little as a decade ago. Therefore, what we think of as the workplace needs to change.

Ergonomic spaces

This is the base line for any physical wellness approach. Ergonomics, (how environments including equipment, furniture and places can be made human friendly) is at the heart of the healthy workspace. At the base level it is about ensuring you do not have a damaging environment. Simple changes like correct use of chairs and desks to improve posture, the provision of properly designed workstations or the right equipment in warehousing, can make a huge difference. It is about asking if your employees are comfortable, safe and able to work without risk of short-term injury, strain or long-term health issues.

For those businesses with hybrid work patterns this should really be extended to the home workplace too.

Beyond the basic ergonomics

This is where it all gets very interesting from an employer point of view. Ergonomic considerations may be the base line, but there is no need to stop there. If you add some additional initiatives towards general good health, you could find that a few easy changes and low cost alterations to workplace practices pays dividends.

In recent years we have seen more and more companies promoting health lifestyles with techniques such as:

  • Increased access to healthy eating options
  • Water workstations and/or issuing water bottles to employees
  • Compulsory breaks away from workstations, desks, and the operational areas of the business
  • Free gym or other leisure activity memberships
  • Exercise and yoga classes
  • Wellbeing training and awareness campaigns
  • Enforced start and end times to help prevent fatigue and burnout
  • Walking meetings and outdoor gathering spaces
  • Raising awareness of the link between mental and physical health
  • Providing health benefits
  • Additional support for employees with medical conditions
  • Focusing on a culture of wellness through work community activities and events

Of course, what you implement, when, and how will be down to your individual circumstances.

Does all this wellness at work really matter or is it just another trend?

There is a cost to implementing a wellbeing programme and, not matter how caring you are as an employer, that is going to be a factor. Also, in the end, you are not there to provide wellness, you are there to be the employer and run a successful business. So, ‘is this all really worth it?’ is a perfectly reasonable question to ask.

Let’s put this into perspective. If you have a mentally and physically healthy workforce, you should see any or all of the following:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improvements in productivity
  • Higher levels of job satisfaction
  • Reduced presenteeism
  • A more engaged workforce

The statistics around the areas above are pretty shocking….

  • An estimated 149 million working days were lost to sickness or in just in the UK alone in 2021 (1)
  • Wellbeing contributes to happiness among employees. Happy employees are 12% more productive that unhappy ones (2)
  • Employees who participate in wellbeing programmes reported higher levels of job satisfaction (3)
  • Presenteeism, the practice of coming to work even when ill, is harder to assess but may cost the UK more each year than absenteeism (4)
  • High levels of wellbeing promote positive relationships with colleagues, the feeling of being supported in the workplace, and more engagement with work. (5)

If there were any more evidence required to suggest that investing in an overall wellness agenda is worth it, is well worth remembering that it also enhances your employer offer and makes you more attractive to the top talent. In the current market, that alone is a very attractive result.

When it comes right down to it, a workforce that is both physically and mentally well is simply going to perform better, engage more and be more productive. They will also cost less due to sickness and injury, be more likely to accept your offer of employment and less likely to leave.

As always, any initiative must to be implemented correctly and take into account your circumstances. So, call us, and let’s chat about what is possible in your business.

As a HR consultancy, we’ve noticed an increasing demand from employers seeking assistance in creating effective workplace wellbeing strategies. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve the overall health and wellbeing of your employees, we’re here to help.

We’re well-equipped to guide you through the process of developing and implementing a tailored wellbeing strategy that aligns with your company’s unique culture and values. We understand that every organisation has different needs and challenges, which is why we take a customised approach to each project we undertake.

If you’re ready to take the next step in promoting a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce, we encourage you to reach out to us. Simply get in touch and start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can contact us in one of the following ways….

Call: 01604 261380