GM Moving

Embedding Physical Activity In Your Workplace

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How active should I be?

The Chief Medical Officer recommends we are moderately active for 150 minutes each week, the equivalent of 30 minutes of activity each working day.

However, the latest Active Lives Survey from 2021/22 suggests that 34% of working adults across Greater Manchester do not meet these recommendations.

Moderate activity means that your heart and breathing rates are increased. For example, if you’re out with friends on your lunch break, you should just about be able to hold a conversation and be slightly out of breath.

If 15 of the required 30 minutes of daily activity and movement could be completed in the workplace, Greater Manchester would be a much healthier place.

Active workplaces are all about simple steps to help your colleagues move more. Starting with small targets, such as just 10 minutes of activity three or four times a week, and we’ll begin to see positive changes.

Activity Rates 2023
Figures courtesy of Sport England 🔗

Motivators and Barriers

Overcoming the barriers to physical activity can be a challenge and we know certain groups (like those with a long-term health condition or disability) face more barriers than others.

An active workplace culture and leading by example to encourage more movement are two great starting points. They support employees to form active habits that help them to make a lifestyle choice that improves health and productivity.

People take up activity for a variety of reasons. Using these motivations, and being aware of the barriers, will help employees to develop new active habits.



Effective Messaging

Think about language. Many people are put off by the words like ‘exercise’ and ‘sport’ and may have negative views stemming from bad experiences or perceptions that they are based around being outside in the wet and cold, getting overly sweaty and/or high intensity fitness.

Motivation for activity is unique to an individual. The reason why someone is active, or inactive, is entirely personal and varies from person to person.

The fact it increases productivity might be important to you, but improving sleep, feeling better and reducing stress levels are more likely to be drivers for your employees and therefore bigger motivators to move more. If you have the insight and intel on your workforce particularly around reasons for sickness absence this can help tailor how supporting a workforce to be active is ‘sold’.

Consideration should also be given to an ageing workforce, those with disabilities or whose mobility may be affected by a long-term health condition. Their motivations and preferences will be different.

Often, individuals will know what works best for them – so let them choose! Empower individuals to make adjustments that work for them and encourage them to be part of the process, so it doesn’t feel like a ‘top down’ instruction.

Think about individual and team needs, workplace interests, the working environment, and even policies and practices. All of these can give you and your employees excellent ideas of how we can work together to get your employees moving.

Leadership/Workplace culture

Changing workplace culture isn’t easy. But an employer who is viewed internally by the workforce as genuine in their desire to promote, support and action initiatives that support the health and wellbeing of staff is essential.

Employees who feel they have the permissions from, and are enabled by, leadership to be active during the working day is hugely important to encourage a workplace culture that supports more movement, and are committed to developing healthier, happier staff.

It might start with something simple: Encouraging staff to step away from their desks to go on a short walk/wheel, or to take part in a burst of activity, without worrying about having to make up the time makes a huge difference to motivation and morale.

You may be concerned about losing time from the working day, but just 20 minutes of activity each day can help employees to be more alert and productive.

Adopt a supportive and/or enabling approach towards physical activity. For example, if as managers you are able to join in with activities, and be visible role models, employees are more likely to get involved too.

They’ll know the company encourages them to care for their health and wellbeing, and they’ll see that they have permission to take part. Be proactive in promoting/sharing the benefits to an individual of being more active rather than stressing the business benefits to encourage employees to feel it’s being done for them and not to them.

Flexible working not only supports employees to have a better work-life balance, it can also really help those trying to manage a disability or long-term health condition, and support mental health and stress levels.

With lack of time often being cited as the reason why staff are not more active during the working day, flexible working can make it much easier for employees to find ways to be more active at times and in places which better suit their needs and interests.

Ways to adjust culture

  • Include physical activity within your existing health and wellbeing plan or equivalent. And avoid a plan being seen as tokenistic by taking a multi-tiered approach to developing physical activity at work, with involvement from leadership, people managers and individual employees, in order to demonstrate a clear commitment to positively evolving the way the organisation works every day.
  • Include wellbeing is a standing agenda item in team meetings and staff 1 to 1’s.
  • Think about developing a network of Physical Activity Champions, or Workplace Wellbeing Champions. That way, you develop a support network for staff who are interested in supporting their colleagues’ health and wellbeing. There is training, support and ideas out there to help with this. Contact Claire for more info [email protected]
  • Role Modelling. Encourage management and senior staff across teams and services to get involved with activities and pave the way for all employees.
  • Use your workplace building to encourage activity. This could simply be signage promoting the use of the stairs rather than the lift, or by investing in some standing desks.
  • Promote active travel for commuting to work. There are different organisations who can support you with this. Visit x section to see who can help
  • Promote local offers and places. For help finding out more about what’s available and where to sign post staff to visit or visit your local authority web page.

Link to national and regional campaigns to raise awareness and kick start activity, for example

Example of shifting culture: Active Soles

Active Soles is a movement which gives everyone the freedom to wear shoes that they're more able to move in – including employees whilst they’re at work.

Flat, comfortable shoes or trainers enable and encourage people to move more, before, during and after work, which has a positive impact on their work. We can all do great work in our active soles.

Active Soles is here to help you find your way to move more, every day – whether it is walking or wheeling.

It is here to help everyone feel better and invite others to join our movement.

Read more about how Active Soles launched in Greater Manchester.