Physical inactivity costs the UK £20bn each year and is a particular blight on the modern workforce. Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day increases the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent and costs UK businesses productivity. Huw Edwards of UK Active urged the Government do more to promote activity in the workplace by making it easier for employees to unlock health benefits such as gym passes and equipment.
Many workers struggle to fit exercise into their busy working days, leading to higher rates of absenteeism (which costs the UK £29bn a year) and reduced productivity across the workforce.
Edwards said government and employers should encourage the fun and wide-scale health benefits of active lifestyles. He noted that small lifestyle changes can make a significant difference, urging workers to ‘use the stairs instead of the lift, stand while talking on the phone, or go over to your colleague’s desk to talk rather than email them’.
The ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme was flagged by Edwards as an example of a Government policy that is helping to promote behaviour change and he said this should be expanded to include gym passes and equipment to offer workers more ways to get active under a policy he called ‘Workout from Work’.
“By encouraging workers to buy bikes and cycle to work through salary sacrifice incentives, Cycle to Work has had a huge impact,” said Edwards.
“More than 180,000 people bought bikes in 2014 alone, but cycling isn’t for everyone, so why not expand this to include gym memberships and home-activity equipment?
“If we are serious about jump-starting our economy through increased productivity, while at the same time taking the burden of our NHS then it’s time to implement innovative solutions to mobilise Britain’s workforce.”
ukactive has worked with accountancy specialist Saffery Champness to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the economic outcomes of enacting ‘Workout from Work’. The analysis found that for every £1 spent on the scheme, the government would save over £2.60 in NHS treatment costs and productivity increases, helping to tackle the sedentary office cultures fuelling the UK’s physical inactivity crisis.
ukactive is now in detailed discussions with the Treasury to outline the economic and societal merits of the policy and will continue to make the case for enactment of ‘Workout from Work’.
“Exercise has proven physical and mental benefits for workers, he added.” “Healthy and happy workforces are more productive, healthier and stay with their companies longer, driving revenue for their employers. It’s a ‘win-win’ scenario.”