The power of flexibility in the workplace

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This blog is written by Martha Lourey-Bird, exercise scientist.

 

Staff that exercise regularly are less likely to take sick leave, recover quicker when they do, have more strategies for coping with stress and anxiety and enjoy better sleep and less back pain. They’ve also been shown to be more productive during the working day. What’s not to love?

They’re facts that make injecting some flexibility into the workplace, so that employees have the freedom to fit some exercise into their workday, a really smart strategy. The great news is that more and more organisations are doing exactly that. If you work for one of them, fantastic! If you don’t (yet!) a good starting point is to start talking about it at work, regardless of whether you’re an employer or employee. To kickstart the dialogue, it pays to know how a ‘flexible workplace’ might look, so you know what to aim for. Here are three things they tend to have in common. 

  1. Active lunch breaks are encouraged. Whilst some of the more active workplaces facilitate touch footy comps and running groups at lunchtime, you can start small. Simply pull on a pair of comfy walking shoes, walk away from work in one direction for ten minutes, then turn around and come back. That’s all it takes! Go by yourself or invite a colleague. If your office isn’t located in an area that’s conducive to walking, consider going to a yoga or group fitness class. Many lunchtime classes are 30-45 minutes long, so you’ll have enough time to eat lunch and grab a shower, too. Find more ideas to help you have an active lunch break, here.
     
  2. Working hours can be tailored to suit exercise. Flexible workplaces are often set up so that people have the freedom to, within reason, choose their own working hours. This might allow people to start work later three days a week, so that they can exercise before work on those days. Alternatively, you could negotiate to start and finish work earlier three days a week, so you can exercise on your way home. An added bonus? By tweaking your work hours slightly, you might also avoid hours a week spent sitting in rush-hour traffic!
     
  3. Socialising and activity often go together. Instead of office drinks, plan something active and fun for your next work function. It can be anything from a salsa class, to a day out of the office hiking, team walking activities like treasure hunts, a social day of tennis or something more challenging like rock climbing. Ask your colleagues for ideas and take an office vote – early collaboration in these types of activities tends to yield higher participation rates.

Martha's website can be accessed here.