A new study by research group PJM Economics, commissioned by AXA PPP healthcare, has found higher levels of physical activity among employees could save UK businesses up to £6.6bn through improved employee productivity each year.
The Economics of Exercise: Measuring the business benefits of being physically fit highlights the substantial return on investment businesses could stand to make from increasing physical activity levels among employees.
Drawing upon a range of sources including academic literature, official statistics, studies by government departments and evidence reported by private organisations, the report uses economic value transfers to quantify the value that exercise can bring to UK businesses.
According to the study, if all employees met the UK Chief Medical Officers’ recommended guidelines of 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (just over 20 minutes per day), it could deliver up to £6.6bn in direct productivity gains to businesses each year.
The study suggests further gains could be made as the valuation did not include the full extent of intangible benefits associated with businesses’ investment in the wellbeing of their employees, which include strengthening their culture of care, boosting the ability to attract and retain talent, avoidance of associated recruitment costs, and the perception of an increased market value of a business as a result.
Tracy Garrad, AXA PPP healthcare CEO, said the findings provide a strong business case for investing in employee health and wellbeing.
“Just as the success of high performing sports teams depends on the fitness and resilience of their members, successful businesses rely on the health and resilience of their people. Improving business performance is indeed a compelling reason for investing in workplace wellbeing but it isn’t the only one – employers who help their employees to lead healthy, active lives should also benefit from better loyalty and engagement.”
Julian Hitch, Director of Wellbeing for restaurant chain Leon and renowned martial arts expert, has witnessed first-hand the significant benefits of supporting employee physical activity. From stress management, productivity and resilience to improved mental health, it’s clear exercise has proven to be a key part in facilitating effective working conditions.
“Whether you’re working in the service industry and on your feet all day, or working in an office, today’s fast-paced, high-pressure environment can have a serious effect on your physical and mental health. Constant neck and back pain and reduced gut health from being desk-bound are now pervasive. Similarly, a lack of exercise affects your mental health and the brain slows down from too much sitting down. Physical activity helps address those effects on the body, as well as boost employee wellbeing overall.”
These effects, and the belief in the importance of movement to wellbeing, spurred Leon’s leadership to create Kwoon – a wellbeing centre for employees. This offers free classes from martial arts to Zumba to yoga. “The centre – and our at-work integration of principles of martial arts – have had a huge effect on employees. Indeed, class attendees record reduced stress levels, allowing them to feel happier in their work, along with supporting a better service to our customers. We’ve had positive correlations between this and reduced staff turnover.”
Dr Paul Metcalfe, Founder of PJM Economics and author of the report, added: “While additional research is needed to fully capture and understand the benefits exercise can deliver to UK businesses, the evidence points to there being an important role for employers to promote the wellbeing of the working population, with benefits to be reaped at a business output level.”