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Should we be paid to exercise at work?

View profile for Joanne Ormston
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Following the findings of the British Heart Foundation that over 20 million UK people are classed as physically inactive, the discussion of just how to tackle this growing problem has emerged once again. One suggestion is that it’s now time for employers to make physical exercise part of the paid working day. Many tech companies, such as Google and Hootsuite, have been major proponents of exercising during the working day, with those in charge adamant that they would not be enjoying the success they now have if they hadn’t encouraged their employees to stay healthy.

Hootsuite CEO, Ryan Holmes, has always given his workforce the freedom to schedule in an hour every day for exercise, with the understanding that it doesn’t conflict with other commitments, and believes that it’s a policy that ultimately pays for itself. “I see employees return from workouts refreshed and better focused on their jobs”, says Holmes. “Time lost on exercise is made back and more in terms of improved productivity.”

Whilst some employers might initially see paying their employees to work out every day as throwing money away, research suggests daily exercise during the working day could actually help increase the overall productivity and profitability of their business. Allowing employees to exercise at work makes them happier, calmer and more efficient, as well as improving concentration and problem-solving abilities. Improving the health and wellbeing of your workforce is also likely to lower the level of absence due to illness.

Whilst every employer might not be able to go as far as allowing gym sessions to be scheduled into the working day, the British Heart Foundation says that even short active breaks throughout the day can have real benefit. The foundation has even put together a ten minute workout video to give workers some inspiration.

Just as beneficial as promoting exercise is shifting away from an unhealthy culture which can often be found in office environments, in particular. Cakes and sweet treats will often be brought in by colleagues or provided by management as a reward, and the tendency for many workers to stay seated at a desk for the entire day is also unhealthy. Even standing for a few hours a day instead of sitting can make a difference, with some experts suggesting that doing this five days a week for a year is the equivalent to running ten marathons. We know which we’d rather do!

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.