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Encouraging employee wellness and activity during the workday

Workdays can be long, grueling, and exhausting. Sitting at their desk, staring at a computer screen all day not only takes a toll on your employees’ wellness and mental health, as well as their physical health. Getting up to refill their coffee mug doesn’t necessarily count as physical activity – at least not as much as we want to believe it does.

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Inspiring your employees to get up and move around before, during, and after work can be tough. Between their commute and working a full day, getting enough exercise everyday sounds impossible. Installing bike-friendly features or providing a corporate bikeshare to your employees might just be the nudge they need to adopt a more active commute.

Let’s take a ride 

Employees starting and end their day outside can lead to higher productivity throughout the day. In fact, outdoor commutes have been proven to improve mental health by lowering stress and depression.

One of the biggest roadblocks keeping employees from making the switch to a more active commute is the concern of showing up to the office sweating and uncomfortable – especially during the summer months. Installing a shower at your office – or working with your building to install a shower if you’re not the sole occupant – can be the perfect solution to alleviate these concerns. Employees are actually 5 times more likely to bike, walk, or run to work when they can shower before starting their day.

Installing bike parking at your office is another way to encourage employees to choose two wheels over four. A concern for employees who bike to work is the safety and security of their bike during the day. Bringing a bike into the office takes up space, that more likely than not, isn’t available. Something as simple as installing a bike rack outside of your building can be the difference between employees biking or driving to work.

Learn from the best 

The Seattle Children’s Hospital is one of the city’s largest employers and in 2008 they were tasked by the city to lower their employee drive alone rate. They were able to accomplish that and more. The hospital was able to get their drive alone rate reduced from 50 percent to around 38.5 percent. What was the main tactic they used? They encouraged employees to adopt more active commuting methods.

Employees who pledged to bike to work two or more days per week were given a free bike. On top of that, they receive an extra $4 a day, just for biking. These were drastic measures taken by a large organization and not every company can offer these benefits, but the idea behind the change can be widely adopted. When encouragement comes from the top, employees are more willing to make a change.

A little friendly competition

Fitness and wellness challenges are growing trends in workplaces across the country. Companies like provide up-to-date leaderboards of all employees participating in the challenge, allowing everyone to see where they stack up against their colleagues.

Not only does this get people outside during their commute, it gets them active throughout the day. Instead of taking a break to look at their phone, employees might opt to go for a walk around the block to get their daily step count up. Plus, injecting some competition into the office never hurt anyone.

As a company where none of our employees drive to work, we wanted to see how active our employees are throughout the day. While a lot of our employees use public transit as their main form of commuting, we still have a portion that walks or bikes to the office. We saw this competition as an opportunity to get more of our workforce to take advantage of the warm weather while it’s still here and trade the bus for a bike!

Covering employee commutes in your corporate wellness program can help promote more active commuting habits as well. Gym memberships and yoga classes are popular features currently included in many corporate wellness programs and commuting benefits shouldn’t be forgotten. Assisting in more active commutes can come by way of subsidized bikeshare accounts or actually paying employees to walk or bike to work – like the Seattle Children’s Hospital!

Break up the day

Effective breaks can come far and few between during the workday. Getting caught up in to-do lists, taking on unexpected tasks, or simply losing track of time can keep employees stuck at their desk. Encouraging your workforce to take active breaks throughout the day can lead to higher productivity and employee satisfaction.

These breaks can be something as simple as going on a walk to get a coffee or even getting a full workout in. Anything that prevents them from staring at a computer screen for eight straight hours and getting some fresh air will help.

All in all

Ultimately, how active employees are before, during, and after work is up to them. Encouraging them by offering certain benefits can be the nudge they need to take the frequent workday breaks they tend to forget about.

A corporate bikeshare membership can eliminate the barrier many employees build because they don’t own a bike. Installing a shower at the office allows bike commuters the opportunity to freshen up before beginning their day. Any level of effort and encouragement from your company or leadership team can greatly influence the decisions employees make about commuting.

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