We all know that being physically active and getting regular exercise is good for us, but our lives are probably more sedentary than ever before.
People who work in offices, or do their jobs from home, can find most of the information they need online. There’s less need to walk around to research information and talk to people. Email and the Internet dominate our working lives.
The pandemic has drastically reduced face-to-face meetings and travel. Online meetings via Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have become the new normal.
Mobile technology means we can be online and connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Work can expand to fill the time available. So, how do we ensure that physical activity is part of our daily routine as well?
One of our gold sponsors, Wytech, led by MD Mark Jones, has been working hard on this question for more than a year.
Wytech provides fully-managed IT and telecoms solutions and builds bespoke systems and networks. The award-winning company was founded in 2004 and is on a mission to eliminate any worries businesses may have about their IT and infrastructure.
The directors at Wytech have always had a keen interest in sport and have sponsored a variety of sporting events over the years.
Mark explained: “In the past 18 months I have suffered a number of personal bereavements and reached the milestone age of 50. This has focused my mind on the importance of physical fitness and mental wellbeing, not just for me but for the team at Wytech too.
“Being sports fans we know that high-performing sports teams depend on the fitness and resilience of their members. It seems clear to me that successful businesses also rely on the health and resilience of their people.
“Helping our employees to be healthy and happy is the right thing to do, but I also believe that investing in workplace wellbeing improves business performance. Helping our employees to lead healthy, active lives gives them the assurance that they are valued and part of a team working together for a common goal. It can be fun too. Happy and healthy staff equals a happy and healthy business.”
Mark’s fellow directors supported his stance and they have encouraged all of the employees of Wytech to take part in physical fitness and mental health awareness programmes.
The pandemic presented Wytech with an opportunity to re-assess personal wellbeing in the workplace and at home.
They worked with personal and team development specialists Dragonfly TeamSynergy (DTS) and put together a programme of indoor and outdoor training packages available to all staff, and paid for by Wytech. Mark says these initiatives have been well received and supported by the team.
Since becoming a Gold Sponsor under our Thrive sponsorship programme earlier this year, Wytech staff members have been enjoying weekly exercise sessions online with one of our strength and conditioning coaches. They watch coach Alex Van Enis demonstrate the correct and safe way to exercise on Zoom before joining in.
Mark said: “Becoming a DIS sponsor has also opened up opportunities for further learning. We have mental health check-ins with Dr Phil Clarke of the DIS and we all attend the brilliant DIS lunch and learn webinars that take place each month and cover a wide range of wellness subjects.”
Wytech encourages its employees on their personal growth and wellbeing journey and some of these activities happen during working hours. They hold regular discussions in the office on health and wellbeing topics.
Ensuring employees do enough physical activity can have a wide variety of benefits to them as individuals as well as to the business. Exercise can reduce stress and anxiety as well as helping people to concentrate, have more energy and less time off sick.
Physically active employees tend to have stronger immune systems and fight off viruses and illness more easily. They are more productive because they can concentrate and feel more energetic. They tend to feel happier and cope better with stress. The endorphins released by the body during exercise make a positive difference to how we cope with anxiety. Active people tend to sleep better giving their bodies and their brain the chance to rest and reboot.
Our MD Chloe Maudsley, who has competed internationally in karate, said: “The human body was simply not designed for a sedentary lifestyle. You can tell that humans were made to move because of our skeletal structure, our muscles, joints, blood and respiratory systems. Lack of physical activity is becoming a real public health issue. It’s been linked to many chronic health conditions, including obesity, anxiety, diabetes and heart disease. If we spend many of our waking hours sitting at a desk or crouched over a computer we store up problems in our necks and backs as well as constricting our chests and our digestive systems.”
The NHS tells us that the link between illness and long periods spent sitting down was first identified in the 1950s when researchers found double decker bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues. The drivers sat for 90 per cent of their shifts, while the conductors climbed about 600 stairs each working day.
It’s not so much the act of sitting that increases the chance of long-term health risks such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression, but it is a general lack of physical activity, coupled with poor diet and a lot of sitting down that increases the risk.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) found that physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death globally – that’s more than 3.2 million deaths every year around the world. It recommends that healthy adults aged 18-64 should clock up at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. That’s just over 20 minutes a day, but research suggests that 80% of adults don’t even manage this.
At Wytech, many members of the team have sporting interests and hobbies outside of work. Business development manager Jon Cowley enjoys running and can now complete a half marathon in an hour and 43 minutes and a 10k in 45 minutes.
Wytech’s digital marketer Hannah Ward, its operations manager Tom Ward and MD Mark all enjoy cue sports. Hannah played cue sports as a junior from the age of five and became a highly-ranked World Under 21 Ladies Snooker champion, Derbyshire Ladies Pool champion and National Ladies Billiards champion. Fitness and flexibility are as important for high-performing cue sports players as they are for other athletes.
Mark says the drive to promote physical and mental wellbeing at work has resulted in increased motivation and built stronger, more cohesive teams within the company.
“It has also decreased presenteeism,” said Mark. “This is when people drag themselves into work feeling rubbish and not able to be productive, through illness or being out-of-sorts.”
A 2019 survey by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that more than 83% of its respondents had seen the impact of presenteeism in their organisation, and 25% said the problem had got worse since the previous year. It found that people were putting aside both mental and physical health problems to attend work, but the results were damaging – for them as individuals and for the business.
Mark added: “Creating a health culture at Wytech has had enormous benefits and made this a happy, productive place to work. Our people know that we genuinely care and want them to enjoy their lives outside work. I also believe it boosts our ability to attract and retain talent.”