Workplace schemes make big difference to employee health

Implementing measures such as pedometer challenges, health checks and fruit giveaways can make a significant improvement to the health of employees in the workplace, a government-funded scheme has concluded.

The Well@Work programme run by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and funded by the Department of Health, Sport England and the Big Lottery Fund, has found that pedometer challenges can increase weekly step counts by a third.

Similarly, those who took part in active travel schemes spent on average an extra 24 minutes walking or cycling to and from work, while use of the workplace stairs increased by 28% following initiatives such as putting up encouragement posters and redecorating stairwells.

Healthy eating initiatives encouraged participants to increase their intake of fruit and vegetables, with an extra 11% meeting their five-a-day requirement.

The programme has recommended that all employers design their buildings in ways to encourage employees to be active and ensure that catering contracts stipulate healthy food is available.

It has also urged primary care trusts to integrate health checks and health trainers into workplaces.

There was also a need for employees to be proactive – for example, requesting healthy workplace initiatives from their employers, while employers should consider including sport in any healthy workplace initiatives for their staff.

Nicki Cooper, head of heart health at the BHF, said: “We spend 60% of our day with colleagues, so they can provide great support in getting us to swap that chocolate cake for a piece of fruit, or to walk home instead of driving.”

Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, added: “I’m encouraged to see pilots like this. Employers have a crucial role to play if we are to make wellness at work a reality for all, not a privilege for the few.”

The Well@Work scheme covered 10,000 staff in 32 workplaces across England over two years, with both a range of public and private workplaces taking part.

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