Fewer people are exercising at the recommended weekly levels than they were 15 months ago, according to new research from the Nutrition & Health Foundation (NHF). Just over a quarter (26%) of Ireland’s workforce exercise at the recommended level of over 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, down from almost a third (32%) only fifteen months ago. Four in ten (42%) say they are either totally or extremely inactive during their working day. The research was commissioned to mark Ireland’s second National Workplace Wellbeing Day on Friday, 8th April 2016, which is being organised by the Nutrition & Health Foundation and supported by Ibec.
Hundreds of organisations across the public and private sector are expected to participate in the campaign which aims to improve employee health by promoting better nutrition and exercise in the workplace. Amongst the many activities planned are health checks and talks, exercise and fitness classes, nutrition talks and cookery demonstrations. As part of this year’s activities, employers are also being encouraged to arrange a “Lunchtime Mile” – a one mile cycle, jog, run, or walk for employees in the vicinity of their workplace. Further details of how companies can get involved are available at nhfireland.ie/wellbeing
Calling on employers of all sizes and their employees to support the day, Dr Muireann Cullen, Nutrition & Health Foundation said “We need to work together to tackle Ireland’s obesity challenge. We spend so much of our lives at work that the workplace is the perfect place to promote better exercise and eating habits. And with parents making up so much of the workforce, the workplace is an opportunity to influence the habits of more than one generation.”
Dr Cullen added: “A healthier workforce is in everyone’s interest. Four out of five employees believe there is a positive link between their health and wellbeing and their company‘s productivity. Seven in ten (69%) also say they are more likely to stay longer with employers who show an interest in their health and wellbeing.”
Aer Lingus, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, ESB, Intel, the Irish Prison Service, Pfizer and Ulster Bank are some of the organisations that have signed up. However, wellbeing programmes are not the preserve of large or highly profitable companies or organisations, according to Sinéad Doherty, CEO, Fenero, a Dublin based company which employs 16 people. “Small companies and those on a low budget can pack a serious punch with a strong wellbeing leader, a bit of creativity and a good company culture,” she said.
Cathy Farrell, Head of Employee Engagement, Glanbia, another of the companies participating in National Workplace Wellbeing Day, recommends that companies introduce initiatives that best suit their employees and their working environment. “National Workplace Wellbeing Day is an ideal opportunity for employers to promote what they are already doing in the area and for everyone – employers and employees – to try out new initiatives and find out what works best for them.”
According to the NHF research, about half of employers are already trying to facilitate healthier lifestyles for their employees. More employees also have access to health and wellbeing initiatives within the workplace than they did in 2014. The three most popular initiatives mentioned by employees to promote more exercise are company organised Pilates or other exercise classes (45%), access to annual health checks or screenings (45%) and more facilities to support exercise such as showers and lockers (38%).