Tips and Tools

Q. We want the Gold Medal. How can we offer paid time and flex time for physical activity?

A. First, we are glad your team is motivated to earn the WorkHealthy Gold Medal. One of the requirements is to include a policy that says employees are provided opportunities to be physically active during the work day. Research shows that employees who are active while at work are happier, healthier and more productive at work. Not to mention that such a policy often helps when employers are recruiting top talent for new positions.

 But how does such a policy work, in practice? Here are a few examples from different kinds of organizations participating in WorkHealthy:

1. Outpatient Clinic. Lead clinic staff set hourly reminders to stand up and be active. These are calendar reminders or an hourly alarm reminding the entire team to stand up and be active. Activities vary: one team does squats or jumping jacks, others stretch or do push-ups at their work station, then everyone sits back down to work.  In another clinic, staff lead a running club over the lunch hour a few times per week. Employees can use their paid lunch breaks to engage in the club or visit the nearby gym. Employees can flex their work time by 15 minutes if they need a little extra time getting back from their workouts.

2. Hospital. We’re seeing increasing numbers of “microgyms” created on clinical floors for staff who may be required to stay at their stations. Using stretch bands, free weights and prompt cards, employees can be active near their desks. Their “workouts in place” also remind all staff to take active breaks from sitting.

3. Business. Walking meetings are a great way to get out of our chairs and get some fresh air to recharge our batteries while still tending to business. Many of our workplaces have implemented policies encouraging these kinds of breaks and are seeing positive results. Also popular, are physical activity challenges assigning employees to competing groups to count steps taken or minutes exercised.

4. Manufacturing. Allowing employees to take stretching or movement breaks before and after shifts or during shift changes can improve flexibility and reduce work-related injury claims.

We also recently uploaded a new policy guide and template, “Developing Your Worksite Policy to Support Physical Activity,” in the WorkHealthy toolbox to help organizations evaluate current policies and consider updates to encourage physical activity during the work day. These toolbox resources are accessible to organizations that have complete access to WorkHealthy America; users must first log in to their accounts to get to the Toolbox tab. 

When developing your policies, carefully consider your entire employee population by creating clear language that will empower all employees to be active. You are essentially changing your organization’s culture and we know that change takes time. Some employee groups will require more clarity than others — you know what will work best for your employee population.

Prevention Partners’ Organizational Coach Kara Van de Grift, MSW, MSPH, works with employers of all sizes and sectors on improving their policies, benefits and environment for health and wellness.

11-26-2014 10:36 (EST)