Why business should embrace this summer of sport

Graham White
Christ The Redeemer Lit Green Yellow and Blue Two Years Ahead Of Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony
Allowing staff to watch the Rio 2016 Olympics could be an easy win (Source: Getty)

With the average worker spending at least 90,000 hours – over one third of all their time awake – in the workplace, it should come as no surprise that the quality of the working environment can have a serious impact on employee happiness, wellbeing and loyalty.

According to government guidelines, the creation of a positive and healthy environment increases staff morale, improves work-life balance and lifts the bottom line. This has been backed up by a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine which found that UK businesses that nurtured a culture of health outperformed the stock market average by three to one between 2000 and 2014.

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If this isn’t enough of an incentive, companies should look at the risk of avoiding action on the issue. The World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health estimate that major chronic diseases and mental illness will result in a cumulative $47 trillion of lost economic output globally between 2011 and 2030.

For many businesses, the best way to boost workplace health is sports-based activities. Here the statistics are equally compelling. According to a report by HR Recruitment firm Ortus, 52 per cent of employees are more productive when sport or exercise is incorporated into the working day.

Sports in the workplace

So what does a best-practice sports programme look like? To really stand out, companies should look beyond the more mundane corporate gym memberships, cycle-to-work schemes and running clubs. Chiswick Park, which has a dedicated Enjoy-Work team, ensures that our regular classes are diverse and appeal to people with different fitness goals and aspirations. This can range from an exhilarating zip wire across the park through to football and netball leagues, dance classes and meditation.

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Elsewhere, we are seeing a rise in corporately organised sporting events and challenges which also provide excellent networking opportunities. One example is Deloitte’s Ride Across Britain, which sees 80-100 staff and around 80 clients cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats in nine days. The event is seen as an ideal opportunity to talk to contacts in a relaxed environment, and is inclusive in that it is open to people of all cycling abilities.

But events can be more modest. Business district Devonshire Square recently teamed up with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust to deliver Cue for Change, a week-long pool tournament, and Canary Wharf Group ran a similar volleyball festival for firms on the estate.

Motivation is key

Companies with the highest levels of participation in sports and health programmes are those that actively promote their schemes and provide inspiration, work with employees to set and monitor goals for staying in shape, and adapt the working day to make taking part easier.

Financial services firm Old Mutual and pharmaceuticals company Sanofi Pasteur MSD both run seminars or “lunch and learn” sessions aimed at equipping employees with the know-how on healthy diets and lifestyles. This is backed up with nutritious food options in the staff canteen and promotional posters on office walls.

Motivation can come from much further afield and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games should be a great catalyst for an upsurge in sport. At Chiswick Park, our 30 by 30 square metre events plaza will be transformed with a giant screen showing Rio 2016, and workers will be invited to come together, recharge the batteries and follow the latest Olympic action. This will be followed up with visits from leading sports personalities and fitness gurus.

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Sports clothing brand Sweaty Betty not only encourages its staff to keep fit, it also gives them time to do so. The company offers lunchtime yoga sessions plus flexible working hours which mean employees can leave early to get to their favourite spin class.

With employees increasingly basing their employment decisions on workplace cultural factors such as environment, location, benefits and employee engagement initiatives, there should be more pressure than ever for companies to elevate sports participation. Borrowing the iconic Nike slogan, I would say to businesses “Just Do It!”

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