Article written by Barry Kelly, Specialist Advisor -Physical Activity for Health, LondonSport
Charles Handy, the author and philosopher who specialises in organisational behaviour and management once said that, ‘Companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world – not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.’ Whether the lifespan or longevity of a company can be deemed to be a measure of such excellence is debatable but where Handy is right is that companies and organisations that put people central to what they are doing (especially their own employees) are more likely to succeed.
Last week, London Sport and Westfield Health launched a new partnership, which will be working to support the health and wellbeing of Londoners by targeting the capital’s workplaces and employers. The partnership was officially launched at a breakfast meeting at the House of Sport on 25 April with representatives from a range of businesses and organisations from across London in attendance.
At the breakfast meeting, the key note speech was delivered by Professor Steve Hakke, Director of Wellbeing at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), a partner of Westfield Health. Steve provided an overview of health and wellbeing, and looked at what was required to change behaviour, including the culture and the environment necessary to achieve this. He also covered Sheffield Hallam University Wellness Scheme which incorporated medical checkups, physical fitness assessments and motivational interviewing in its approach to try and bring about long-term behavioural change in the work place. After one year the project found that fitness, blood pressure and cholesterol had improved with reduced absenteeism and increased presenteeism. They are impressive results!
Following on from the key note address, three workshops focused on: building a health and wellbeing strategy that works; sleep well, work well; and moving more at work. Particularly interesting to me was the workshop on sleep, not least as it in part explained why I’m so grumpy on Monday mornings! As well as a range of measures one can take to help improve sleep, such as controlling temperature, light and noise levels and going to bed at a regular time, the main take away point for me was that what is happening outside of work is as important as what occurs in the office, whilst this is still something that workplaces can help support and have influence over.
I had been invited to run the final workshop of the event on moving more at work, which was a quick tour through what we can as employers to help get people more active at work: flexible working policies and incentive schemes; policies to encourage employees to walk or cycle; independent health checks; facilities – shower and changing, bicycle storage; to encourage more stair use; the involvement of employees in planning of activities and staging taster sessions: to name but a few. Of course, one of the key takeaways was that there should be greater emphasis on reducing sedentary behaviour, which is a risk factor independent of people’s level of physical activity. Latest advice suggests that we should take an active break from sitting every 30 minutes. How many of us adhere to that when dealing with that sea of e-mails every day?
It must be said, this new partnership between London Sport and Westfield Health is just the start for us but what has become evident in my nearly 20 years in this sector is the important role of workplaces in helping support people to lead healthier lives. After all, healthier people tend to be happier people.