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Strong Body, Strong Mind – And Greatly Improved Work Performance

mental health benefits
When employees are in a physical role, it’s easy to see the relationship between their activity levels and their productivity – and your business reliably hitting its KPIs. When the role is centred around a computer and desk, however, it’s easy to put significant value on the mind first and foremost, without appreciating the extensive effects that having our employees care for their physical health can offer a business – and they’re huge. 

Employees that proactively take steps to care for their physical health through exercise display fewer signs of excessive stress, burnout and mental exhaustion (to name a few), while enjoying greater job satisfaction. With research suggesting that 11% of New Zealand workers might be experiencing burnout, and the productivity of businesses dropping due to increasing presenteeism, businesses that are taking steps to promote physical health through activity have the potential to achieve notable gains – both in employee health and in their companies’ productive capacity.

Here are eight of the many mind-body benefits your employees stand to gain by using exercise to maximise their wellbeing at work, and the innovative way that you can directly support your employee’s health journey regardless of their varying preferences and needs.

 

Mood Brightener

It takes just 20 minutes of exercise to gain mood-boosting benefits that last up to 12 hours. These benefits range from improved self-esteem and confidence to better sleep and vitality. 

At work, feeling good helps employees stay engaged and productive. They are more satisfied with their work, which is linked to greater feelings of security, support, respect and being valued. They’re also more tolerant and resilient and have an extra buffer against stressful challenges that helps them bounce back from setbacks. 

 

Better Memory And Focus

Exercise has been labelled as “brain food”, improving employees’ mental acuity and overall cognitive function. During movement, blood, glucose and oxygen levels are kept at optimum levels while inflammation is reduced and growth factors are produced to assist with brain health. This better enables employees to concentrate, improves memory consolidation, and promotes learning.

At work, when employees have the right mindset to focus, they get more done. A self-reported study showed that on the days that employees exercised, they experienced a 72% improvement in work completed and in their time management. 

 

Boosted Creativity

Exercise as simple as walking improved creativity in 81% to 100% of participants in a study, who were almost twice as likely to produce novel and high-quality thoughts compared to their counterparts who didn’t exercise. 

At work, creativity means fresh thinking and ideas, improved problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration.

 

Social Boost

Even solo exercise produces an increase in prosocial behaviour, including improving trust and cooperation. When completed in a group setting, exercise also helps to develop a social identity, a sense of belonging, and creates meaningful connections.

At work, this means greater collaboration and teamwork, trusted delegation, a greater propensity for sharing knowledge, meaningful relationships, greater job satisfaction – and generally better organisational efficiency, a goal of any high-performing company or individual. 

 

Reduced Anxiety & Stress

Seven out of ten adults experience stress or anxiety daily, diminishing their focus, productivity and ability to make rational decisions. Biologically, the fight or flight response kicks in – and with it stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol circulate through the body. Caring for our physical health through exercise reduces stress hormone levels, relaxes our muscles, and stimulates the production of endorphins that boost our mood and manage our pain.

At work, this helps improve employees’ performance while reducing productive hours lost due to absenteeism and presenteeism. Exercise also lowers the risk of experiencing the serious physical effects of chronic stress including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, fatigue, trouble sleeping and more.

 

Reducing The Risk Of Major Depression

Replacing 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of running, or one hour of sitting with one hour of walking reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Exercise as a treatment for clinical depression has been extensively studied and is well established as having significant, long-lasting effects by helping the brain make new connections and promoting nerve cell growth.

At work, this can help reduce absenteeism while improving productivity and focus.

 

Greater Energy

Exercise works at both the cellular level to help the body create energy, as well as improving the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the cells and releasing hormones.

At work, alongside helping employees stay focused on tasks for longer, research suggests those with good levels of energy are more likely to voluntarily stay at their job. 

 

Better Sleep

Sleep is critical for allowing the body and mind to recharge. It lets muscles relax, while the mind processes daily learnings, filing them for future recall. During our awake hours, we naturally incur neurological damage, and during sleep our body can clear this debris and repair the damage most effectively. Research shows that moderate aerobic exercise improves the sleep quality of adults

At work, coming in well rested means our productivity, attitude and energy remain optimal, maximising our performance. 

 

When Exercise Isn’t Always Possible

While regular exercise is often desired by employees, having existing injuries or other health difficulties can be a significant barrier to uptaking it. This is where many savvy New Zealand businesses have intervened to offer employer aid payments via specific digital health wallets that enable employees’ to take care of health problems, recover from injuries, and even pay for vitamins and prescriptions, to enable their team to return to exercise safely and effectively.

This is done through the free and secure HealthNow platform, where payments to your employee’s health wallets can be automatically made monthly or at a frequency and dollar value that you choose. The funds can only be spent on health services and products within New Zealand, allowing your team to access the care they need, when they need it – and before ongoing pain or problems lead to absenteeism or presenteeism. 

HealthNow provides updates on your impact to help you measure the value of employer aid within your company. Your contributions are not subject to the Fringe Benefits Tax, are free for your employees to use (they even get a free $10 credit with their free sign-up), and HealthNow has an ever-growing trusted network of medical providers to keep your staff healthy and happy.

 

To get started, register your company’s interest via this contact form and a HealthNow team member will get back to you promptly.

 

References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235275530_Exercising_at_work_and_self-reported_work_performance

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15255923/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235275530_Exercising_at_work_and_self-reported_work_performance

https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1527002517717299

https://hbr.org/2015/12/proof-that-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/feeling-the-burnout-more-than-1-in-10-new-zealanders-are-stressed-at-work

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/stress-effects-on-the-body

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527334/