New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also advises companies to promote the use of stairs instead of lifts and provide information about safe active travel routes to work “to reduce sedentary behaviour”.
The NICE Quality Standard on physical activity, published yesterday, suggests that employers can encourage staff to be more active by highlighting lunchtime classes at a local gym, such as yoga or spinning, and offering subsidised gym memberships.
It is also hoped the guidelines will help to reduce staff absenteeism levels.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than 131 million working days were lost to sickness in 2017, including 13 million working days lost to stress, depression or anxiety.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “If the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses encouraged their workplace to be more active, they are more likely to reap the benefits of having engaged employees who are more productive and are less likely to take time off sick.
“Simple things like providing secure bicycle storage, showers and changing facilities can go a long way to enabling people to cycle to work or to meetings.
“As a society we are facing an obesity crisis caused in part by people not exercising enough. We need people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise. If they can do this during the working day, not only will they benefit, but so too will their employers and the NHS [National Health Service]. It’s a win, win for everyone.”
Public health minister Seema Kennedy said: “We have a world leading plan to tackle obesity with prevention at its core, and later this summer we will be setting out further action on obesity and physical activity through a prevention green paper.
“It is vital that employers embrace prevention to ensure their staff stay fit and health. Having seen first-hand in my department the positive impact running clubs can have, I welcome the launch of the quality standard as another way to encourage communities to stay active.”