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Mental Health Awareness Week – steps employers can take to encourage employees to move more at work

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees’ mental health, leading to benefits like increased productivity and decreased turnover. Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2024) focuses on “movement.” Employers can promote this through walking meetings, on-site fitness classes, stair use, flexible breaks, and fitness challenges to boost wellbeing.

Employers have a legal duty of care towards employees, so taking steps to protect employees’ mental health can be a legal requirement. Fostering a working environment that places importance on employee mental health and wellbeing is also beneficial for employers as it should lead to, amongst other things, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and employee turnover, and reinforce the organisation’s reputation as an employer of choice which aims to provide a safe and supportive working environment.

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 13-19 May 2024. The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, set by the Mental Health Foundation, is movement. The link between physical activity and mental health is well known.

Some examples of steps employers could take to encourage employees to do this include:

  • Walking meetings: Changing traditional seated meetings into walking meetings can be a simple yet effective way to help incorporate more movement into the day. Walking meetings are not only good for physical and mental health, but it is also thought they can help boost work creativity and collaboration.
  • On-site fitness classes:Offering exercise classes such as yoga, Pilates or aerobics classes during lunch breaks or after work can make exercise both convenient and social for employees. These classes should be aimed at various fitness levels and preferences to help ensure inclusivity.
  • Encouraging use of stairs: During Mental Health Awareness Week, employers could take steps to make the stairs more inviting by posting signs that encourage taking the stairs e.g. making sure employees know how to access the stairs and clearly marking each floor level.
  • Flexible breaks: Allowing and encouraging flexible break times for employees to take short, frequent walks can help break up long periods of sitting.
  • Challenges:Consider introducing fitness challenges amongst teams to help make movement fun. For instance, a step-count challenge with a leader-board can motivate employees to move more, particularly those with a more competitive nature!

Source: Lexology

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