Want to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and support your employees to feel happier and more satisfied at work?
The key may be introducing some new walk-to-work policies and initiatives – and just in time for Walk2Work Day, Wednesday 11 March 2020!
What is Walk2Work Day?
Established in 2009 and facilitated by Living Streets Aotearoa, Walk2Work Day is a national event encouraging New Zealanders to do just that… walk to work!
A nationwide organisation with local branches and affiliates throughout New Zealand, Living Streets Aotearoa’s mission is to promote walking-friendly communities. The focus of Walk2Work Day is about celebrating walking in general, promoting the link between using public transport and walking, and raising awareness of the health and wellbeing benefits of walking (all or part of the way) to work on a regular basis.
“We expect Walk2Work Day 2020 to be hyperlocal, with organisations having a morning tea or similar recognition for anyone who walked for fifteen minutes or more from home, bus, train or distant car park. Two lots of fifteen minutes will cover the absolute basics of inactivity for adults and is really easy to fit into the working day.”
Former Mayor of Wellington (2010-2016) and Founder, Living Streets Aotearoa.
Benefits of Walking
Countless studies have demonstrated the correlation between walking and improved health, fitness, mental health and overall wellbeing. What’s more, walking is the most accessible and easy form of exercise. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no special equipment or training required, and people of all ages and levels of fitness can walk.
As little as thirty minutes of physical activity a day can improve physical and mental health. The easiest way to regularly exercise is by making walking part of your daily routine, and health benefits include:
- increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
- stronger bones and improved balance
- increased muscle strength and endurance
- reduced body fat
- increased oxygen flow through the body
- increased levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine – the hormones that help elevate energy levels
- reduced anxiety and depression
- increased immune function
Most people have a good understanding of the health benefits of walking – but this mode of ‘active transport’ can also save your workers money (thanks to reduced fuel and parking costs), is good for the environment and results in a more productive workforce.
Benefits of a Walk-Friendly Workplace
The benefits of supporting the physical and mental health of your team are numerous – and since walking is free, easy and accessible, it’s the ideal form or exercise to encourage in your workforce.
As an employer, here are just some of the benefits your business or organisation will enjoy by creating a walk-friendly work environment and team culture:
Workers who regularly walk to work are healthier, and as a result, and tend to have less time off work sick. Research suggests that just 90-minutes of walking each week can reduce the number of sick days employees take by around HALF.
Staff who walk to work tend to start the day more mentally alert, and tend to be more focused throughout the day. The feel-good factors associated with walking can also give staff a boost and help them feel more resilient during times of stress – resulting in increased productivity overall.
Worker Satisfaction and Engagement
A walk-to-work scheme can be a great way to engage employees in a meaningful way. Not only will they bond over their shared experience of walking to work, they’ll also feel more valued. When employers demonstrate an awareness of employee needs and values, staff satisfaction increases.
Traffic can be a nightmare at peak-hour travel times, resulting in increased stress levels among staff and frequent unexpected delays. Because walking can generally be timed more reliably, staff who walk to work tend to arrive on time.
Staff Retention and Loyalty
When workers are happier at work, they’re more likely to stay! Because walking reduces stress and positively impacts mental health, your employees are likely to feel happier at work – and as a result, stay with your company longer, saving on recruiting and training costs and staff turnover upheavals.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Are you passionate about going green? If being environmentally friendly and eco-conscious align with your business values, encouraging and supporting staff to walk to work is a no brainer. Demonstrate your organisation’s environmental credentials by promoting sustainable travel among staff travelling to and during work
While, in an ideal world, all workers would live in close enough proximity to walk the entire way to work and back each day, this isn’t always practical. The good news is, encouraging and supporting your staff to walk even some of the way to work by catching public transport – or parking their car further from the office – and walking the rest of the way can make a big difference.
Supporting Your Staff
Wondering how you can support your team to walk to work? Check out your policies and look at ways you can make them more walking friendly, and create a workplace culture that celebrates and rewards working to – and at – work. You might implement walking meetings or lunchtime walking groups during work hours, or incentivise walking to work to encourage a greater pick-up by staff.
Here are some ideas:
Lead by Example
One of the best ways to encourage staff to walk is to do it yourself! If workers see senior management walking to work or to meetings, they’ll be more likely to considering walking themselves.
A few low cost changes around your workplace can make it easier for people to choose walking to work over driving their car. Provide lockers for storing shoes and clothes so that staff can dress comfortably for walking, and then change when they arrive at work. Other walk-friendly facilities include storage to dry wet gear such as coats and jackets, and showers for staff who would like to freshen up before work.
If your business is located in a remote area and walking to work isn’t practical, you can still help your team reap the rewards of walking by introducing a lunchtime walking group. Encourage your workers to get active during their break, and come back refreshed and ready for a productive afternoon.
Similarly, you can introduce walking meetings – where team members walk and talk instead of staying sedentary in the boardroom. Have a pool of umbrellas available at work so walks can be an option no matter what the weather is like.
Want to make it easier for workers to stay active on their way to meetings, or still be able to run errands on their lunchbreak? Provide a pool of bikes so people who walk to work can still do errands during the day, or cycle to and from office-hours meetings.
Incentivise walking to work by offering staff fun and engaging rewards and perks. You might offer a ‘mileage’ allowance where every km walked to work or during office hours results in a monthly monetary bonus or gift card. It may be something as simple as a healthy breakfast provided to everyone who walks to work each day.
Gamification and Rewards
Make walking a fun option by introducing walking challenges and rewards to your team. It might be as simple as a star chart, where workers get a star each day they walk to work. The most stars accumulated each month results in a prize – like a pedometer or a gift card to go towards new walking shoes. A little friendly competition can ramp up engagement and get everyone involved.
Ride Home Peace of Mind
Consider offering employees a guaranteed ride home in the case of a family emergency. While this is unlikely to be needed very often, the peace of mind that a team member can get home quickly if they need to will help them make the choice to walk rather than drive.
Start with Walk2Work Day!
Walk2Work Day is a great time to introduce walking to work to your team, so consider setting up a one-day challenge on March 11 to get your workers engaged. You can learn more via the Living Streets Aotearoa website.