9 reasons why workplace fitness benefits SMEs

6 min read  |   31 May, 2023   By Aimée Brougham-Chandler

A smiling young woman works out on a mat at home in front of her laptop, she's watching a fitness class.

We all know that exercise is good for the body, mind and soul. But is it good for business? What with work, family, eating right, getting enough sleep and downtime, exercise is normally the first to slip off our treadmill of tasks.

In this blog, we look at the link between fitness & health, productivity, & wellbeing - with tips to increase fitness levels within your team (wherever they're working). 


9 reasons why workplace fitness benefits SMEs

1. Stress management

Stress is a factor of life, but fortunately there are ways to manage it. Help your staff avoid burnout and manage workplace stress by encouraging them to move more. 

Exercise provides just that and also stimulates our brain's feel-good hormones, such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. By encouraging workplace fitness, you're already taking one for the team and putting your staff's health and wellbeing at the forefront. After all, a happy workforce is key to a great business.


2. Increase brain power

High-pressure working environments, tough targets and spending hour upon hour in front of the screen has an impact on productivity - and our brains. Exercise is known to combat procrastination and increase brain power by helping memory and concentration - especially if you get some fresh air. 

Stuck on a project or suffering from writer's block? Go outside and walk it off, book a yoga class or sign up to team sports. You'll return to the desk, recharged and with a clearer mindset.


3. Improve sleep

A poor night's sleep can wreak havoc on cognitive function, memory and productivity levels. Help your team get quality sleep by encouraging them to get enough exercise throughout the day.

Whether it's a quick walk round the block, an exercise class or a 20-minute weights session in the gym, exercise reduces insomnia & encourages better, restful sleep.


4. Prevent absenteeism

By encouraging healthy habits & increasing wellbeing initiatives, companies can expect to see a reduction in absences (and therefore, business costs). After all, prevention is always better than cure.

Looking after your team's stress levels & overall wellbeing is an important factor in reducing absenteeism. Our People First Culture Series: Wellbeing research reports that 47% of SME employees reported feeling stressed, with 12% taking stress-related sick leave. Read the full report to discover practical wellbeing tips to support your team.

5. Prevent presenteeism

Presenteeism is when employees appear to be working, but are unproductive for reasons such as illness. The main drivers for presenteeism include: lack of cohesion between teams/employees/management, workloads and job-related stressors, toxic company cultures, latent health issues as well as financial worries.

Alarmingly, presenteeism costs the UK economy £15.1 billion a year, whereas absenteeism costs £8.4 billion. If the cost of presenteeism is nearly double what absenteeism costs businesses, it's definitely worth building a culture that lets your team know if they're sick - they can (and should) take time off work to recover. 


6. Employee retention

Whether it's an on-site gym or discounted membership at a local centre, stats show that providing an office fitness scheme benefits business. Regular, consistent exercise helps employees perform better, with sharpened focus and mood enhancements among the top takeaways.  Make exercise part of your company culture strategy and continue to nurture it. 

If your team are struggling to find the time, why not take a leaf out of TotalWellness' book? The company allow employees to exercise 'on the clock' for 30 minutes a day, and offer group fitness classes twice a week. The impact on productivity is significant - employees report feeling refreshed, motivated and ready to tackle their day. 


office fitness 10 reasons it's good for business

7. Invest in employee health

Exercise is vital for encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Save stress, time and money by offering health and fitness benefits such as a gym membership plan and health insurance. By investing in employee health and providing healthcare, you're actively supporting the wellbeing of your team.

Allowing your team access to prompt healthcare support is likely to boost productivity & reduce overall absence rates, too - if people have quick access to the care they need, it's likely they'll receive treatment faster and speed up their recovery. 

Look after the people, and the processes will look after themselves.  


8. Team building

Teamwork makes the dream work (or so they say). Research shows strong team bonds drive employee motivation & engagement. 

Nurture your departments and teams by encouraging them to exercise together. This could be anything from an off-site team building activity day like GoApe, where they're challenged to work together to face their fears to a weekly five-a-side/netball tournament.

And you don't have to be entirely office-based to spark a bit of healthy competition - at Breathe, we use YuLife's app to earn 'YuCoin' - reward points based on movement and meditation. There's always some friendly competition at Breathe HQ about who's top of the leaderboard that week. 


9. Employee engagement

Invest in employee engagement and add workplace fitness schemes to your company culture. We've spoken about how regular exercise is important for business and this is no different when it comes to employee engagement, productivity and motivation.

According to research by Harvard University, those who exercise regularly and take a pro-active attitude to health and fitness have more energy, focus and motivation.

So, there you have it - 9 reasons why workplace fitness is great for business. Improve yours and commit to get business fit today. 

Find out how to support the wellbeing of your team in our People First Culture Series: Wellbeing, with key findings from over 1,200 SME employees. Read the report to discover helpful wellbeing advice & tips today. 


Author: Aimée Brougham-Chandler

An IDM-certified Digital Copywriter (2023) & English Language & Literature graduate (BA Hons), Aimée is Breathe's Content Assistant. With 3 years' content marketing experience, Aimée has a passion for writing - and providing SME HR teams with solutions to their problems. She enjoys delving into & demystifying all things HR: from employee performance to health and wellbeing, leave to company culture & much more.

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