Leadership

How Sedentary Is Your Workforce?

A new survey shows that employers are now as worried about employee inactivity as they are about employee stress

Written by Romina Maurino, The Canadian Press

The sedentary nature of Canadian workplaces is becoming as much of a health risk as stress for many workers.

That’s according to a new wellness survey from Sun Life Financial, which found 24% of Canadian employers consider work-related stress and sedentary lifestyles the most serious health risks affecting their employees.

“Stress has been the number one for many years, what we’re seeing now that stress is staying very high on the radar for employers and they’re certainly recognizing work-related stress is a key issue, but sedentary lifestyle has now crept up as a key concern and key factor,” said Lori Casselman, assistant vice-president of group benefits at Sun Life.

Ninety-two percent of organizations surveyed recognized that the health of their employees influences overall corporate performance, since healthy employees mean more productivity, better attendance and a stronger bottom line, the report found.

Read: Yes, You Do Have Time To Exercise

Sapna Mahajan, director of prevention and promotion with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, says 500,000 Canadians are absent from work every week due to mental health issues and it`s costing the national economy $50 billion a year.

“It’s a huge economic cost and it’s one that just can’t be ignored anymore by business,”

“It’s a huge economic cost and it’s one that just can’t be ignored anymore by business,” Mahajan said.

The commission set out a national standard earlier this year, which Mahajan hopes companies will use as a guide to both prevent and accommodate mental health issues.

“We’re not saying that you’re not going to have stresses at work or anxiety,” Mahajan said.

“But maybe there are certain things you can put in place—processes, policies, and structures—to try to avoid as much as possible that psychological harm, and to have structures in place so that if people aren’t feeling well, there’s a way to accommodate them.”

He adds that once somebody goes off work, it’s harder to have them back.

The Sun Life study found that 62% of the companies surveyed offer wellness initiatives, with 51% reporting an increase in employee morale and a 40% drop in absenteeism as a result of such programs.

But in order for such initiatives to work, Casselman says employers must promote them so that employees take advantage of the programs, and also provide rewards to those who do participate.

“Programs that are offered in the workplace are largely very well received by employees if they’re offered in the right way, with the right incentives,” she said.

The Sun Life Buffett National Wellness Survey was conducted over the spring and summer of 2013, with a national sample of 400 Canadian employers representing public, private and not-for-profit organizations ranging in size from less than 100 employees to more than 2,500.

Read: 4 Basic Design Changes For A More Productive Office

Is sedentary behaviour a top concern for you as an employer? What do you do to make your staff more physically active? Share your experiences and ideas by commenting below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com