Spring is here, the days are getting warmer and it’s safe enough to venture outside without a coat some days. In light of the better temperatures, 7 April 2017 marked the annual Walk to Work day, where businesses encouraged their employees to exercise by commuting on foot to work rather than public transport.
The scheme, which was started in 2004 by Prevention magazine, before being adopted by the US Department of Health, has proven popular among employees – but it does have its drawbacks as not all employees will be able to get to work by walking due to the length of their commute. There are many benefits to walking to work, a great deal of which are linked to employee wellbeing. But the commute doesn’t have to just to be on foot to be healthy, cycling is a popular way to get to work with added health benefits too.
The benefits of walking to work
There are many benefits to getting employees to ditch the car, train or bus whenever they can. Exercise is good for your mental health, with a study by the University of East Anglia finding that people who stopped driving and started walking are shown to have better mental health.
Polly Vernon, a journalist for The Telegraph, described the positive effects on her mental health of walking instead of taking public transport, saying:
“It calmed me down. I could start my daily tramp in a foul mood: riled by my partner, anxious about a meeting or wrong-footed by a nightmare; sad or scared or emotionally a little lost. By the time I arrived at wherever I was supposed to be: I was fine. Something about walking gives you perspective.”
The health benefits continue for those who walk to work, with the exercise improving your physical health by strengthening your heart and lungs and increasing overall fitness. The NHS states that walking 10,000 steps a day can burn an average of 400 calories, which can greatly contribute to weight loss, and there’s even a study by the European Society of Cardiology finding that a brisk 25 minute walk a day can add an extra seven years to your life.
For employers, encouraging employees to walk can result in their creative input being enhanced, in turn contributing more to the business. The American Psychological Association found that people who walked as opposed to sitting down, consistently offered more creative responses on tests used to measure creative thinking.
While Walk to Work Day is a great campaign, businesses should try and encourage employees to work whenever feasible, not just one selected day, so everyone can truly feel the benefits of walking.
Cycling can also enrich commutes
There are a lot of benefits to cycling to the office if your employees prefer two wheels to get to work rather than four.
Cycle2Work schemes are a very popular employee benefit for people who wish to get a better bike in a more affordable way by taking part in a salary sacrifice arrangement. The financial benefits for employers are that cycle schemes are not affected by the new salary sacrifice changes, meaning businesses can save money on NI contributions.
Cycling has a positive impact on people’s health, with 89% of people on a Cycle2Work scheme reporting improved fitness and 52% saying it helped them lose weight. By exercising on the way to work, it helps reduce fatigue and boosts energy, making employees more energised for the day ahead.
To encourage your employees to exercise through cycling or walking, offering incentives for them to take up either is a popular choice, with SHRM reporting that 40% of organisations offered rewards or bonuses for completing certain health and wellness activities.
We’ve provided a guide to getting your employees active, by altering workplace culture such as having walking meetings, or encouraging the use of apps which promote walking such as Pokemon GO at lunchtimes, which has shown to encourage people to exercise more.
Learn more on commutes to the office
If your employees’ commute to work must be via public transport or car, then there are other opportunities to make use of the time before they reach their destination.
Learning a language has shown to have positive effects on brain function, such as being able to multitask better if a person is multilingual compared to those who only speak one language. If your business is an international company or regularly deals with clients overseas, the benefit of having an extra employee who can speak in other tongues is surely good for business.
Bilingual people are also shown to be more creative, according to a study by the DANA Foundation, which can help with problem-solving if they encounter issues in the workplace and offer solutions to resolve them.
Playing informative podcasts on the journey to work can also help employees sharpen knowledge on particular subjects which could benefit the business such as industry topics, or relevant news.
Apps like Google’s Primer offers bite-sized marketing lessons on particular topics which are great for marketers to catch up on. Even apps like Candy Crush, a puzzle-solving game, can help prevent Alzheimer’s by improving cognitive function and keeping the mind sharp.
Offering extra learning opportunities for employees through your employee benefits scheme can also help keep employees focused and feel more positive about themselves and their physical and mental health.