How to support employee mental health through physical activity

3 min read
Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Employee wellness and wellbeing initiatives have been sky rocketing as buzzwords in job ads and brand values. How many of them actually support employee mental health, and what can we do better?

Findings from a global survey by McKinsey Health Institute found that mental health and wellbeing challenges affect the majority of the global workforce.

The study, with results from across 15 countries and nearly 15,000 employees, highlighted how no demographic is immune to these challenges, whether split by geography, industry or age.

Busy office space with employees working at desks

The Workplace Mental Wealth 2023 State of Mind survey echoes these findings even for the fitness industry itself, with 73% of respondents having said they’ve experienced a mental health issue at some point.

Encouraging employees through movement and exercise

While mental health support is more than just about being physically active, it’s clear that movement and exercise can go a long way in ensuring that everyone benefits, in both body and mind. The key is finding effective ways to engage employees.

There are countless examples of how “aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression,” as this quote states, published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

So how can we encourage more employees to be active for the mental health benefit?

Three professionals in a discussion at a desk

What can you do to motivate your employees to be active?

An employee wellness scheme has to be more than a box-ticking exercise, especially when it comes to keeping mental health benefits tangible and beneficial.

The goal needs to be clear, and the expectations need to be set. If employees choose not to take part, that’s not a problem. But it needs to be available to everyone and achievable by everyone.

“We give each employee an MZ-Switch heart rate monitor and say: ‘Exercise how you want, where you want, and with whom you want… We just want you to move,’” explains Dave Wright, CEO of Myzone.

“If they achieve 2000 MEPs in the month in the blue, green, yellow and red heart rate zones, we give them four hours of holiday. Over a year, that equates to an extra six days of holiday.

“We also give them an `active ticket’ each month to go into a global employee raffle. On the 21st December, we will draw 10 x $500 cash prizes!

“It's simple, it's easy to administer, and it perpetuates continuous physical activity for the workplace. It also has built-in challenges and gamification in the Myzone app for the staff, too.”

An inclusive wellness scheme that unites employees

It’s not about enforcing rules but instilling values. An inclusive wellbeing initiative that unites employees in effort and rewards them for what they put in brings more benefits than the sum of its parts.

Busy office workspace with people working on computers

The headspace that physical activity offers not only means that individuals can get some reflection on their day and embrace the endorphins, but they’re also able to share time together towards the same goal. Or they can go entirely at their own pace and preference.

“Of course, you can't force your staff to work out,” Dave continues. “It's just that, as Myzone is based on effort and not fitness, it democratizes physical activity to its core and is completely inclusive, irrespective of age, ability or location.

“As we have employees in four different continents, it really is the single best initiative to unite them all with one objective... That is to be happier, healthier and more productive in the workplace. Therefore, everyone wins.

“So that's us. We’re trying to practice what we preach.”

If you’re an employer looking to engage your staff in inclusive physical activity, reach out to or visit the Myzone corporates page for more information.

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