Business & Economy
Fit for success
September 11, 2023
From reducing stress and sickness to improving mental health, the benefits of promoting fitness and physical activity in the workplace are huge. Yet, in today’s fast-paced work environment, we’re finding ourselves sitting more and moving less. After a day of back-to-back meetings, calls and deadlines, rest over exercise can seem like the only option. But with full-time workers spending around one-third of their day at work, it’s becoming increasingly important businesses look for ways to promote and support healthy behaviours in the workplace. Here, leading law firm for business Muckle LLP talks about its successes and challenges in promoting healthy choices, and its long-term commitment to its people’s mental and physical wellbeing.
The workplace is very different from what it used to be 30, ten or even four years ago.
While many businesses still have a traditional structure, with people in the office five days a week, a lot have opted for a more hybrid approach, and some operate entirely remotely.
Muckle LLP falls somewhere in the middle, giving its people the flexibility to make decisions to work where best suits their needs and clients’ needs.
Muckle’s managing partner Jason Wainwright, pictured right, hopes this gives people more free time to spend on themselves, but worries that’s not always the case.
He says: “In an ideal world, time saved commuting would be used for doing something of personal interest like going for a walk, spending time with family or dropping kids off at school.
“But I work with lawyers and other hardworking people, and many have the tendency to slip into the habit of prioritising work over self-care.”
A recent survey by legal technology provider Clio backs this up, with two-thirds of lawyers saying they found themselves working longer hours due to flexible working, and working from home.
However, they also said their work/life balance has improved since the end of lockdown.
So what is the solution?
Jason believes employers bear some responsibility in tackling the problem.
He says: “If you look at the statistics at face value, there doesn’t seem to be a problem.
“Employers are seeing more productivity from their people, and their people believe their work/life balance has improved.
“But overworking is overworking, and the potential for burnout is huge.”
The firm recently retained its ‘Maintaining Excellence Standard’ – the highest level of the Better Health at Work Award, a regional scheme recognising workplaces’ efforts to improve staff health and wellbeing.
It was also named ‘Best Place to Work’ in Northumberland and North Tyneside at the North East Business Awards.
Jason says the firm is always looking to improve.
He says: “We have lots of support in place, including 11 trained mental health first-aiders, including me and some other senior leaders in the business, and we provide two additional wellbeing days, in addition to annual leave, but there is always more we can do.
“Our business is changing all the time, and our wellbeing initiatives must evolve with it.
“We also have a real focus on fitness and improving physical activity.
“We know there is a big link between activity and its effects on mental health, but the nature of office work means we’re mostly sedentary when we’re at work, so we’re always looking at creative options that promote physical activity to our people.”
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups, and a study from the Department for Work and Pensions showed physically active workers take 27 per cent fewer sick days.
To stay healthy, the NHS recommends adults should do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, which can seem daunting, particularly if you prioritise ‘job over gym’.
Jason says: “We have more than 170 people working at Muckle, so there is going to be a vast degree of fitness levels and willingness to participate in physical activities.
“We take the view that some physical activity is better than none, so it’s about having a number of initiatives in place to suit everyone.
“We are currently producing a series of videos featuring our people, highlighting the ways they incorporate fitness into their busy lifestyles for National Fitness Week.
“There have to be options, and it has to be fun.
“We have our sports teams and our running club, and we also reward people with vouchers for moving more through YuLife, an app that tracks and encourages physical activity.
“More importantly, it’s about creating an environment and culture where people feel comfortable and encouraged to take time for themselves.”