For National Walking Month 2019, we were delighted to partner with Phoenix Group, who set a great example of how walking can play a key role in the promotion of wellbeing in the workplace - among staff, customers and partners.
Longstanding supporters of the month, Phoenix Group Europe’s largest life and pensions consolidator, has really gone the extra mile this year. They have become our Wellbeing Partner 2019, taking on a range of activities including; rolling out engagement events for their colleagues encouraging more walking in the working day and further developing their skills as Walking Friends Walk Leaders, which involves volunteers from the workplace taking local elderly members of their community on led walks.
With such a commitment to wellbeing, with walking at its heart, it’s no wonder that Phoenix Group have achieved status as one of UK's Top Employers for eight consecutive years.
Many of us will spend a significant proportion of our lives at work. In fact, the average one of us will spend 3,507 days or 84,171 hours on our careers. We all also spend a lot of time getting to and from work; 14,053 hours on average.
The time spent traveling isn’t looking likely to improve. Recent statistics have shown that by 2040 increases in congestion could translate to 16 hours stuck in traffic for every household, every year. This results in 28 million working days being lost to UK businesses annually.
When you put it like that, the opportunity to improve lives through walking in the workplace is clear.
Here at Phoenix Group we appreciate the benefits of walking to, from and at work. We have five UK offices and they all exhibit different characteristics; some are city-centre based, some rural; at some we have dozens of employees, at others hundreds, and at one, thousands. We needed to deliver a strategy to support wellbeing and the obvious answer is through walking. In fact, our colleagues have highlighted that they would like to walk more and almost half suggest they’d be most likely to walk more through a supportive workplace.
For most of us, walking is an everyday act that we don’t spend much time thinking about. Perhaps that’s why it sometimes gets overlooked as the answer to everyday problems. At Phoenix Group we want to help our colleagues to maintain their health. A lot of us spend our days based at desks – we all know this isn’t ideal for achieving recommended activity levels or keeping the mind fresh. By encouraging more walking in the working day, we believe we’re starting to improve our colleagues’ health and the local community around our offices and getting exercise is our colleagues’ number one reason for walking more (89%).
Walking gets our hearts pumping and our blood racing. This helps to reduce the risk of developing preventable conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression. Walking is a great opportunity to socialise with colleagues; whether at lunchtime, for creative sessions or on the way to or from work and over a quarter of our colleagues say that having someone to walk with would make them walk more. Walking reduces congestion outside workplaces too – improving air quality inside the office and out on the street.
It has been shown that regular exercise can result in an overall work performance boost of 15 per cent and a highly engaged workforce can improve operating income by 19.2 per cent. Basically, walking is very good for business.
This year, as part of our Wellbeing Partnership with everyday walking charity Living Streets, we are rolling out a number of activities which will further embed walking into the workplace culture here at Phoenix Group.
Living Streets will engage a significant proportion of our 3,500 colleagues directly to encourage more walking in and around the working day. We want to give the 69% of our colleagues who state that they don’t have enough time to walk more the opportunity and encouragement to get out and walk more this May as part of the working day. We’ll be celebrating walking with a programme of led walks across our sites, training employees to become walk champions, offering bespoke walking maps at suitable sites, and championing ‘walking meetings’. Supporting our local communities is hugely important to us and walking is at the heart of a set of initiatives we will deliver. This includes another year of our pioneering Wythall Walking Friends project with the 65+ community at our Wythall site; where our trained volunteers will take older people walking around the village to get them physically active and out of the house. We’ll also be supporting schools close to our sites to take part in Living Streets’ Walk to School activities. We have sponsored Living Streets’ National Walking Month this May because we believe in walking so much, we want everyone to be inspired to walk more - the charity’s mission. And we are supporting other events that Living Streets is holding in its 90th year, to further the voice for walking.
Our colleagues have given great feedback on the walking initiatives we have rolled out so far. They have found it rewarding, fun, helpful and achievable and we have seen examples of improved mental and physical health.
To anyone out there considering workplace wellbeing options I would say give walking with Living Streets a go this May and see the benefits it can bring you and your workforce.
Phoenix Group joined us in 2018 to kick-start our Walking Friends programme. We launched in Wythall - training Phoenix Group staff members to take older adults in the community out for short walks as a group.
This programme attempts to reduce social isolation in older adults, while embedding a walking culture in the workplace which puts forward volunteers to be trained as walk leaders.
In 2019, Phoenix Group are training another round of volunteers to become walk leaders for the Wythall community.