Fitness in the workplace

In Edmonton at least one place, Alberta Milk, is helping it’s employees to get in better shape by offering fitness programs in the workplace. This is a trend that people are seeing in many places as companies realize that fit and healthy employees are more productive and and have less sick time.

Some employers are embracing the idea that a fit worker is a happy one that may, in the long run, take fewer sick days. After attending a workshop on bringing fitness into the workplace, Joanne Barwise of Alberta Milk in Edmonton talked to her employer and soon the office had various ways for folks to fit activity into their workday.

“The key to success is having management onside,” she said.

Since the spring, the 35 staff at the non-profit organization have had access to two bicycles to ride outside anytime during the work day, and to walking paths near the building.

When that took off, they bought a set of bocce balls. Now every Tuesday and Thursday the staff head to the back of the building and have a game after work.

“It’s just a really nice place to work,” said Barwise.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s website (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/fitness/work/trends–e.html) lists several employers that have seen improvements once employees got active.

- Canada Life in Toronto showed a return on investment of $3.40 on each corporate dollar invested, with productivity gains, decreased medical claims and reduced turnover.

- Municipal employees in Toronto missed 3.35 fewer days in the first six months of their “Metro Fit” fitness programs than employees not enrolled in the program.

- BC Hydro employees enrolled in a work-sponsored fitness program had a turnover rate of 3.5% compared with the company average of 10.3%.

Kathleen Dugas, project officer in the healthy living unit of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said savings can often be had with low-cost initiatives, such as providing showers, lockers and bike racks to encourage workers to walk, bike, jog or skate to work.

Other initiatives Dugas said that are being used across the country include teleworking — where people are able to work from home, allowing them to take a walk around the block during any down time.