Sunday, 11 November 2012

Employees need more than just gyms for exercise incentives to work

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exercise employeeMr Fuller found successful employee participation in exercise requires organisations to look at more than simply providing the infrastructure. Image: JLBM PAOEMPLOYEE’S experiences  of workplace exercise incentives have been investigated as part of a University of Notre Dame (Fremantle) PhD study.

Research explored exercise incentives offered by four medium-sized organisations in Perth and sought to find what impacts on people’s ability and willingness to exercise, and how organisations can sustain  and improve their approaches.

The study found time, own health and motivation were main obstacles, closely followed by logistics, work commitments, family commitments, energy, weather, money and other commitments.

Study author Troy Fuller, who has 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors, says research focused on organisational exercise because of the sedentary nature of the 21st century workplace, the blurring of work and home boundaries, and the subsequent expectation from employees that their employer provide some level of support for them to exercise.

“People are expected to be available to work anytime, are working odd hours, and are contactable after hours in a lot of jobs so we’ve got all sorts of pressures on us,” Mr Fuller says.

“And as a result of that—what I saw, and what research says, is that employees are expecting some help for things like their health and exercise  that previously they used to do outside of work.”

Mr Fuller found successful employee participation in exercise requires organisations to look at more than simply providing the infrastructure.

“It’s not enough just to make some activities available,” he says.

“It’s not enough because they won’t always feel comfortable to take it up, and even if they do, maybe they are likely to get injured or won’t feel  motivated to do it or maybe there won’t be the infrastructure for them to get changed and have a shower and come back to work.”

Mr Fuller has developed an Exercise Incentives Model outlining six  dimensions that research found was vital to successful exercise incentives programs.

They are; exercise activities, communication, employees’ interest, ability and motivation, endorsement, infrastructure, and supplementary services.

The organisations; one tertiary education institution, a state government department, a local government department and a private technology company were consulted by Mr Fuller over three years.

Focus groups, surveys of over 120 employees and interviews with 24  self nominated employees enabled the research.

All organisations provided good exercise incentives in a variety of activities and strong infrastructure in gyms, bike racks, showers and change rooms  either on-site or off-site.

Mr Fuller is presenting his findings to the participants and hopes his model will help other organisations develop successful exercise incentives for employees.

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