Winner of the Active Workplace of the Year award Rochdale Borough Council supports employees to become more physically active in the workplace. Following a recent staff survey, the council committed to incorporating incidental activity into the working day.
Link4Life worked with Rochdale Borough Council to deliver a healthy workplace programme, Your Wellbeing. The scheme is the result of a council staff survey, which looked at physical and mental wellbeing, nutrition and workplace culture. The results revealed that colleagues weren’t widely aware of wellbeing activities and incentives in their workplace and how they could get involved. Wanting to understand their issues, and take on board their ideas for improvement, Rochdale Borough Council established a steering group to deliver change.
Link4Life employee Fiona Brigg nominated the council for the Active Workplace of the Year award. ‘As part of my role, I’ve attended many conferences and events talking about workplace wellbeing,’ says Fiona. ‘I soon realised that this was something we did within Rochdale Borough Council and did well: we just weren’t shouting about it.’
The survey revealed that staff weren’t widely aware of the active opportunities available to them. ‘The initiatives currently in place weren’t always appropriate or achievable: no one activity will appeal to everyone, ‘says Fiona. ‘Therefore, we knew we needed to consider the whole workplace demographic and start elsewhere: encouraging just ten minutes of activity in the working day. These smalls steps, such as walking to a colleague’s desk rather than picking up the phone, are great progress towards boosting overall levels of activity. Little things make a big difference and have huge collective impact.’
Link4Life began a structured, branded programme of activity in the Rochdale Borough Council workplace. This included yoga classes, massage and acupuncture, all which run on-site, don’t require intense activity levels, and are relaxing and adaptable. Several weekly sessions in local leisure facilities and council offices were also offered at a significantly reduced rate.
Your Wellbeing also includes measures that monitor programme success. For example, there are counters in the main stairway to track the number of people using the stairs and not the lift. The plan being to provide weekly updates on stair usage to staff to create a friendly active competition in the workplace.
As well as the staircase initiative, the programme has mapped-out indoor and outdoor walking routes to promote The Daily Mile™, has plans to launch Walking Wednesdays and developed a team of staff wellbeing champions who meet monthly to discuss ideas.
Support and success
In just a few months, it became clear the programme was heading for real success. Fiona and her team credit this in part with investing time in communicating with staff face-to-face and the backing of senior leadership teams. ‘It’s all about changing the overall workplace culture,’ says Fiona. ‘Giving people time is key: knowing you can leave a few extra minutes earlier to take the stairs without pressure to jump in the lift for childcare pick-up or a parking ticket makes a huge difference.’
Rochdale Borough Council also promotes Active Soles’, an initiative endorsed by The Greater Manchester Mayor, where staff are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes to work and head out for a walk at lunch time, park a little further away or get off the bus one stop earlier. Results are clear to see: one staff member’s reported an improvement in her fibromyalgia due to being able to wear trainers in the office. Another who’s taken part in a workplace Fitbit programme encouraging workplace activity has reported a massive lifestyle change and significant weight loss.
‘Work pressures often prevent staff from making time on their lunch break to be active,’ Fiona says. ‘Yet with an improved working environment and mental wellbeing you can create healthy active workplace habits. This culture change, starting with small steps, is why Rochdale Borough Council are making big changes.’