/ Worksite Wellness / Global Corporate Challenge – a Wellness Phenomenon with Worldwide Results

Global Corporate Challenge – a Wellness Phenomenon with Worldwide Results

Glenn Riseley

A group of smiling, multi-ethnic people laying on the ground in a circle, with a globe in the center near their heads.

Global Corporate Challenge

With the worldwide obesity epidemic continuing to snowball, employers face the challenge of making sure that their own workforce is healthy enough to turn up to work, and once there, that they’re productive and mentally fit enough to be able to perform their tasks.  The distinction between mental and physical fatigue is getting harder to define, as workers seated for most of the day may be going home tired, but the energy they use is ‘above the neck’.

Add to this the increasing hours we’re spending in the workplace and the common struggle to achieve work life balance, and perhaps unsurprisingly, we’re seeing an increase in work place health-related issues, from depression to Type 2 diabetes.  We recognised this trend in early 2000, and developed a program that sought to address health issues by developing positive fitness habits in the workplace.  In 2004, we launched the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC).

Through the GCC, we are making corporate wellness a sound business strategy for workplaces worldwide.  Since launch in 2004, the program has reached 65 countries including the US, with nearly 250,000 participants.  Its aim is to motivate workers to re-assess their sedentary lifestyles and make time for regular physical activity, by providing participants with a way of measuring their activity (using pedometers) and recording their results on an interactive website.  Companies involved can compete with other companies taking part, or with groups or offices spread across the State, country or globe.  Critically, the program helps participants develop new habits in relation to health and regular activity which often extend beyond the work place and into the homes and hearts of families.

Over six years of being in operation, the Global Corporate Challenge team has collected data and statistics that demonstrate unequivocally how a regular program of daily exercise supported by employers positively affects productivity, emotional wellbeing, and attitudes towards physical activity. Our data also reveals some fascinating insights into the most and least active industries in the US.

The figures from the US are based on an extraction from the GCC database, and give a simple indication of the activity levels and weight of different industries, based on employees that took part in the program in 2010. The figures don’t make conclusions; they highlight potential ‘problem industries’ (in terms of corporate wellness, these are the most sedentary industries) within the United States. Employers within these industries should be assessing the health of their workforce and determine whether further action needs to be taken.

The research from the UK, conducted externally and independently by the Lancaster University, looks at the link between exercise, workplace productivity and mental wellbeing, using a sample size of 922 employees who took part in the program. This research draws broad conclusions about the positive effect of exercise on employee mental health and productivity, and also a business’ overall bottom line.

Physical Activity and Weight Averages in US Workplaces

In 2010, employees from a variety of industries in the US took part in the Global Corporate Challenge. Our program encourages employees to take at least 10,000 steps per day for 16 weeks. Participants were from industries including health, IT, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, accounting, plus many others.

By the end of the program, participants around the world had increased their average daily step count to an average of 12,693 steps per day.  Worldwide, 42 percent of participants lost weight and the average weight loss was 10.5lbs.  Participants walked a total combined distance of 45,782,485 mi, the equivalent of walking across the entire USA 15,260 times. US participants added over 3.5 billion steps to this tally.

US Stats and Facts

GCC used the data from 3,468 event participants to rank industries in order of physical activity and weight. The overall results indicate that a number of industries in the US exceed the average weight range for males and females.

Activity Statistics

The three most active industries in the US, based on average steps taken per day throughout the GCC:

  1. Manufacturing and Operations;
  2. Insurance and Superannuation;
  3. Government and Defence.

The three least active industries, based on average steps taken per day throughout the GCC:

  1. Advertising, Sales and Marketing;
  2. Consulting and Corporate Strategy;
  3. Education and Training.

Weight Statistics

According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted from 1999-2002:

  • the average weight of an American woman is 162.9 pounds
  • the average weight of an American man is 189.8 pounds

Industries with highest average weight – females:

  1. Hospitality and Tourism (176.0 lbs)
  2. Education and Training (176.0 lbs)
  3. Science and Technology (173.8lbs)

Industries with the highest average weight – males:

  1. Advertising, Sales and Marketing (220.7 lbs)
  2. Hospitality and Tourism (211.4 lbs)
  3. Science and Technology (211.2 lbs)

Industries that recorded the highest average weight loss per person following completion of the Global Corporate Challenge.

  1. Electricity, Gas and Water Supply  (12.3 lbs)
  2. Real Estate and Property  (11.8 lbs)
  3. Banking and Financial Services  (11.2lbs)

Lancaster University Study into the Effects of Physical Activity on Workplace Productivity and Mental Health – UK

According to research undertaken by the UK’s Lancaster University Centre for Organisational Health and Wellbeing, employees who increased their step count to take between 9,000 and 15,000 steps per day recorded significant improvements in their productivity and engagement levels at work.

The survey also showed that the program changed employees’ permanent approach to exercise, demonstrating longer lasting health and productivity benefits than the 16 week GCC period. More than 90 percent of those that took part said they intended to maintain their current level of exercise, and nearly 60 percent said that the GCC had changed their long term approach to exercise.

Research Study ~ Centrica Gas, UK

The research focused on 922 employees at Centrica, a UK energy provider, where participants were surveyed before and after taking part in the Global Corporate Challenge.

Overall, 82 percent of Centrica employees said the GCC had a positive impact upon their health, with employees recording significant improvements in their perceptions of:

  • Their level of concentration at work
  • Their feeling of playing a useful part in things at work
  • Their capability to make good decisions
  • Their capability of overcoming their difficulties
  • Their enjoyment of day to day activities
  • Their ability to face up to their problems
  • Their confidence level
  • Their self-esteem
  • Their general happiness

Centrica employees were more likely to feel satisfied with their current employment following the completion of the GCC. In addition, employees who increased their daily activity through the GCC said they felt less stressed about their family, health, emotional wellbeing, their work and finances, compared to before they took part in the program.

The results of the research have highlighted a phenomenon that has the potential to improve workplace culture and productivity, and will have a major impact on the way employers view the health of their employees.

According to the Wellness Council of America, job stress in the United States is estimated to cost $200 to $300 billion annually in absenteeism, tardiness, and lost productivity.  Because an increase in physical exercise can improve the overall mental wellbeing of the workforce and increase productivity, the GCC and its associated health benefits impact positively on a company’s bottom line.

The outcome is that employers who invest in the physical health of their workforce will benefit from the flow on effect of increased performance and improved mental health. This will impact company culture in a positive and quantifiable way.

While the World Health Organisation has warned that sedentary job functions increase the risk of chronic disease amongst white-collar workers, the Lancaster University report has demonstrated that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can make for healthy employees and healthy profits alike.

More information about the GCC can be found at www.gettheworldmoving.com

For further information about the Global Corporate Challenge, please contact Professional Public Relations

Danielle Buller

Ph: +613 8643 1626

Mob: +61400 466 679

Email: dbuller@ppr.com.au

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