Posted on October 10, 2017 by Gordon Smith

Today is World Mental Health day and, this year, the main focus is on Mental Health in the Workplace. As part of this, we’re looking at how a gym can help alleviate the symptoms of stress, boost wellbeing in the workplace and improve employee mental health.

We spend a large proportion of our lives at work, so it is important the workplace is a positive and productive environment for employees. So much so, that when employees are engaged, productivity can improve by 20-25%. In fact, a US survey found that by increasing employee engagement investment by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, per year.

Mental health in the workplace

Sadly, the reality is that stress at work is still one of the main reasons for ill health in the workplace, and with increased stress levels comes associated mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Last year alone there were nearly half a million cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety, with a staggering 45 million working days lost due to these conditions. All at a cost of £2.4 billion to the UK Economy.

The good news, however, is that employers are now starting to tackle these problems by taking steps to address and change attitudes to workplace stress. Mindfulness and employee wellbeing are moving higher up the corporate agenda, as well as the installation of gyms and the rolling out of associated fitness programmes within the workplace.

The benefits of a gym in the workplace

Exercise helps improve mental health. Fact. Exercising up to three times a week can reduce the risk of depression by 20%.

One of the reasons for this is that increased fitness means the body can regulate Cortisol levels more effectively. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released when the body is anxious and has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, depression and anxiety.

Nick Sadler, Managing Director, m8group says:

“Having a space in the workplace where employees can improve fitness, work-off tension and get an overall sense of wellbeing can only bring long-term benefits to an organisation”

Having a gym in the workplace means that employees can exercise regularly and have the ‘headspace’ to burn off stress and tension.

And, not only does it reduce anxiety, but regular exercise improves sleep, increases clarity of thought and boosts self-esteem, thereby leading to an overall improvement in mood and resilience.

Take note: an employee that doesn’t exercise regularly is 3 times more likely to suffer from depression than one that does.

The social gym

The corporate gym can also be a place to escape and talk to colleagues or associates. We’re all guilty of sitting at our desks for prolonged periods, and stress can often make us more sedentary. However, getting away from the desk can help give employees a better perspective on an issue and clear the head.

A good workout can help give the mind a bit more clarity to work through a problem, and can even offer the chance to talk to colleagues and get their viewpoint. An office gym can become a social hub for employees and can also improve teamwork through training programmes for competitive sports or charity work.

What price for good mental health?

There is a perception that a corporate gym is costly to install and run, but this isn’t the case. It can cost as little as £11 per employee, which can be charged as either part of a salary sacrifice scheme or covered by the organisation itself.

If you weigh up the business cost of contributing to an employee scheme with an external gym, which can increase year on year, then the cost and long-term benefits of having an inhouse facility starts to make more business sense.

There are other ways for employees to help cope with stress, such as reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, but Yoga and meditation are also highly beneficial. This is where a business can really add value, as the workplace gym can become a versatile, multipurpose space not just for cardio exercise but also for calming, mindful exercise, thus appealing to a broader range of employees.

Understandably, businesses want to perform at their best, but this can only be done if your employees are functioning at their best, and this can only be achieved if the workplace is really maximising potential.

On World Mental Health Day, don’t you think now is the perfect time to take action?