ISBA – increasing physical activity in the workplace

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) is the representative body for advertisers in the UK. We are based in London and have around 20 staff.

What action have you taken? How did you do it?

We took some specific actions to promote physical activity in the workplace, including installing a small gym and providing storage for bikes. We were fortunate when we moved to our present offices some nine years ago that a cellar space was available for storage. It had been used as a gym before so, once we had rearranged our files to take up less room, it was easy enough to put in some new equipment and to modernise the shower.

We also hired a general keep fit trainer/adviser to come in twice a week at lunch times. The classes were popular, and when the time came to find a new trainer, the staff expressed an interest in finding someone who could also teach Pilates.

Why did you take it? What was the incentive?

Although we are a small not-for-profit, because of our public position on policy issues like food, drink and obesity, we felt a need to ‘walk the talk’ and set a good example  within the industry, as well as to make a difference for our own staff. Signing up to the Responsibility Deal was a good way to do that. Qualitatively I would assess that it helps with a positive and lively attitude in the office.

If possible, please indicate approximately how many members of staff and/or customers has it engaged?

The exercise classes got very positive feedback from staff: half of them participate at least occasionally. Bike use is lower – two of our staff (10%) use the facilities regularly and at least one is an avid Boris Bike user.  Probably about two thirds of our staff are ‘active’. Some of them use our facilities whilst others have their own exercise regime outside work, including lunch times. The important point is that they have the opportunity to exercise through work if they want to.

If possible, what are the benefits/evidence of impact (to your business and/or to your customers) of having taken this action? Please include, where possible any statistics or quotes.

As a small organisation, we didn’t feel the need to do a cost-benefit analysis, but the anecdotal feedback is that our employees value the facilities as part of their overall benefits package and say they want us to maintain them. And we as an employer want to promote physical activity as a good thing and plan to keep investing in it, despite the difficult economic times.

Would we recommend this to other employers? Yes – we have found that it is important to consult with staff about what they want and not make assumptions.  The challenge is to provide opportunities for those who want to be active without compulsion!

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