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The Effect of Sports Initiatives On Employee Wellness at Work

Learn how to set up a sports initiative in your workplace and discover the many long-lasting positive effects it can have on your business.


From promoting a culture of wellness among existing staff members to serving as a powerful icebreaker for newcomers, facilitating gatherings around the area of sport can influence positive changes in your business and increase employee productivity.

Why set up a sports initiative in your business?

While there’s no denying that the fun of sport can be reason enough to offer your employees a chance to get involved, there are plenty of business-centric reasons to get things up and running no matter the size of your workforce.


Team sports can equip your employees with a number of workplace skills including:

  • Communication
  • Devising and implementing strategy
  • Discipline
  • Confidence

Normally teaching these skills in the office would require a classroom-like setting with presentations and lessons, with mandatory employee participation. This is, of course, suitable in some professional situations, but these skills can also be developed and nurtured on a court or a playing field.

Imagine for a moment a basketball game; players have to work together to mount an offence while maintaining a defence against the other team. This involves drawing up a game plan and sticking to it, having utility substitutes that can come in if someone gets injured and post-game analysis to see where things went right and wrong.

Now compare this situation to a team dealing with a new product launch in a company. You have to strategise, train your staff how to approach the new product, have support available from other teams if needed, all the while maintaining your existing product offering. It’s easy to see the similarities.

Stress reduction


Exercise has long been recognised as an effective way to help deal with stress. According to research conducted by the Harvard Medical School, the mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.

So what’s stress got to do with sports and the work place? Well, when you consider that the HSE has reported that 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, setting up a sports initiative to help look after your employees’ health and wellbeing at work is not just a nice thing to do, it’s a smart, business-conscious decision that can save your organisation money in the long run.

Employee Happiness


Happy workers work 12% more productively than those that may be distracted by problems in their personal lives.  Research from the University of Warwick reveals that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a workers’ happiness. The obvious ones are comfortable working conditions, adequate remuneration, perks such as health insurance and pension etc., but companies often underestimate what an important gesture it is to look after an employee’s health.

Public Health England (PHE) tells us that 41% of the 15.3 million English adults aged 40 to 60 are reducing the amount of exercise in their days by 10 minutes each month and as a result are living more sedentary lives. PHE believes that employers should at least encourage their employees to go for a walk during their lunch break, but why stop there?

Getting Sports Up and Running


Choose a Sport

The first thing you need to do is survey your company and see what type of sport they would be most interested in giving a try. Give options of team-based sports such as football, tag rugby, challenges such as ‘Tough Mudder’, or anything else that might tickle the imagination.


The best way to get your employees involved in sport, (apart from promoting the obvious health and social interaction benefits), is to try and offer incentives to play. This could be the offer of an extended lunch break one day a week for a training session. Employees are more likely to get involved if the sport in question does not encroach too much on their personal time, while also not impeding on their work responsibilities. Balance is key.


Where possible, the company should cover the bill for any sports activities that require an entry fee. If the number of employees involved is big enough it might be a good idea to pay for a coach to come in and run training sessions. As a compromise, and to include those whose chosen sport wasn’t selected to be the company’s sports activity of choice, you can allocate a sports budget per person that will allow them to enter events such as races, triathlons and other individual sports.

Health Support

All going well, hopefully nobody will get hurt when or injured when it comes to training or competing, but some wear and tear can always occur. Companies can actually have a positive role in this situation that they may not have been aware of in the past. A corporate subscription to an online doctor service will allow your employees to get advice without having to go through the costly and time consuming process of a Doctor visit while injured.



As your initiative grows, you can put together a sports committee to keep things growing. Use this opportunity to seek out leagues, tournaments and other competitions that you can play against other companies.  As it is with business, sports is all about numbers, so maximise your efforts to keep people involved. It can be tempting for people to only play during the warmer months and during longer evenings, so actively search for opportunities that can keep things going in the winter months such as autumn and winter competitions.


No matter how small your sports initiative is in your business, don’t be afraid to scream and shout about it. Mentioning the achievements of the team and including a few fun photos in company emails will encourage others to join and as a result has the potential to grow happiness, company wide.


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