Why Active Workplaces?

On average, our region’s employees spend a minimum of 60% of their waking hours at work. Therefore, to get Greater Manchester moving, we know we need to start with increasing activity levels in the workplace. The workplace needs to be somewhere where movement and activity is part of normal, everyday life, and where a healthy active lifestyle is encouraged.

GreaterSport is a charity supporting Greater Manchester Moving, and we’re here to help you create an active workplace. Working with employers, like you, we’ll create a network of champions and advocates for workplace activity. We’ll use our knowledge and connections to support you, providing simple steps that you can implement. These will make a big difference to your employees’ health and, naturally, their productivity.

We know that changing employee culture isn’t easy. That’s why we work with a variety of providers and services across Greater Manchester, who can support our region’s businesses. Our main focus is on increasing physical activity. However, we’ll also direct you to organisations who specialise in other areas of workplace health and wellbeing, such as healthy eating and active travel.

The Active Workplaces Toolkit highlights existing good practice and demonstrates the benefits of physical activity to you and your employees. It also highlights the business case for developing an active workplace.

Why Include Physical Activity in Your Health and Wellbeing Plan?

Physical activity plays a vital role in helping you and your colleagues combat other areas of health and wellbeing; whether its mental health, musculoskeletal conditions, sleep or stress.

Physical activity is an often-overlooked element of a health and wellbeing plan. This may be because what we think of as physical activity feels too strenuous to be doing in the workplace. Traditionally activity at work has been focused on sporting events rather than the simple things we can all do to move more.

Sporting events still have a role to play for some of your colleagues, but not for all. The Active Workplace Toolkit will help you to start thinking about everyday activities that count towards daily activity levels. Things like active travel, walking meetings, desk-based exercises and stretches all count and importantly can help address other areas of your plan, such as mental health and wellbeing and musculoskeletal conditions (MSK).

In the sections below you will see how movement can help address these elements of your health and wellbeing plan and throughout the toolkit you will see how easy it is to implement.

Movement for Mental Health

There are many studies which have shown that movement can have a big impact on improving our mental health. This is why we advise that when looking at developing or reviewing your health and wellbeing policy that you include physical activity.

Including physical activity in your workplace wellbeing strategy can have the following benefits and help with:

  • Better Sleep - It can help you at the end of the day to feel more tired at the end of the day and in turn improve your ability to sleep and feel more rested.
  • Improved Mood - Being physically active and moving more releases hormones that make you feel good and give you more energy. In the workplace this can help to avoid the afternoon slump and help us to be more productive and present.
  • Managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts - Moving more releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives us something to focus on and can be a great coping strategy when facing difficult times personally. In a work context it can help in stressful situations and taking a short break to be active can help us cope with this.
  • Better self esteem - Being more active can help you feel better about ourselves. Setting targets and goals no matter how small feel good when we achieve them. A good example of this could be using the live well day to set yourself a movement target for the day.
  • Reducing the risk of depression - Many studies have shown that moving more can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression.
  • Connect with people - Doing group or team activities can help. Many people have experienced loneliness during the pandemic due to isolation at home and being away from the office. Reconnecting with people can help your mood and feel part of a team again.

If you are looking for support and advice on mental health and the connection you can take a look at organisations like Mind.


Sport Englands active lives survey recently revealed that adults who move more are more likely to experience good mental health. In a series of questions (see above) respondents to the survey demonstrated that moving more helped them to feel more satisfied with life, feel happier and improved feeling of worthwhileness while also feeling less anxious. You can read more from the active lives survey here

Movement for Musculoskeletal Conditions

Musculoskeletal (MSK) health is one of the largest reasons for sickness absence in UK workplaces. One in eight of the working population have reported an MSK condition and this figure is set to rise further in the next decade.

So, what is an MSK health condition? MSK can be conditions that cause pain, such as a back pain, sore neck or stiff shoulder. It’s estimated that 31 million days are lost to these problems each year, but good musculoskeletal health can lead to staying physically and mentally fit and reduce the occurrence of other health problems.

As with most health conditions prevention is better than cure and optimising physical health can reduce the development of an MSK condition. As you will see throughout this toolkit, there are simple activities and steps you can include in your day which will help to reduce potential health issues. Its important to find what works for you and what fits into your working day; this could be starting with something as simple as stretching and desk-based exercises. You could also encourage standing in meetings, standing desks, going for a lunchtime walk or swap your meeting room for a walking meeting with colleagues. You can read more about the simple activities that can help in the Getting Started section of this toolkit.

You can also find more information on MSK conditions in the workplace by visiting the Business in the Community MSK website.

Employer Benefits

Research shows that including physical activity in our daily routine is good for health and wellbeing at work.

It’s proven that increased workplace activity helps employees to be more productive and efficient. In fact, statistics show that 90 minutes of activity per week can result in a 7.5% increase in earnings, representing financial benefits for a business.

Up to


return for every
£1 invested

On average


Fewer sick days
taken by active staff



staff turnover



teamwork and



and Communication

Team Unity

Builds a Stronger team

Prevents Isolation

Great Way to Integrate New Team Members

Ref: British Heart Foundation’s Health at Work - Economic evidence report for workplace health (2016)

Employee Benefits

At GreaterSport, we know that moving more and taking part in physical activity improves employee health and wellbeing.

Activity improves self-esteem, quality of sleep and overall mood, reducing stress and risk of illness.


energy, better
stress management


Mood & mental


Self-confidence &


and chances to
meet new people


risk of chronic
illnesses EG. heart
disease, strokes,
diabetes & cancer



The Business Case

The estimated annual cost of statutory sick pay to Greater Manchester’s businesses is £90m. As active employees are generally healthier, they take fewer sick days, therefore, the financial benefits of an active workplace are huge.

Creating an active workplace may start with only a few simple changes to your workplace’s daily routine. But the results can be immediate, and hugely significant.


Of greater Manchester
working days per year are lost to sickness absence

In 2019 Poor Employee health cost the uk


Physically active
employees take


Less sick days

1 in 3

of people in the UK
don't get enough

Activity Rates 19-20

The Chief Medical Officer recommends we should aim to be moderately active for 150 minutes each week. To make this more accessible, Greater Manchester Moving has simplified this as 30 minutes of activity each working day. However, currently, 33% of the Greater Manchester workforce do not meet these recommendations. This is a great concern.

Moderate activity means that your heart and breathing rates are increased. For example, if you’re out on a walk with friends on your lunch break, you should just about be able to hold a conversation and be slightly out of breath.

Measuring Success

The right workplace culture and leadership is essential for a successful active workplace. Giving employees permission to feel they can be active during the working day encourages more movement, and a healthier workplace.

At GreaterSport, we’ve thought of a number of ways that you can demonstrate the success of an active workplace plan, with measurable achievements:

  • Why not measure overall absenteeism? Over a period of time, you’ll be able to see if there is a change in levels of absence after an active workplace plan has been introduced.
  • Do employees feel more present at work? Can you demonstrate that morale has increased, and do staff feel that physical and mental health levels have improved?
  • Can you add questions to your staff survey that help measure improved physical and mental health?
  • Can you measure productivity? You should be able to see the productivity of your staff improve as they increase their physical activity levels.
  • Has there been a positive return on investment, or social return on investment?
  • Can you share stories of employees who have improved their health as a result of being more active in work? You could also praise the active champions who have gone above and beyond to help others be healthier and happier.
  • Can you calculate how many miles staff have walked over a year, and celebrate the increased activity levels?

Business Culture & Leadership

To make a strong business case for an active workplace, you’ll want to show the impact your active workplace plan has had. Providing evidence of success will display the return on investment you’ve gained, with a healthier, less-absent, active team. You’ll also be keen to show the positive impact that activity has had on the company’s employees and their morale.

It might be something simple: support and understanding creates a positive culture. Allowing your team to step away from their desks to go on a short walk, or take part in a burst of activity, without worrying about having to make-up the time makes a huge difference to motivation and morale.

We know that some employers are concerned about losing time from the working day. However, it’s been proven that just 20 minutes of activity each day can help employees to be more alert and productive. More active staff also take fewer sick days, have improved sleep patterns and increased self-confidence. Therefore, for all-round business success, it’s essential to promote activity that stimulates the brain and gets the heart pumping.

Leading by example is just as important. If managers join in with activities, employees are more likely to get involved too. They’ll know the company encourages them to care for their health and wellbeing, and they’ll see that they have permission to take part.

We know that changing workplace culture isn’t always easy. Therefore, at GreaterSport, we’ve listed some ideas to get you started:

  • Develop a network of active champions. That way, you develop a support network, so you’re not reliant on just one or two people.
  • Ask staff what activities they would like to take part in. Set up a group to lead these.
  • Get leadership support. Encourage management and senior staff to get involved with activities and pave the way for all employees.
  • Use your workplace's building to encourage activity. This could simply be signage promoting the use of the stairs rather than the lift.
  • Promote an active travel strategy for commuting to work. We can introduce you to Transport for Greater Manchester, who can support you with this.
  • Promote the benefits of being active at work. Share with your team how activity will help them feel better during the working day.
  • Develop a physical activity policy. This can complement your company health and wellbeing plan.