Nov 23, 2019

The business of wellbeing

Fiona Bugler explores the changing landscape of corporate wellbeing and how sports retailers may find opportunity there to reach new markets

Anyone who works in a corporate will know the term ‘wellbeing’ and that with wellbeing comes responsibility, both corporate and for yourself as an individual. However, it seems the term is open to interpretation, and the doors are open for innovative businesses to help serve the needs of anyone tasked with the responsibility of helping employees feel good.

The International Labour Organization define Wellbeing as relating ‘to all aspects of working life, from the quality and safety of the physical environment, to how workers feel about their work, their working environment, the climate at work and work organization,’ and it goes on to say, more progressive organizations, ‘appreciate that their most important resources are their human resources.’

The HSE point out that workrelated ill health accounts for some 28 million working days lost a year in Great Britain. By far the biggest cause of this – up to half of all workrelated absence in the education sector – is stress and related mental health issues.

If you live a fit and active life, and work in the sport sector, you know that healthy living and a sporty life help combat stress, but what sort of opportunities are there for businesses in this sector, how can you get your sporting brand, your product or service in front of a captive market – and who’s doing it right now?

Wellbeing in the Workplace: Apps

Apps such as My Fitness Pal continue to lead the way in and out of the workplace, but there are innovative brands creating specific wellness for the workplace apps. Sprout (, created by two high-flying women, a former competitive swimmer and a former competitive dancer/ marathoner turned city execs, offers a ‘corporate wellness platform.’ The app syncs with Strava and other tracking apps; creates challenges; and a rewards programme; plus gamification to encourage healthy competition amongst staff. Teams of staff can join each other in common activities such as cycling and share mutual goals. A similar app has been created by [email protected] a company who are also behind a Workplace Wellness Charter, the accreditation standard built on best practice, the latest research and business sense.

Rewards and prizes

Sports shops, gyms and others can link up with app providers and corporates direct and offer staff discounts to help improve what Perkbox (https://www.perkbox) calls the Employee Experience (EX). As Perkbox point out, the average employee spends a third of their life at work, and life doesn’t start only when work stops. Perkbox is an employee benefit scheme designed to reward employees for all their hard work and make life a little more affordable. Rewards include gym memberships (save up to 28 per cent at hundreds of gyms nationwide), and money-off vouchers for healthy organic food. The platform provided by Perkbox promises ‘team happiness’ and to help employees feel valued in their company.

Taking Wellness to work – literally

In some ways it’s baffling that wellness and work were separate for so long. Now that businesses have seen that brands like Google, with their fun-house approach to work, seem to be doing pretty well they’re keen to get on board and improve their physical and mental health offerings to employees.

Earlier this year, Amanda Webb, head of people projects at Gymshark, said: “Employee benefits and wellbeing is fundamental to us at Gymshark, particularly as we are growing rapidly! Having the right partners and platforms helps us deliver our physical, mental and financial wellbeing agenda.” Gymshark typify the type of company embracing wellbeing, and in August the fitness apparel brand opened two fitness studios, a vast state-of-the-art weights room and CrossFit rig, an indoor running track and outdoor strongman yard, all made available for their 300-strong staff plus two guests each at their Birmingham HQ.

In London, it’s the trendsetting co-working spaces who are leading the charge for onsite facilities, including Uncommon, based in Liverpool Street. The cool offices house a Peleton studio, the leading cycle class designed for home workouts, and their own research found that 92 per cent of UK office occupiers prefer ‘wellness-enabled buildings’.

As well as the building, the furniture and environment where many will spend eight or nine hours a day is being re-invented for a healthier outlook. Lifespan’s Treadmill desk, for example, allows users to stand and walk at their desk. Given that many researchers have associated prolonged sitting with bad health, this has to be a good thing.

More time to play

Proposals to change the length of the working week means there’s real potential for more time for people to play sport or indulge in leisure (e.g. on the traditional sports day Wednesday afternoon). Labour’s proposed four-day week has support and according to YouGov B2B polling nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of 502 UK business-people would support the idea of adopting a four-day week. And big companies, such as the Welcome Trust, who employee 800 people, are already taking steps to make the threeday weekend a reality. ‘It looks like moving the working week to four days rather than five gets you a broader productivity and wellbeing benefit,’ Ed Whiting, Wellcome’s director of policy, told the Guardian in January this year.

Being the Best You Can Be

As we aim to be more productive, and feel good about it, there seems to be a growing demand for products and services that will help us to be the best we can be. Recently opened in the city of London, close to St Paul’s cathedral, is the Harpal clinic which combines hormones, aesthetics and performance into one beautiful, futuristic building. Corporates are hungry for optimised health and as well as popping in for a vitamin infusion, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, and alcohol management, clients can take advantage of services usually reserved for elite sports men and women. The Cryotherapy chamber from Cryoaction offers three minutes of exposure to minus 130 degrees centigrade, a treatment favoured by Premier League footballers, and elite runners. The result is a serotonin boost to help combat stress and a speeding up of post workout recovery, essential for time-poor weekend warriors (

It’s clear that wellbeing has moved a long way from health and safety executives. According to Autonomy, a consultancy think tank made up of academics from digital, politics and feminism, (, ‘Productivity relies not just on the sheer amount of hours put in, but on the wellbeing, fatigue levels and overall health of the worker’. And the 2018 Global Wellness Institute (GWI) report ( suggested an unwell, unproductive and disengaged workforce is costing the global economy, with wellbeing now taking centre stage, and workplace wellbeing growing, and now accounting for $48 billion of the $4.2 trillion global wellness industry. ‘Once upon a time, our contact with wellness was occasional: we went to the gym or got a massage. But this is changing fast: a wellness mindset is starting to permeate the global consumer consciousness, affecting people’s daily decision-making,” noted Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow, GWI. ‘Wellness, for more people, is evolving from rarely to daily, from episodic to essential, from a luxury to a dominant lifestyle value. And that profound shift is driving powerful growth,’ she added.



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