Telecommuters Are Likely to Pursue Fitness

Posted August 3, 2016

Despite an abundance of evidence that regular exercise is important for good health, countless Americans are still too sedentary. In fact, about 50% of full-time employees in the U.S. don’t exercise through wellness programs at work — or anyplace else — according to a new survey of 617 full-time employees across the U.S., sponsored by Flex+Strategy Group & Work+Life Fit Inc.

“Despite employers investing millions of dollars to promote employee health, almost half of the U.S. workplace does not budge,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, the CEO of Flex+Strategy Group & Work+Life Fit Inc., a provider of workplace and individual wellness solutions.

However, the research revealed employees who telecommute are far more likely than most of their office-based colleagues to pursue fitness outside of their workday.

The survey found about 33% of employees who work on-site, especially those 30 and older, do participate in a workplace wellness program, if it’s available. But many don’t have that opportunity. About 25% of workers queried reported they don’t have access to a wellness-exercise program where they work. And 20% said they don’t use a wellness program even if their company offers one.

Only 17% of office workers said they pursued fitness after or before work. Telecommuters, on the other hand, were significantly more likely to work exercise into their daily schedule. About 25% of survey participants who telecommute said they independently pursued out-of-office wellness activities.

Regular telecommuting among the non-self-employed has soared by 103% in the past decade, according to Global Workplace Analytics data. Being able to achieve a life-work balance is important for successful telecommuting and likely explains how many telecommuters manage to fit regular exercise into their lives.

“Teleworkers use their inherent sense of discipline, focus and ability to not only get their work done, but also to pursue a healthy lifestyle,” Yost said. “It’s a positive outcome of telework that employers should value when we consider that one-third of all full-time U.S. employees now work from a remote location.”

The survey revealed that lack of workplace flexibility isn’t the reason why many employees who work on-site don’t exercise. Almost all (96%) of workers said they do have some flexibility in their workplace — either the same or more than in previous years.

“But many organizations bucket wellness, work-life flexibility and other employee strategies into separate silos rather than linking them together in a holistic approach that benefits business and employee performance,” Yost noted.

The survey data indicated that when employees were provided with training and guidance to help them use and manage their work flexibility, their participation in wellness and exercise programs increased significantly. Although less than half of those surveyed said they received that kind of training, the workers who did were significantly more likely (43%) to say they participated in corporate wellness programs.

“With guidance on how to use work-life flexibility, these employees have learned how to fit work and other priorities, including exercise and doctor’s visits, into their lives,” Yost said. “Such training provides organizations an untapped opportunity to educate employees about the various supports and rewards available through workplace wellness programs to be their most productive and healthy selves.” — Sherry Baker