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    Podcast #2 – How employers can encourage wellbeing

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    Incentivising wellbeing can be a win-win for employers and employees. Unum’s new podcast looks at how and why.

    Incentivising wellbeing

    “There’s a very real trend for declining levels in physical activity,” says Nicola Riley, Health and Wellbeing Consultant at Unum.

    “’s ‘All Our Health’ estimates that by 2030, we’ll be doing 35% less activity than we were in the 1960s1. That’s just staggering.”

    Nicola was speaking on the latest Unum Health and Wellbeing Podcast – which is available to download and listen to now.

    The episode looks at how Unum itself has tackled the issue of decreasing activity levels – and the lessons learned from the wellbeing initiatives.

    Declining activity

    In episode two of the podcast, Nicola Riley and Karen Curtis (Rehabilitation and Wellbeing Consultant) join podcast host Beth Husted (Rehabilitation and Wellbeing Manager).

    In a bid to understand how other businesses can encourage greater physical activity at work, their attention turns in house.

    “Each year we take part in the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Survey,” says Nicola.

    “Unum has just under 800 employees in the UK. That gives us a nice number to really look at impacting their health behaviour and measuring change.”

    The survey (which you can enter here) found that 37% of Unum’s UK-based employees weren’t doing enough physical activity. That is less than’s recommendation of 150 minutes moderate intensity exercise per week2.

    For Nicola, it was a clear sign that action needed to be taken. “As an employee benefits provider, we see the impact of poor health on our clients that we support. We want to be leading best practice.”

    Spring into Action

    In March 2018, the Spring into Action challenge launched – a steps-based team challenge in conjunction with Unum’s 10,000 colleagues in the US.

    The initiative ran for four weeks, as fitness trackers monitored the activity levels of the various teams. Quite simply, the team with the most steps wins.

    “It had to be fun,” says Nicola. “We provided league tables and designed a comms plan to support this. We made use of posters, screens around the site and sent out emails. We also encouraged people to send in pictures of them with their teams on walks to get a sense of community around the whole programme. This worked really well for us.”


    The challenge picked up plenty of momentum in the Unum offices. But it was important that this momentum wasn’t lost when it came to an end.

    So, the Wellbeing Committee designed a questionnaire to help measure how the initiative had affected people’s wellbeing – to be taken before and after the four weeks.

    The results? Well you’ll have to listen to the podcast to get the full run down. But one thing’s for sure, the incentivising and community-building around Spring into Action made a real splash for Unum employees.

    “Originally, participants said they didn’t think they did enough exercise and they wished they could do more,” says Karen.

    “Taking part in the challenge seems to have lit a fire under everyone because in the final questionnaire a lot of participants reported that they did enough exercise and they were happy with their activity levels.”

    Those questioned said they felt good, more accomplished and with higher energy levels than they had before Spring into Action. They were more motivated and productive.

    What next?

    Often, the hardest part of becoming more active is establishing those new routines.

    As Beth puts it, “If a business can provide some basics around physical activity, such as facilities, gym membership support and prioritising some time for physical activity – even walking meetings and ensuring lunch breaks are taken so that staff can move more, there will be an improvement of energy and motivation at work.”

    A simple steps-based challenge can really be the start of something.

    Listen to the latest Unum Health and Wellbeing podcast here.


    1 GOV.UK. (2019). Physical activity: applying All Our Health

    2 GOV.UK. (2016). Health matters: Getting every adult active every day