With telecommuting, companies would do better to encourage their employees to exercise

Too few companies and governments offer their employees the opportunity to exercise, the benefits of which for physical and mental health become all the more apparent with the development of telecommuting, according to two recently published reports.

In recommendations published in March, the National Academy of Medicine considers: “It is important to consider the level of physical activity and sedentary behavior at work as determinants of health”

“The digital age has increased working time in a sedentary position, with major medical consequences. For some categories, working conditions during the pandemic, with the promotion of telecommuting, have significantly increased inactivity and sedentary time.”emphasizes Professor Xavier Bigard, coordinator of the report.

2 to 3 hours of sports under supervision for employees

Physical activity has a recognized benefit in the prevention of chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.) and work-related pathologies, from low back pain to burnout.

Nordic walking, muscle strengthening, badminton or yoga during lunch… “the workplace can be a privileged place” for the physical activity of employees who do not necessarily have the opportunity outside, according to Xavier Bigard.

But according to a recent report by outgoing MPs Aude Amadou (LREM) and Maud Petit (MoDem), only one in five companies (18%) offers exercise to its employees† And sports practice remains within the central administrations “peripheral”

That is certainly not the case at Decathlon. “At each team meeting once a month, a sports program is proposed from 2 to 3 hours, supervised, each according to their level”testified, still astonished, by an employee who was recently hired as a computer scientist and who has thus played hockey or badminton.

“I have a two-hour lunch break to exercise”he adds, and “my colleagues look more like an athlete than the stereotypical chubby computer scientist”

If physical activity is widespread in large companies, it is not in VSEs (less than ten employees), which make up 96% of the French economic fabric.

Many obstacles to sports practice

There are many obstacles: on the part of the employers, difficulties in accessing sports equipment, lack of financial resources, human support, fear of being held liable in the event of an accident… but also lack of time and motivation of employees for whom sport is a matter of leisure and private life.

“Up until now, especially athletes, who are used to practicing a sport, have benefited from the offer of their company”notice the two deputies.

To attract an audience furthest from sports, they suggest talking about physical and sports activity (PSA) to “health and well-being without necessarily recalling the dimension of competition and achievement” Sport.

Preventing absenteeism through sports

Practicing an APS in a professional environment is also: beneficial for employers and government spendingdescribes the report, citing a 2015 study conducted notably by the Medef.

According to this, when the employee practices APS regularly, the absenteeism (which costs every year) will 60 billion euros and corresponds to 17.2 days of absenteeism per employee) are reduced by 5.6% and healthcare costs by more than 300 euros per year. And productivity would increase by 6-9%

The government has recently taken various measures, but according to the deputies, little is known about them. Sports activities, if these are offered to all employees by the employer, are no longer considered benefits in kind since 2021 and are exempt from social security contributions up to 170 euros per year

MEPs also recommend raising awareness among occupational health services, introducing a tax credit for the adaptation of premises to APS practice, creating a sports card for employees of companies with fewer than 250 employees, etc.

The Academy of Medicine, for its part, suggests: “that recommendations for activities are regularly sent to teleworkers” and that the government encourages the development of facilities useful to reduce sedentary life in workspaces (stairs, access to buildings, etc.).


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