When it comes to meeting the challenge of the sedentary workplace and its associated ills, few organisations are more relevant than ukactive, working tirelessly to get more people, more active, more often. Wellworking were proud to be a Breakout Sponsor at Westminster’s impressive Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre for their 2019 National Summit.
Chaired ably by former Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, the summit’s key notes were launched passionately by the indefatigable Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chair of ukactive. She announced a major piece of research for 2020 on the role of physical activity in the workplace, something our industry should engage fully with.
Former Head of Civil Service, Lord Gus O’Donnell spoke lucidly about how significantly exercise and sport impact both attainment and wellbeing, citing that the fundamental principle in changing behaviour was to make it simple to do the right thing.
The afternoon key notes kicked off with Health Secretary Matt Hancock reiterating that if “physical activity were a drug, we would hail it as a miracle cure”. He described health as an asset to be nurtured, not a problem to be fixed. He spoke about the NHS funding medication, but that it did not pay for prescriptions of physical activity, and after a pause added “yet”, much to the approval of his audience.
Jessica Ennis-Hill followed impressively, talking about her incredible career, and her passion around making sure children saw activity and exercise as the everyday norm.
Helen Stokes – Lampard was up next, highlighting inactivity as a major risk factor to health, along with loneliness and social isolation, interesting challenges for parts of the flexible working movement.
With such an impressive speaker list it would have been hard for anyone to steal the show, but Caroline Casey’s talk about her efforts as the Founder of The Valuable 500 came closest. She spoke passionately about the existence of a disability inequality crisis, and about how inclusion right at its core was about belonging. She saw the way to tackle this crisis most effectively as not being through government, but through business, and her success stories in this field were an inspiration to a rapt audience.
The afternoon breakout sessions included Office 2030: a new working environment, the session Wellworking sponsored.
A strong panel agreed that the importance of having a health and wellbeing strategy had never been higher. There was across the panel agreement over a worsening of mental health within the workplace, and an acceptance that we can’t separate mental and physical health anymore.
Kate Davies from CBRE saw the office of 2030 as offering more choice and flexibility, with a focus on the working experience, while Toby Sproll from Bruntwood spoke of workplaces that promoted the human connection in order to attract and retain talent.
Professor Karen Walker-Bone, Professor and Honorary Consultant in Occupational Rheumatology at Southampton University, spoke of the growth of the gig economy and her concerns of the build-up in anxiety that this might cause in the future.
Laura Johnson, Head of Workplace Wellbeing delivery at Mind, envisaged the 2030 office as one where employers were creating a culture that encouraged staff to thrive, not just survive, focusing on her 5 steps to wellbeing.
MP, Tom Watson, asked a question from the floor about what the panel would like to see in the manifesto he was currently busy writing, and this led to a vigorous and fascinating Q&A session. A focus on reducing inequalities in the workplace, treating workplace activity almost like a medicine, and establishing a kite mark for employers’ best practice were all excellent topics that came through.
The theme of the Summit was around the optimism and positive energy that ukactive and its membership engender, and there was no doubt that this could be felt throughout the day. Our exhibition stand highlighting the award-winning Cosm chair and Ratio sit-stand desking from Herman Miller was busy throughout the day, with a lot of interest in how micro movements and posture change were an important part of combatting the sedentary workplace.
Once again, ukactive at their 2019 National Summit have proved themselves to be an energetic and thought-provoking leader in their field. Their focus on the workplace this year is both important and welcome, and we look forward to working with them in this space over the coming years.