Supporting employees out of lockdown and back into sport
‘Freedom day’ meant different things for different people, and employers can support their staff in adjusting to yet another ‘new normal,’ as dealing with change can create mental health challenges and lead to dips in productivity at work. Many employees will be embracing the opportunity to get back into sport, and this can be encouraged through flexible working and setting up work team and sporting challenges.
Last year, for the first time since I joined juniors’ clubs at the age of 8, I found myself unable to play football and not knowing when it would be back. In one way or another, I normally play a lot of football: for my non-league club, five-a-side, and the occasional Sunday morning when I can get away with it. I currently play for a senior ‘semi-professional’ football team, which is a significant time commitment. While it’s a reasonable level of football, for me it’s about enjoying the full match day experience as much as the actual game. Travelling across the south coast for games, arriving at grounds early for your pre-match routine and meeting the countless volunteers who run these clubs, maintain the pitches, and cook your post-match pasta. This social aspect supports my mental health and helps me relax after work.
While football has been back since March, it hasn’t quite been the same due to COVID restrictions. I don’t think you necessarily appreciate the full benefits of being a member of a sports club until it’s taken away – or at least stripped back by restrictions. I have been able to play matches between the various lockdowns and tier systems, but the social aspect has been removed. I haven’t set foot in another team’s clubhouse in over a year, and equally haven’t spent any money behind their bars to support the local clubs that have struggled so much financially. It’s noticeable that some players haven’t bothered to get back into it as a result.
The last year has impacted on all of our social lives and changed our priorities. Now that we look like we are finally on the road to freedom, I’m hoping football will get back to what it should be, both on and off the field. With so many of us having lost social opportunities during the pandemic, and perhaps wanting to make up for some of it, employers have a great opportunity to encourage people to consider getting involved in sport. This could mean setting up a work 5-aside team or volunteering to help a local club. Not only will sport help your employees shift that lockdown weight(!) but for me, the last year has really highlighted the social and mental wellbeing benefits.
I am thrilled to now be able to encourage my colleagues to participate in sport and we have a created a ‘back to fitness’ support group. Working from home has also helped buy that vital time needed to participate in matches, and I appreciate how my employer encourages and supports my wellbeing. Employers who encourage staff pursuing fitness and wellbeing will be rewarded with improved engagement, healthier employees and increased productivity.
Andy Greaves – Claims Manager, Buck