Four state agencies give employees time to exercise at work

Update, Sept. 2: A new study has shown giving employees time to exercise during their work day could lead to increased productivity, as reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study involved employees at a large public dental health organization in Sweden. On group of employees was required to do 2.5 hours of exercise per week during regular hours. “Another group received the same reduction in work hours, but with no exercise program,” research-reporting service Newswise reports. Employees assigned to the exercise program said they felt productive while at work and were absent less often due to illness. (Read more)
Four state agencies allow their employees to take time to exercise as part of their work day, part of an effort to improve morale and productivity. The Department of Financial Institutions, Department of Military Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Personnel Cabinet have instituted the policies with varying degrees of participation.

“Some workers are limited to 90 minutes of paid exercise per week, while others can exercise up to five hours while on the clock,” reports Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “On any given day, employees can exercise from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on which agency they work for.” (Photo of state employee Lisa Clark by H-L’s David Perry)
It is unclear how many state employees take advantage of the policies, but officials feels it is cost effective. “A wellness break is just like any other break time,” said Crystal Pryor, spokeswoman for the Personnel Cabinet. “The difference is that this break results in reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, higher employee morale and lower health care costs for the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan, the state’s self-funded insurance program.”
One 2010 Harvard University study showed medical costs fall about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. Absentee day expenses drop by $2.73 per dollar spent. Despite the savings, Kentucky is one of the only states to have such exercise policies in place. Montana also does, allowing employees two 15-minutes exercise breaks a day.
“Often these employees are discussing work issues while they are exercising so we really don’t see this as cutting back on productivity,” said Dick Brown, spokesman for the Department of Financial Institutions. “There are no hard facts around the impact of the program on reduction of sick leave, but certainly that is one of the benefits and trade-offs we hope to see over time.” (Read more)
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