Mayor champions healthier workplaces through City Hall get fit challenge

08 May 2014

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is leading a call for workplaces to help employees get fitter and healthier by personally signing up to a new City Hall health challenge. The Greater London Authority (GLA) is encouraging staff to get involved in an eight-week 'get fit for summer' promotion, which features a series of workplace events and activities aimed at improving health and well-being. This is part of an ongoing drive to encourage employees to take responsibility for their health. Activities being offered include healthy eating cookery demonstrations - one by leading chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver – and talks on healthy diets from Grayshott. There will be morning exercise sessions, Tai Chi, fitness sessions provided by The Train Station, Zumba classes, lunchtime walks, yoga and other activities. Staff can even check how many calories they burn, if they take the stairs, using the StepJockey app. The City Hall health challenge was kick-started today by the Mayor, who has pledged to boost his fitness by cycling more and cutting back on cake and cheese. GLA staff are also being encouraged to make personal pledges, with the first 100 to sign up with receiving a free smoothie, courtesy of Innocent. The first 150 to sign up will get a ticket for the Jamie Oliver cooking class, which takes place next week. Mayor Boris Johnson said: 'I want to lead the charge at City Hall by committing to get fitter for summer. My pledge is to cycle more and cut back on my food foes, cheese and cake. 'It's well documented that a healthy workforce delivers benefits not just for the individuals but for their organisations. Through our own work at the GLA, we want to encourage other enlightened organisations to limber up and get leaner in every sense of the word.' The City Hall health challenge comes after the GLA was accredited with an Achievement Award by independent monitors of the London Healthy Workplace Charter, recognising its efforts over the past two years to support staff health and well-being. The GLA launched the Charter in 2012 to encourage organisations in the capital to create healthier workplaces for their staff. Research has shown that promoting health and well-being in the workplace can reduce sickness absence and improve organisational performance. An average London firm of 250 employees loses around £250,000 a year to ill health calculated by sickness absence, whilst workers who are physically active take 27 per cent fewer sick days than less active colleagues. Since its launch, 29 organisations have been accredited with measures introduced including encouraging staff to get more active, for example by using the stairs at work rather than the lift, cycling to work, or getting off the bus a few stops earlier. Some organisations have offered subsidised gym memberships, massage in the workplace and even fresh fruit for staff. Other activities include setting up stop smoking groups and developing alcohol and mental health policies. The London Health Commission set up by the Mayor in September 2013 is looking at ways to improve health and wellbeing across the capital, including Lord Darzi and his team exploring the potential for employers to play an active role in supporting their staff. The Mayor was joined by Rosie Boycott (London Food Board), Assembly Members Roger Evans and Murad Qureshi, Yvonne Doyle (Public Health England) and other GLA staff for a mass weigh-in at City Hall, on giant scales provided by Avery Weigh-Tronix [PICTURES AVAILABLE]. Organisations interested in adopting the Healthy Workplace Charter should go to www.london.gov.uk/healthyworkplace. ENDS Notes to editors 1. For images of the weigh-in, please email [email protected]. 2. In addition to a statutory responsibility to produce a health inequalities strategy, the Mayor of London is supporting a number of initiatives aimed at improving health for all Londoners and to shine a light on key health issues for the capital. This includes programmes to encourage people to get more active, such as the £1bn scheme to boost cycling; £40m invested through the Sporting Legacy programme to increase opportunities for Londoners across the capital to participate in sport and physical activity; public realm improvements large and small, from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to pocket parks, offering green spaces for formal and informal activity from walking to cycling to organised sport. Healthy Schools London aims to improve health and well-being of young Londoners; the London Healthy Workplace Charter supports employers who create a health-enhancing workplace; and the Takeaways Toolkit provides a framework for dealing with the proliferation of fast food shops; and raising awareness of a range of health issues such as breast cancer, HIV, TB and Hepatitis C and breast cancer. The Mayor is supporting the London Food Flagship boroughs, which aims to use schools as the catalyst to drive improvements in the whole food environment of two London boroughs building on the work of the School Food Plan (www.schoolfoodplan.com). 3. The Mayor has also launched the London Health Commission to investigate key health issues for the capital and chairs the London Health Board, which has identified five priority areas to focus on: London’s health economy; jobs and growth in London's health & life sciences sector; improving primary care; transparency of data; and mental health. The London Health Commission will present its findings to the Mayor in the autumn. For more information go to www.london.gov.uk/health / www.londonhealthcommission.org.uk. 4. The London Healthy Workplace Charter coordinated by the Greater London Authority and supported by PHE London works in partnership with London borough public health and environmental health teams who offer localised advice and support. 5. The framework standards cover corporate support for wellbeing, health and safety, attendance management, physical activity, healthy eating, mental health and well-being, smoking cessation and alcohol and substance misuse. To support investment across these areas organisations can be assessed against three levels: commitment, achievement and excellence. Feedback is provided to organisations as they make steps against the Charter including advice and tips from health and work experts. 6. Organisations that participated in the project pilot stage were: Forster, Hostelbookers.com Ltd, Guys and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesex University, Kingston Hospital NHS Trust, Greenwich Council, Kingston Council, New England Seafood, Colemans – CTTS Solicitors LLP, Haringey Council, South London Healthcare NHS Trust, Greenwich University, Wolters Kluwer UK, Deloitte LLP. 7. Nineteen London boroughs are supporting delivery of the programme either as employers and/or by supporting employers meet the standards in their local area. 8. Twenty nine employers are successfully accredited to the London Healthy Workplace Charter standards, covering around circa 92,325 London employees, including Small and Medium Enterprises, large private sector firms, NHS organisations and local authorities. Health at work facts and figures An average London firm of 250 employees loses around £250,000 a year due to ill health calculated by sickness absence. GLA Economics, London's business case for employee health and well-being, 2012 Physically active workers take 27% fewer sick days than their non-physically active counterparts NICE, 2012 17.3 million working days are lost due to alcohol in England, with this loss attributed to both dependent and non-dependent drinkers. Middlesex University, 2011 Smokers have more time off than non-smokers (male short term absence 46% higher, long term absence 81% higher. Female absence 9% and 37% higher) 900, 000 working age Londoners will experience mental health problems during the course of each year. Work, Mental Health and Welfare…The case for co-ordinated action to achieve shared benefit, 2012 Research looking into the health needs of workers in the city identified that a third of respondents reported having a long term health condition and 24.7% smoke cigarettes (above the London and England average). The Public Health and Primary Healthcare Needs of City Workers, City of London 2012