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Absenteeism at work: five good reasons to get your teams involved in sport.

Wellbeing at work


4 min reading

There are three major issues can damage a company's productivity: the coffee machine breaking down, a World Cup, and absenteeism. We can’t help you with the first two. We remain convinced that physical activity is one of the best ways to curb absenteeism.


Absenteeism in France represents an annual cost of 60 billion euros. With an average of 17.2 days of absenteeism per year in 2017,1 French employees are generally less committed to their jobs than their European neighbours, with wide disparities linked to age, gender and sector of activity. While managers are more likely to be absent for personal reasons than anything else, non-managers also mention high workload (responsible for 14% of absences), a lack of recognition (13%)1, lack of career development prospects, a poor working atmosphere in the team, or a feeling of being poorly supported by management.

Physical activity at work is not yet widely recognised as a tool to combat absenteeism, although its effects on workplace well-being and employee engagement are multiple and proven. Only 23% of employees mention sport when asked about ways to improve the quality of life at work.²  However, the development of sports programmes and challenges for employees has enabled many companies to measure the positive impacts of sport on the sense of social cohesion within teams, the improvement of performance, and ... a direct decrease in absenteeism rates, up to 18% for some programmes.  Here are five good reasons to engage your employees through physical activity!

Physical activity in the workplace has a direct impact on health

To deny the health benefits of sport would be like joining the flat earthers or moon landing sceptics. 24% of employees want to do sport to maintain good physical fitness, 23% want to unwind, 17% want to get a breath of fresh air, 16% want to stay in shape, 6.5% want to improve their performance, 6% want to meet friends and 3% want to strengthen social ties.2 Some of these reasons are connected to managing stress, which can be caused by difficulties related to managerial practices, sedentary lifestyles, or poor working environments.

Governments are now starting to ask whether companies should shoulder the cost of short-term sick leave3 that experts attribute to excessively high stress levels, and whether to refer to them as “therapeutic breaks”. At United Heroes, we believe that it “prevention is better than cure” and it is better to incorporate well-being into everyday life than to wait until it is almost too late. By means of proof, companies that have introduced sports programmes for their teams through challenges or championships have seen a significant improvement in stress reduction, mood improvement (more employees claiming to be “happy” at work) and lower costs related to absenteeism.

Physical activity strengthens team cohesion and improves the social atmosphere

Taking part in sports challenges together, whether this involves counting steps, running, cycling or swimming, encourages employees to have more interaction with one another, as well as to enter into contact with staff they wouldn’t normally meet in their daily professional lives. Taking part in sport breaks down barriers within the company and acts as lever for team building, which ultimately contributes to reducing absenteeism.

Physical activity in the workplace improves the corporate brand

The attractiveness of companies that implement a wellness programme increases significantly. They are perceived as caring for their employees, as being dynamic, modern, innovative and attractive. ² Young people are particularly sensitive to the implementation of such programmes and tend to have lower absenteeism rates. These results are confirmed even in the years following recruitment, when absenteeism rates are usually higher on average.

Physical activity (also) reduces staff turnover

Well-being programmes also aim to build staff loyalty in the medium and long term by improving the general working environment and helping employees find a better work-life balance. Absences and early departures are significantly reduced, provided that active wellness programmes are maintained over time.  

Physical activity contributes to increased productivity

There are more and more studies on the link between productivity and well-being at work: it has now been shown that a happy and fully-integrated employee is more involved, productive and creative. Through the combined effect of action on physical health, mental health, social life and stress reduction, sport at work contributes to improving productivity but also increasing the feeling of job satisfaction, which has a lasting impact on employee engagement. Move more, work better, a real programme.

1 - Ayming 2017 absenteeism barometer. Overview of absenteeism in France in 2016 (in French)  https://www.ayming.fr/typo3conf/ext/almacg/user_upload/Performances_rh/Publications/9eme_edition_du_Barometre_de_l_Absenteisme_Ayming_-_2017.pdf

2 - Décathlon Pro report (in French): Le sport en entreprise, le point de vue des salariés (Sport in the workplace, the employees' point of view), 2017

3 - "Short-term sick leave, omnipresent and often linked to employee stress" (in French), 23 August 2018 https://www.capital.fr/economie-politique/les-arrets-maladie-de-courte-duree-omnipresents-et-souvent-lies-au-stress-des-salaries-1304007

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