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Workplace Physical Activity Programs: Keys to Success

To make a difference in the lives of your fellow workers, you first need to understand that getting active is not only a matter of choice. Some things are within our individual control, but others are molded by the people and circumstances in which we live and work.

It‘s Easier to Be Active When…

• We know what to do and have the confidence, skills and opportunity to do it.
• It’s fun. “Working out” at the fitness center does not appeal to everyone. Activities need to reflect what people enjoy.
• Our friends, family or co-workers are active with us (or at least support us).
• We feel safe, thanks to well-lit streets or stairways.
• Sidewalks, walking/biking trails, parks and gyms are nearby.
• We have money to pay for equipment, instruction or memberships.
• We can walk, bike or take public transit to work.
• Active choices such as taking the stairs, having stretch breaks at gatherings and heading outside at lunchtime are “normal” in the workplace.
• Managers support and recognize employee efforts. Better yet, they take part.
• We can juggle our work hours to fit in physical exercise.

Think about how you could set up some of these conditions in your workplace. By taking these steps, you’ll increase the likelihood that workers both want and are able to be active during the workday.

Workplace physical exercise pushes that focus only on individuals have limited success. Research shows that reaching people in various ways gives the best chance of long-term success.

A plan directed at multiple echelons is also called an “ecological approach.”

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Workplace Physical Activity Programs: Types of Evaluation

The sort of assessment you choose is dependent upon when you do it and the kind of information you collect.

This section outlines when to use three types: formative, process and summative evaluations.

During the Design Stage

Use formative evaluations in the planning stages to see that your program is based on solid information. These evaluations also help you to advance effective and appropriate materials and procedures.

Examples of formative evaluations include:

• records of management commitments to the program
• employee interest surveys
• workplace environmental assessments
• pre-testing of program materials

During Your Initiative

A process assessment is used when the initiative is underway. These evaluations help you:

• track what is going well and what isn’t (and how to revise your program)
• find out if you are reaching the workers you want to reach
• describe the initiative to others
• monitor who is participating in the initiative

During or Following Your Initiative

Summative evaluations take place when the initiative is already in place or completed. Use this sort of assessment to measure what workers like about the initiative and what could be improved.

All three types of evaluations have their place. The assessment you choose is dependent upon the time and monetary resources you have available.

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Workplace Physical Activity Programs: Evaluation Guide

What Do You Wish to Achieve?

Think about why you’re evaluating and what your assessment is going to measure.

If you’re trying to find out whether initiative has been efficacious, see if you stuck to your mission statement and met your objectives.

If you do not have a mission statement or objectives, agree with management and your employee Company Wellness Committee how your organization will track success.

By way of example, you can track success by changes in:

• Physical measures (e.g., strength, flexibility, waist circumference of workers).
• Psychological measures (e.g., employee morale, satisfaction levels, stress levels).
• Productivity measures (e.g., decline in absenteeism rates, increased employee productivity).

Thinking About workers

If you’re considering making improvements to the initiative, consider whether the initiative is still relevant and appropriate for workers. Find out if there are any obstacles to participation in the program or to participation in physical exercise during the workday.

As workers are the ones participating in the program, it’s valuable to give them a chance to offer feedback on the physical exercise initiative.

Choosing an Evaluation Method

Decide on your assessment method. Both measurable results (e.g., absenteeism rates or questionnaire responses) and descriptive results (e.g., one-on-one interviews or focus groups) can be used to evaluate. The method you choose will hinge upon the time and funding available and what you want to measure.

Deciding How to Do the Evaluation

Plan when and where you will do your assessment (and who will be evaluated). For more information, read the “Types of Evaluations” section on this website.
You might want to pilot test your assessment (e.g., with members of the Company Wellness Committee) before sending it out to workers. The employee Company Wellness  Committee might also wish to evaluate the initiative’s planning process.

Doing the Evaluation

• Compare your results to baseline information (i.e., assessment results from before the launch of your initiative). If you do not have this information, save your assessment results to compare with later results. You can also look at other information you may have, such as employee satisfaction survey results.
• Analyze and share meaningful and easy-to-be aware of results with management and workers.
• Evaluation results can be used to better the current physical exercise program and/or to advance new pushes in future.

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Workplace Physical Activity Programs: Developing an Action Plan

Prior to starting your Workplace Physical Activity Program, summarize the information you’ve collected and plan your next steps.

At this point, you have

• gained support from management for the Workplace Physical Activity Program
• formed an Company Wellness  Committee
• assessed what is possible in your workplace
• found out what workers want and need in a Workplace Physical Activity Program.

Based on this information, you’re now ready to advance your action plan to improve physical exercise at your workplace.

With the Company Wellness Committee, take the following steps.

• Combine the results of the employee survey with the workplace environmental assessment, and report to management and workers.
• Prioritize the possibilities at each of the “levels” (individual, social, company, community, policy) in the workplace listed in “Keys to Success”. By way of example, suppose a big group of workers show an interest in biking to work. Since these people may want to shower and change after their commute each day, you could give showers and changing facilities priority in your workplace. Bike racks could also be valuable for making employees’ bikes secure during the workday.
• Consult the list of practical suggestions found this website.
• Create a mission statement (one which aligns with your organization’s central mission statement) to define your purpose and help guide your process. Setting objectives will help you achieve your mission statement.
• Put together a plan or blueprint approaching what you have learned. Make program and exercise recommendations with timelines, identify resources and assign responsibilities. Revisit the list of tasks outlined in “Step 2: Forming an Employee Committee.” Seek management approval to move ahead.
• Once your initiative is in place, it’s valuable to encourage it to workers. Organizing a launch is a great way to do this. A formal launch also demonstrates management commitment. If workers aren’t aware of the initiative, they can’t take advantage of it!
• Decide what you need to track to show that you have accomplished your objectives. Measure these factors before you begin. This way, when you evaluate later, you will know if there has been a change.

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