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PURPOSE: We explored these issues qualitatively among sedentary university employees recruited to a 10-week randomised controlled trail. The trial compared walking routes, walking within daily tasks and controls on daily step totals, showing that, compared to controls, interventions resulted in @1000 extra steps per day.

METHOD: Fifteen participants representing both trial arms contributed semi-structured interviews at post-intervention assessments, supported by six recorded peer debriefings. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and subject to inductive coding.

RESULTS: Increased walking at work resulted in an overall effect of ‘Improved sense of self within the organisation’. Attention provided by pedometers, physiological monitoring and weekly e-mail motivational messages were all considered important contributors in producing this effect and were seen as an institutional investment in staff. Increased walking helped to feel healthier (‘When steps were higher, it was obvious I felt better’), generated autonomy and provided variety within normal work days. Walking within daily tasks helped to establish much-valued face-to-face contact with colleagues (‘Talking to colleagues in person was more effective than emails it was more sociable’). This also simplified completion of daily tasks, while walking together on routes helped colleagues to resolve inter-personal tensions. However, reducing time spent at desks caused concern for some supervisors who questioned employee productivity; this challenge was rarely offered to more senior employees.

CONCLUSION: Extra walking at work, however it was achieved, produced a powerful effect on employee morale which was linked to improved emotional control and mental focus, better mood and increased energy. These collective effects are central to improved morale and subjective estimates of more effective work performance based on increased walking during the working day.

Reseracher: Qin Lin – Business Development Consultant (Intern) Australian Corporate Wellness.

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