Running a healthy workforce…literally


Here at Saints, the wellbeing of our staff is really important to us and we are constantly exploring new ways to keep them engaged, motivated and healthy, both in body and mind.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been a challenging year for everyone, and we’ve stepped up our work in this area with a strong focus on physical exercise, ensuring we provide our workforce with the support and tools they need to keep fit and healthy.

We have a dedicated Health and Wellbeing Team run by Saints Foundation duo David Warnes and Lee Nicholas alongside their day jobs, and they’ve played a key role in bringing staff together.

Over the past twelve months and before Coronavirus took hold, they have organised and hosted a variety of activities ensuring there is something for everyone, from staff football tournaments and tennis sessions to online salsa and pilate classes, and they continue to develop their programme based around requests and feedback from colleagues.

The birth of the Southampton FC Running Club…

One initiative that has proved extremely popular, especially during the pandemic, is their Running Club, set up back in May last year.

The idea was borne from a previous initiative at the club set up by a group of Academy staff members, challenging colleagues to run 100km in one month.

Our Health and Wellbeing Team used the idea to build the foundations of the Southampton FC Running Club, having received feedback that many of our staff were jogging both long and short distances in their spare time.

They tweaked the format so the club is focused on different running challenges, where staff can encourage and spur each other on to test their bodies to the limit, or take things at their own pace.

Each month, a new challenge is set for the group, either as an individual or a team, with one of the most popular being the completion of a 100km, 50km or 25km run or walk in a month, appealing to all abilities.

Members then log their distances in a group chat and updates are shared far and wide on a regular basis.

Bringing staff together and building relationships…

The latest challenge encouraged staff to come together in teams to run, walk or cycle collective distances based on the number of kilometres our first team were travelling to away matches.

March saw us head to Everton, Sheffield United, Manchester City and AFC Bournemouth, which worked out at around 1,520 miles (2,432 kilometres) – and staff absolutely smashed it!

So far, the club has 25 regular members, with a huge number competing when they can, and these continue to grow.

Not only has this improved the health and wellbeing of staff, but it has also brought people together who may not always have the opportunities to interact. It has also built strong bonds between departments and significantly enhanced productivity through joint working.

Senior Sales Manager, Hugh Wilson, said: “During the first lockdown, like a number of people in the country, I needed some form of escape and running provided that.

“Not only did it give me the opportunity to get some much needed fresh air, but I was able to get into shape, both physically and mentally.

"By the time the third lockdown started, it was great to see our Health and Wellbeing officers bring together runners of all levels within the club. Their challenges provided a new focus and it was fantastic to see a new community built.”

Lucy Horne, our Impact and Insights Manager, said: “I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a runner. I did a half marathon for charity once, several years back, and made a promise to myself, my loved ones and frankly anyone who would listen that I would never run again.

“However, January came around and it was dark and cold, and we were back in a national lockdown. I wanted something else to think about that wasn’t work.

“In the simplest terms, the run club meant (as I’ve never been a morning person) I took a break from my desk, and went outside. It also gave me a bit of headspace and although it sounds a bit bizarre, it was helpful to have something different to focus on rather than the pandemic.”

Head of CRM, Data and Analytics, Jack Walkling, said: “With lockdown putting recreational football on hold, I needed something to try and keep me fit.

“Joining the SFC Running Club was great as it allowed us all to share our achievements and individual targets within the WhatsApp group and provided regular motivation to get out there, particularly in the winter months when it's easy to say 'not today!'”

The SFC Running Club continues to grow in popularity and is proving a key component in our Health in Minds initiative, which has brought together all our health and wellbeing initiatives under one umbrella to support our staff.

As part of this, we offer regular podcasts run by our club psychologists on a range of topics, as well as hosting regular mindfulness sessions too.

We are proud of our work in this area and will continue to grow and develop it as we seek to return to some normality post-Covid-19.