As England heads into a second national lockdown, employees across the nation who crave office-based working will once again face isolation, lack of face-to-face social contact and potential loneliness.

However, health and wellbeing expert Gary Butterfield has found a way to connect these employees using free or low-cost services whilst adhering to social distancing and is urging employers across the UK to follow in his footsteps.

In September 2020, he launched a nationwide step challenge, StrollWithIT, aimed at re-connecting employees and getting them to work together as a team to amass as many steps as they could over a six-week period.

In total 29 teams – of less than six people each to comply with social-distancing – competed against each other, clocking up a staggering 42.4 million steps along the way.

Prior to lockdown, the NHS claimed that British people walked between 3,000 and 4,000 steps in a day. But, the data from EJL’s StrollwithIT challenge revealed the lockdown average amongst the 106 participating UK employees was almost three times this amount.

Gary believes this suggests activity levels have increased as people strive to reconnect with their colleagues and employers should look to respond to that need.

One participant from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust reported feeling more connected to her colleagues.

“StrollwithIT motivated us, gave us a shared sense of purpose and a reason to get out and about,” she said.

“It prompted us to have ‘walking meetings’ which my colleagues really appreciated.”

Gary Butterfield, co-founder and executive director of Everyday Juice Limited, added: “The StrollWithIT challenge really caught the imaginations of those taking part and it was so successful we’ll definitely do it again next year.

“But many people don’t want to wait and are going to continue with the walks, which are great for health and wellbeing.

“I think as we head into a second national lockdown, employers need to recognise that exercise challenges are a simple way to unite socially distanced colleagues whilst still ensuring the current guidelines are met.

“You don’t need to physically meet to take part in a challenge like this, it can all be done remotely as it’s the joint effort to achieve a common goal which unites them.”

Under England’s latest lockdown people must work from home where possible but can meet one other person from outside their household for exercise in a public place.

Gary is urging employers to explore ways they can bring their socially distanced team together.

You can learn more about the StrollwithIT challenge on Medium

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.