With UK businesses losing £17 billion1 last year through staff absence, many employers are seeking ways to improve employee engagement to reduce the financial burden unauthorised absences create.

Recent studies have suggested that companies promoting exercise and a healthier lifestyle are likely to benefit from reduced absenteeism in the workplace, so the Royal Parks Foundation, the charity for London’s eight Royal Parks, is urging businesses to sign up to the Corporate Challenge element of its half marathon event, taking place on Sunday 9 October 2011, before it’s too late.

Leading entrepreneur and businessman, Duncan Bannatyne, is a great advocate of team participation within his businesses and commented: “Entering a company team to run in the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon Corporate Challenge means you’ll reap the benefits almost immediately. Team building activities for employees outside of the workplace can foster good working relationships, improve office morale, and when completed give employees a strong sense of pride and wellbeing, all of which can help to improve productivity and motivation.”

Health psychologist and author, David Moxon, also points out that pulling together as a team through a mass participation event is a useful way of reducing stress levels in the workplace: “Much of today’s working life can be pressured and stressful and research has shown one of the most effective ways of managing stress is through physical exercise. Group exercise activities such as half marathons are a great way to foster positive relationships between work colleagues, by developing both team support and injecting a slight competitive edge.”

Matthew Hardman, Client Sales Manager at ASDA, agrees that the experience has had a positive effect on the working environment adding: “We submitted a corporate team into the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon Corporate Challenge last year and everyone enjoyed it so much that we entered again this year – but with twice as many people! It’s really good for the workplace as it provides a common ground for people from different departments and inspires people to get fit.”

Bannatyne also believes entering corporate teams for mass participations events can act as a method of working towards a company’s CSR objectives, and is recommending businesses to get involved and run for charity too. As a UNICEF UK Ambassador, he adds: “By running for a charity like UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organisation, you’re not only improving the internal workings of your company and showing your customers, clients and employees your commitment to ‘giving something back’, you will be improving, and saving the lives of vulnerable children in some of the most deprived corners of the world.”