Research Article: What are the Facilitators and Obstacles to Participation in Workplace Team Sport? A Qualitative Study

Date Published: February 23, 2017

Publisher: AIMS Press

Author(s): Andrew Brinkley, Josie Freeman, Hilary McDermott, Fehmidah Munir.


Working age adults are failing to meet physical activity recommendations. Inactive behaviours are increasing costs for diminished individual and organisational health. The workplace is a priority setting to promote physical activity, however there is a lack of evidence about why some employees choose to participate in novel workplace activities, such as team sport, whilst others do not. The aim of this study was to explore the complexity of facilitators and obstacles associated with participation in workplace team sport. Twenty-nine semi-structured face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted with office workers (58% female) (36 ± 7.71) from manufacturing, public services, and educational services. Data was analysed through template analysis. Five sub-level (i.e., intrapersonal, interpersonal, organisational, community and societal influences) facilitate participation or create obstacles for participants. Participants were challenged by a lack of competence, self-efficacy, negative sporting ideals and amotivation. Unhealthy competition, an unstable work-life balance and unsupportive colleagues created obstacles to participation. An unsupportive organisation and workplace culture placed demands on workplace champions, funding, facilities and communication. Healthy competitions, high perceptions of competence and self-efficacy, and being motivated autonomously enabled participation. Further, relatedness and social support created a physical activity culture where flexible working was encouraged and team sport was promoted in accessible locations within the organisation. Researchers should consider accounting for complexity of these influences. A participatory approach may tailor interventions to individual organisations and the employees that work within them. Interventions whereby autonomy, competence and relatedness are supported are recommended. This may be achieved by adapting sports and training workplace champions.

Partial Text

This study used semi-structured interviews with employees to understand the complexity of participating in workplace team sport. Template analysis, interpreted through an ecological model, revealed participation in workplace team sport is influenced by (i) intrapersonal, (ii) interpersonal, (iii) organisational, (iv) environmental and (v) societal factors. More specifically, intrapersonal, interpersonal, organisational and environmental factors facilitate participation and create obstacles for employees considering or participating in workplace team sport. Further, factors shaped by societal attitudes such as bias and inequality in sport only challenged participation.

This study explored the complexity of participating in workplace team sport. Qualitative research exploring the facilitators and obstacles faced by employees participating in workplace team sport is lacking and therefore challenging the implementation of programmes. Findings indicate participation in workplace team sport is influenced by interlinking intrapersonal, interpersonal, organisational, environmental and societal factors.




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