Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Is Exercise Getting Left Behind in the Evolution of Corporate Wellness?

NIFS | Exercise ReminderThere is more and more discussion in corporate wellness today about doing wellness for (with?) employees, creating thriving workplace environments, shifting toward programmatic choices that allow for volunteerism and financial literacy, engaging employees with more purposeful work, and using job crafting to create more meaningful work.

It's an interesting time to engage in discussion about what these paradigm shifts really mean when it comes to practical, on-the-ground-application for employees. I agree with much of the dialog; I think it's past time to consider a shift and to take action on it. And yet, I'm concerned that we may be packing away some key elements for "old school" corporate wellness that should not be left out of the mix. One of those program options that is on the fringe is physical activity.

If the basis of your corporate wellness initiative is to help employees live well so that they can bring their best to work each day, then you cannot leave exercise behind. While you consider things like living wage, job crafting and other areas that impact individual well-being, you also need to keep the idea of making the healthy choice the easy choice at the top of mind. Here's how exercise maintains relevance in corporate wellness even as the concept of such offerings continue to evolve. 

The workplace is a prime place for making exercise easy

The research about the benefits of regular activity are clear. What remains elusive are effective strategies to nudge employees toward a more active lifestyle. But, that doesn't mean we should stop creating easy ways for the workers to move their bodies. Time and money (access) remain the two biggest barriers for adults when asked why they don't engage in regular exercise. Like it or not, the workplace becomes a prime location for employees to fit in some activity.  

Exercise doesn't require as much guess work as other initiatives

I know a lot of organizations have taken on wearables as the hallmark of their wellness program's physical activity component. It may be tempting to go that route - it seems relatively easy, and if the cost to implementation isn't a barrier for the organization, you can simply give everyone a Fitbit and get on with it. There are however, many reasons to exercise caution with the use of wearables in your wellness program, not the least of which is privacy.

[Read more: Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program]

Outside of the wearable marketplace, there a host of ways you can make physical activity an easy choice in your work environments. We're partial to a corporate fitness center, but that's not the right fit in every business. While you need variety, you don't have to spend a ton of money to execute this well. Group fitness classes can be run with modest cost (or no cost - employees can fund this if you simply make the opportunity available). Painting out safe walking zones in your parking lot, providing resources for stretch breaks, and offering solid education on opportunities for exercise in the community are examples of low-cost initiatives that can easily be developed.  

Leading the way is required

Sometimes, the best way to communicate that movement is important for your workforce has less to do with programmatic offerings, but instead is focused on shifting your culture so that walking breaks are repeatedly encouraged and modeled.

[Read more: 5 Tips To Help Your Employees Move More]

Leaders in the organization have to adopt a mindset where taking a break for physical activity during the day is not just accepted, it's encouraged. One of the best ways to do that is by modeling (yes, that means you need to take your own breaks!). You also have to be mindful of workplace policies (clock in/out policies, productivity quotas, etc.) that may send a different message than the supportive communications you've issued. If words and actions don't match up, employees aren't likely to adopt new practices. 

At the end of the day, you can't really legislate that employees exercise. The motivation to move has to be an inner drive in order for it to be a sustained choice. But, you can make it easier for your workforce to have access to physical activity by creating both spaces and support for regular exercise. 

Tips for adding exercise

Topics: corporate wellness programs corporate wellness success corporate fitness programming corporate fitness exercise at work wellness programming

Tips for a Healthier Work Environment, Part I - Food Check

Are you seeking ways to introduce healthier elements into your work environment and meetings? It’s a great idea and one that makes employees feel appreciated and valued by their organization. In surveys where employees are asked if they are supported by their company or manager, too many times I’ve seen that they do not respond with positive feedback. What I DO see is a plea for better options and support from their managers as they try to implement a healthier lifestyle. I also don’t think they are looking for a grandiose gesture, but just sincere thoughtfulness that makes them feel like their employer CARES for them and their well-being. If you’d like to raise the bar on how your employees feel you’re supporting their health, follow our 3-part blog series on designing a healthy workplace.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. FOOD.

Hit the bar – Don’t get too excited, I’m not talking the place you go for happy hour. I’m talking about hosting a healthy food bar at work. The all too familiar donuts, cookies, and cakes that are served as rewards and celebrations is getting to be too sweet of a deal. It’s a nice thought but what your employees may rather have is something that they can indulge in and not get off track with their nutrition goals.

Rather than rewarding with sweets, try offering something that communicates your commitment to helping employees live well. Consider hosting a healthy bagel bar (buy the mini bagels) with low-fat cream cheese options, smoked salmon, PB&J, avocado, almond butter, hard boiled eggs and bananas as toppings. Try a yogurt bar that you can fill with fruits, nuts, seeds and honey. You can also go vegan, and avoid lactose with some non-traditional varieties of yogurt. If you’re looking for something to top that, why not bring in a smoothie vendor to offer several of their most popular varieties? These can have ingredients that include your favorite fruits but also vegetables, wheat grass, green tea, vitamins, and protein powder. Can I get an AMEN for sneaking in veggies and other healthy ingredients?

Food Truck Open GettyImages-645575706.jpg

Truck it – I’m talking about Food Trucks of course! These days, there are a variety of choices for bringing healthy options TO your employees. Yes, there are plenty of unhealthy options in this area but I’d like to focus on something modern, different and possibly out of the ordinary for rewarding your employees. I suggest you to take some time to research local, healthy food trucks. You’ll find varieties that include smoothie trucks, fresh organic salads and sandwiches, locally raised and hormone free options, vegan trucks and changing menus depending on what’s in season. Not only is this a trendy idea but it supports your local businesses and it also gets your employees up and moving toward fresh air.

If this event goes over well, you could line up several healthy options in the future (for example, first Friday of the month is “Food Truck Friday”). Some trucks might need a guarantee so they know the trip is worth their time, but if you can provide a certain amount of free sample items for your employees, most likely they will purchase more when they get to the front of the line. That’s a win for the employees and for the truck owner. If your culture supports an eat-at-your-desk mentality, you may have to get creative to encourage your employees to truly use their lunch break. (Side note – it also supports your local economy, so this is truly a win-win.)

Demo-day – You’ve probably tried something like lunch and learns, health professionals coming in to do presentations, and different health screenings. I don’t think these are a bad idea in their traditional form, but how about considering something more light-hearted, that smells delicious and is also educational. See what you can cook up for a chef or a registered dietitian offering a healthy cooking demonstration for your employees. Not only do the employees get some delicious taste tests at work, but their families may also benefit from new and delicious recipes as well.

The reward system – It’s common to see food as a reward for a job well done.  But I’d like to turn that on its head. Providing access to healthier choices for your employees creates a whole environment and workplace experience that’s rewarding. There are several ways you can do this and I’m sure at least one will be doable at your organization. If you have a cafeteria, try a reward or discount program for the healthy items. Here are some examples on how to offer this. If employees choose the salad bar, sandwich station, fresh fruit or soup, they get a certain discount on their total bill. If the system is set up where the cost of a healthier choice is lower than the unhealthy options, employees are more likely to grab some greens for lunch.

If that sounds like something you’d like to dip your toes in, but either don’t have a cafeteria or it seems like a big jump, you can start with your vending machines. Talk to your vending machine provider and ask for healthier options, label them and give a discount on these items. You can also consider completely revamping your vending machine offerings for a healthy, fresh version. You might see items in these machines like apples, hard boiled eggs, veggie and hummus dip, bake potato chips, and organically made items. Don’t forget to consider your vending beverages too! Skip the soda and offer naturally flavored water, teas, Kombucha, almond milk and coconut water.

Food will ALWAYS be a hot topic and it’s a good place to consider some welcome changes at your workplace. Give your employees some natural energy through healthy food and drinks so they can keep their eyes open during the 2 o’clock slump. They will thank you for it, and maybe you’ll see some positive changes in productivity, and how your employees feel about the way are you are supporting them.

 Like what you just read? Click here to get more great content like this!

 

 

Topics: healthy work environment corporate wellness workplace wellness wellness programming corporate wellness programs happy employees Wellness in the Workplace

Unexpected Results with Corporate Fitness Incentive Programs

money_gift_ThinkstockPhotos-179330649.jpgDuring the holiday season, making consistent visits to the Fitness Center can be a challenge. Most gyms see a drop in attendance as members take time off for vacation or travel to visit family. They are consumed with Christmas shopping, baking, and entertaining. 

As with most corporate fitness incentive programs, we naturally gravitate towards rewarding members with prizes for attendance and participation in particular programs. Gift cards, t-shirts, trinkets all come to mind. But this year, I opted for a different strategy to motivate our corporate Fitness Center members.  

For November, we implemented a program where each visit to the Fitness Center earned money towards a donation to charity. Each new member who signed up earned more money towards charity.  We used our budget money that would typically go towards prizes for members and applied it toward a charity chosen by those who visited the Fitness Center at least 15 times during the month. 

When giving to the community is challenging due to personal budgets and money spent for family Christmas presents, this program provided an opportunity for members give without opening their wallets. Bonus for them - they also improved their health!

This program spoke to my heart and love of giving, so I was hopeful that it would attract the attention of members who enjoy doing the same. I must say, it worked well beyond my expectation… but in a way I wasn’t anticipating.

Even though it was November, we maintained a slightly higher visit rate than October. October had 22 business days; November only had 19.  Not to mention, most people take off the whole week of Thanksgiving. One would anticipate a significant drop of 100 – 300 visits. Instead we had a small increase!  We were able to raise $320 that would be sent to the Angel Tree Program through the Salvation Army.  

But here’s the unexpected BONUS! The moment I sent out the email with the results, I received an email from a member requesting to meet with me. Sure thing! I went to meet her only to have a check handed to me?! What?! It was a check for the same amount - $320. The member wanted to match the amount we had raised. I stared at her dumbfounded. She explained that she had made the decision to match our donation when the program was advertised. On top of that, she has a special place in her heart for the Angel Tree Program. So when I notified every one of the chosen charity, she said it was more confirmation of her want of giving. 

WOW. Warm fuzzy feelings. Heart swelling. People do care!

These results with corporate fitness incentive programs encourage programs like this  tostick around for a while. Even if we have no matching donation, it has proved positive for the Angel Tree Program, holiday Fitness Center visits and my heart! 

Want to do wellness better for your employees in 2016?  Click below to download our whitepaper: 4 Reasons Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness Programs and plan for success next year.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate fitness programming wellness programming