Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Tips for a Healthier Work Environment, Part III - Workplace Relaxation

In the first two blogs from this series, I wrote about offering healthier food at work and moving more throughout the day. Our last topic in this series is the one that excites me the most because I love the idea of being able to positively influence the work space for my colleagues. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to hire a design expert. All I’m asking is that you consider the idea of RELAXATION in the workplace (gasp).

Try closing your eyes on some of these ideas to envision what makes you feel calm and takes you away for a moment. If you can conjure up a few mental images that bring peace, just apply those to the ideas below and you’ll be in good shape. If that’s not up your alley, you could even ask for volunteers at your company. You might be pleasantly surprised with what kind of workplace wonder they conjure up.

Retreat - Relaxation or meditation rooms are a great option for giving your employees some breathing room, or a place for some peace and quiet during the day. Since our culture hasn’t given in to the afternoon siesta idea yet, I think this is a nice runner-up. If your building has some unused space, it can easily be transformed into simple room for meditation, quiet break areas, or dare I say some quick shut eye. A natural, calm color of fresh paint, a comfortable chair, a small table, non-florescent lights or a lamp, a few pieces of artwork and you’re all set. Think spa-day, massage room or Zen like atmosphere, and you’re on the right path for offering a perfect retreat. Employees can then schedule time in the room with an online calendar system. However, you may have to limit the amount of time that can be spent in the room so everyone has a chance to benefit from the space.

Kids’ corner – We all yearn to be carefree like a child again but we know that’s not possible in the world of adulting. However, you can offer a space where employees can live out there childhood pastimes and creative ventures. This also doesn’t take much to put in place, but you will need some extra room for this one as well. This nook can have items like puzzles, cards, board games, Sudoko, coloring books and fine-point markers. The goal is to make a creative, fun space for your employees to escape into the enjoyments of non-work related activities that reduce stress levels, are carefree, and offer some mental decompression from their job. Another added benefit is that your employees might run in to some social banter that they don’t get from standing in the cafeteria line. Some may enjoy the opportunity to socialize with other employees. 

NIFS | Coloring  | Stress Relief

Home away from home – Some sites are calling these hang out rooms, or community centers, but I prefer the term, living room. I think that conveys the message clearly and you immediately are taken to a comforting area where you can relax and kick up your feet. Designing a small area where employees get away from the work environment for a few minutes seems to go over really well. They might choose to have their lunch there, read a magazine or book, listen to some calming music, bring their coffee or tea, chat with other co-workers, and just momentarily escape from their everyday work responsibilities. Not only is this convenient for your employees but it’s also a beneficial way to give their mind a break so they can go back to their job refreshed and rejuvenated.

That’s it for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips on improving your work environment and offering healthier more active meetings. Even if you try to implement just one of these, you could get some really positive feedback from your employees. It doesn’t take much for them to feel appreciated, so see where you can go with this and my hopes are that you’ll gain a growing fan base at your organization.

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Topics: stress employee wellness corporate wellness success corporate wellness programs workplace wellness stress management

Tips for a Healthier Work Environment, Part II - Everyday is Moving Day

This topic may not make you drool like the first one we did on workplace food, but it is something that we know needs to be addressed. MOVING. It’s just one of those things we cannot get around in the corporate world, and no matter what you do in a typical office setting, employees are likely to be performing their job responsibilities on the phone or in front of a computer. Sitting down. All day long. So how can we make some improvements in this area without mandating walks every few hours? Below are some ideas to help employees move more during their day and to ensure they are encouraged and given the opportunity to move while attending meetings and maneuvering throughout their day.Woman at Computer Stretching GettyImages-501332192.jpg

Stretch your meetings – We’ve all either presented to an audience who’s drifting off (or we’ve been the drifters). One way to prevent this is to take short breaks during the meeting. Have your entire audience stand up, and provide some quick stretches. If you don’t feel comfortable leading the stretches, add a few slides to your presentation that will pop up as a reminder to take a break during your meeting. This will get their blood moving, out of their seats, and will help them remain focused on what you have to say. If you happen to have an onsite fitness center with staff, this is a great time to have them break the monotony with a quick stretch break for you! The same thing can be done if you manage a department of people. Have them take a quick break from calls and looking at their computer screens to stretch their necks, hands, arms and upper back. These areas can take a beating with lack of movement, and your employees will appreciate the time you’ve taken to invest in their well-being with a simple stretch break.

[Read More: 5 tips to help your employees move more]

Stand up for yourself – Literally. I mean stand up for yourself and work while you’re at it! The harmful effects of sitting have been widely published, and while a standing workstation won’t fix everything, it’s an option to help employees move more. This is an investment so consider purchasing only a few where employees can have access to it for 15-30 minutes during the day.  How else can you encourage your employees to get more movement throughout the day? Here are several suggestions. Rather than giving every desk a trash can, have a community trash area so employees have to get up to throw items away. Store your lunch in a refrigerator that’s down the hall or on a different floor. Use the stairs as much as possible, even if it is just going down, or have a 3 flight rule. If you aren’t going more than 3 flights, take the stairs, always! Encourage walking breaks or group walks. I also love the idea of an adjustable desk. This is another investment but well worth it so you can combine sitting and standing during the work day.

Sound the alarm – We’re all guilty of getting so involved in a task that we lose track of time and the next thing you know, you haven’t moved from your seat for hours. Some companies are using their intercom system to remind employees to get out of their seats for a moment. This can be a quick stretch, walk down the hall, or water break. Whatever it is, the reminder is set so we don’t get lost in time and forget to move our bodies. This can also be accomplished by setting a reoccurring Outlook reminder, or if you’re managing a department, you can pre-set several emails per day to spark your team to move. Dare I suggest that department leads also consider more interaction with their employees with a vocal prompt to stand up and move a bit during certain times of the day. Now we're getting somewhere! 

I'll let these ideas jog through your mind until next week when I offer the last part in this series. I will say it happens to be more slow paced. Can we afford a slow pace in today's corporate world? I believe the answer is yes. 

Tips for a Healthier Wok Environtment - Part I

Topics: corporate wellness stretching corporate wellness programs workplace wellness happy employees healthy work environment stretch break

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.

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

4 Myths That Are Limiting The Success of Your Corporate Fitness Center 

Including a corporate fitness center in your menu of employee wellness benefits is worth considering. It takes away a few common excuses people use for not exercising by being convenient and low or no cost for employees to use. But if you think that simply putting a fitness center into your office space is a key answer to lowering your health care costs, you’re mistaken. And, if lowering your health care costs is your primary motivator for funding a corporate fitness center, you may want to reconsider that position because generating ROI figures specific to your onsite fitness program is almost impossible.

If you're still with me because you think a corporate fitness center is on the list of the right things to do to help your employees be well, then consider the myths below that may hold back the success of your worksite fitness initiatives.  

#1: If we build it, they will come.

Corporate fitness center ghost town

No, friends, “they” won’t. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that just under 22% of adults age 18 and older self-report meeting the physical activity guidelines. Because that data is self-reported, it’s probably inflated. If this snapshot is representative of your workforce (and it probably is), then your employees aren’t as active as they should be for optimal health. But simply putting a fitness center in your building won't automatically make inactive employees start exercising. Solely dedicating a space and putting some equipment in, is no guarantee that it won't quickly become a ghost town.

One key to making your fitness center more effective is providing engaging and qualified staff to both manage the center, AND provide key services/support for employees. Without fitness center staff, you are building a corporate fitness center for the 15-20% of your workforce who are already regular exercisers. That said, if you built your corporate fitness center to be a nice amenity and you don’t really care if it’s being used, then carry on. But, if you’re truly interested in helping people adopt physical activity into their lives, consider getting the right staff in there to pull your fence sitters (“Maybe I’ll try it Monday”) off the fence and into the fitness center.

#2: If we can find the right carrot, more employees will participate.

One manager’s “carrot” is another employee’s “stick”. A lack of employee engagement can’t be fixed with HSA money or t-shirts. It’s likely that your employees aren’t participating for reasons much deeper than the extrinsic rewards you’re willing to lay at their feet. 

An individual’s ability to be well goes WAY beyond biometric screenings and an HRA. Research tells us that zip code does more to determine our health than our genes. Employers have zero control over both of those. So, while you’re designing the perfect incentive strategy to get your employees to participate in the annual wellness program, they’re wondering how to keep food on the table and how pay their bills. They're worrying about junior's performance at school and they pray daily that he gets to and from school safely. If that isn't enough to have on their plate, they’re suffering the weight of serious stress brought on by working more than one job. 

In the midst of all of the stress of their personal lives, there isn't a consideration of using your corporate fitness center. Worse yet, every Fall, when you tell them the money that’s at stake if they don’t successfully complete elements X, Y, and Z of your wellness program, they only feel more burden and frankly a necessity to participate in the drudgery that is your wellness program. They NEED those HSA dollars so they’ll scrape by figuring out a way to complete all of the wellness program components. And they’ll resent you all the way. There’s nothing healthy about any of that.

#3: If we ask employees what they need, they’ll put forward ridiculous suggestions we can’t use (so we don’t’ ask).

I can’t say this is 100% false. Case in point, we have one client who has a few employees who annually ask for a pool at work via our satisfaction survey. The client is never going to act on that request. But, it would be equally ridiculous to assume that all feedback is as myopic as this. 

If you subscribe to the ideology that healthy and happy employees are the core of your successful business, then you value what your teams have to say. Sometimes, their needs for improved health shows up in their data, so you don't even have to ask. In other cases, they have fabulous ideas for elevating your organization that would never otherwise have made it to the surface if you didn’t ask.

We make it a habit to solicit feedback from fitness center members, and in many cases, they've asked for services that we were able to implement to the benefit of all of the members. For example, in response to a member request, we now routinely have a large bottle of sunscreen available for members who want to run/walk outside. We also started building a library of grab-n-go workouts on laminated cards that members could use to get through a quick session without a scheduled appointment with a trainer. Eventually, we built those into on-the-road kits for employees who traveled; they could check out a travel kit before their trip and return it when they got back to the office. You could argue that these ideas should have been on our radar, but they weren't and we never would have met these needs if we hadn't asked for feedback. 

#4: If our fitness center isn’t being used we need to change our management partner.

Maybe your fitness center is struggling because of the management company, or maybe it's the right management partner but the wrong staff for your culture. But, before you assume that low participation in your fitness center could be fixed by swapping out the vendor, take a holistic view of what's happening in your work environment.  

Here's why: if your employees have very little autonomy in their jobs, then the corporate fitness center isn’t even on the employee’s radar. They punch in and punch in without looking back. It doesn’t matter how engaging and inviting the fitness center staff is, how great the services are, how fun the group fitness classes are, and how easy it is to join the fitness center. If their work environment offers no flexibiliy, they will not use your fitness center. 

Your fitness management vendor cannot rise above your organization's cultural barriers to magically draw employees into the fitness center, and a vendor switch is a major ordeal. So, exercise caution and take a hard look in the mirror before you fix a vendor relationship that may not be broken.  

***

Your employees lives are complicated and their work environment is part of that sticky picture.  Some of them are likely fighting to make it each day, in ways that you may have never considered. If you’re committed to a strategy for employee well-being that is truly about lifting your employees up, then you have to bust through these myths to get to the real barriers that make it hard for people to make a healthy choice. For more on addressing social determinants of health in your wellness program, try this article. If you're looking for a few quick tips to infuse a little more movement into the workday for your employees, grab our quick read below.

 Quick tips to help your employees move more

Topics: employee health and wellness workplace wellness corporate fitness management

Three Ways to Improve Corporate Fitness Programming on a Small Budget

staff001.jpgSometimes employers go all in on their investment in a corporate fitness center. Thousands of square feet are dedicated to treadmill upon treadmill, thoughtful changing facilities, ample group exercise space, creative equipment solutions, and around-the-clock dedicated fitness staff.

But that’s not the reality for most employers. It’s important to remember that corporate fitness doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can provide programs, services, and (probably most importantly) an environment that’s conducive to movement. So if you’re trying to improve the exercise options you provide onsite for your employees, but you’re on a tight budget, consider these ideas.

1. If you have dedicated staff for an exercise program, invite them to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.

Most exercise professionals with a college degree have a background in more than just exercise. It’s common for an exercise science curriculum to fold in public health, nutrition basics, stress resilience, and other health-related disciplines. We work with one client who has a small fitness center and no additional budget for fitness programming, and rather than lock our staff down to the four walls of the fitness center, they are out and about providing healthy lectures, offering stretch breaks at key shift-change intervals, and coordinating extra workplace wellness services like onsite chair massage.

2. Consider group fitness classes.

Sure, dancing to music isn’t for everyone, but group fitness has come a long way. You don’t have to be coordinated or be able to keep the beat to enjoy a great class. And if your office includes meeting space with tables and chairs that can be pushed to the walls, you probably have everything you need to run a class. Instructor costs can be paid for by employees, subsidized by the employer, or paid in full by the employer. Check out our quick read: Three Keys to Adding Group Exercise at Work.

3. Think long and hard about your environment.

How are your employees encouraged to work, and how are your leaders and managers incentivized to run their teams? Are employees expected to sit glued to their screens all day to make a quota? Do your managers have substantial pressure to meet the same quota? These kinds of unwritten cultural norms make it almost impossible for an employee to take a 10-minute walking break. Can that mindset be shifted over time? This article suggests that employers have to start taking a look at creative ways to address employee stress.

What about your physical space? Maybe you can’t have a dedicated space for employee exercise, and even group exercise classes in an unused meeting room seems out of bounds. Perhaps simple signage encouraging the use of stairs instead of elevators would be a starting point to encouraging employees to move more.

Think about incentives for exercise differently. Good, old-fashioned behavioral economics around loss aversion could help you build an inexpensive incentive model for encouraging more frequent exercise in a sedentary workforce.

Don’t let a lack of physical space or dedicated staff derail your brainstorming about ways to inject more opportunities for activity at the office. The options are only limited by your creativity (not your budget).

  Tips for adding exercise


Topics: corporate fitness stress corporate fitness centers fitness programming exercise in the workplace group fitness workplace wellness

When It Pays to Be a Chicken in Workplace Wellness

Melanie.jpgBeing a chicken is definitely frowned upon. If someone is known for being scared to take on a task or fails to address a situation because it’s too much of a challenge, chances are they have been labeled.

But what if you dressed like a chicken? It does take a bit of bravery, but it can help your mission by making a memorable statement.

We have an annual event for National Walk at Lunch Day, where employees are encouraged to walk outside over their lunch hour. This is also a kickoff event for our Fitness Challenge: a 10-week challenge for employees to stay consistently active and log their activity online in efforts to beat out other states doing the same. National Walk at Lunch Day happens around springtime when many people are stuck in their winter routine of being indoors—be that an indoor workout or, sadly, in most cases, an indoor sitting marathon.

Enter the Chicken Costume

As employees made their way outside, I strutted around greeting people with exclamations of “Bak, Bak, Bak!” and my versions of the chicken dance.

It’s a fun adventure to catch people off guard. Costumes often make that happen because they are unexpected. And you know you’ve done your job when you get smiles in return or people shaking their heads in surprise.

Of course bottled water, fruit, trail mix, and sandwiches helped our cause at the event, but the chicken-themed messages were just beginning because the Fitness Challenge was only Day One. Over the next 10 weeks, our motto was “Don’t Chicken Out.” We encouraged people to join the fitness challenge through email blasts with subject lines laced with chicken references or cartoon or movie quotes from Chicken Little, Chicken Run, or Looney Tunes’ Foghorn Leghorn. Just a few:

  • We Are Chicky for the Challenge!
  • Chick It Out! We’re in First Place!
  • I’m Chicken’ on You! Don’t Slack Off!
  • We Are Down to the “Chicken” Wire. This Competition Is Close!
  • Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? To finish the Fitness Challenge.

What I Learned

By the end of the challenge, I had learned several things:

  • People were responsive to the program because they enjoyed the humor.
  • The theme allowed for more creative ways to communicate than standard, monotonous program updates.
  • Employees anticipated the next email, instead of dreading or deleting it without reading it.
  • I was asked to “speak” at department meetings in costume, advertising the program and encouraging participation. Most just wanted to see a chicken, but it opened doors to promote the challenge.
  • Sometimes during the challenge, I wanted to email-yell or nag employees to get a move on, but funneling that competitiveness into catchy, humorous characters and slogans was more effective at getting people’s attention—and their increased participation in the activity.
  • I was able to enjoy sending out communications and I loved the responses I received from those who were also entertained by them. I got a lot of “Thanks for the laugh. I needed that!” messages.

Bottom line: Being a chicken in your workplace isn’t always bad.

It can go a long way in giving employees the motivation to take action in corporate fitness. Just make sure you pick the right breed. Spring is right around the corner, how do you plan to engage employees to participate in activities such as Walk at Lunch Day, or Bike to Work Day?  Download our whitepaper: 5 tips for maximizing employee enagement below to find the best ways to get your employees involved in your wellness strategy!

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Topics: corporate fitness motivation participation workplace wellness