From executive leaders to operational do-ers, my goal is for you to walk away from this write up with inspiration to help spread the wellness word. To be an advocate for wellness in the workplace, and see how the evolving collision of work and life doesn’t have to hinder our sanity, suck our time or limit our physical goals. Instead, with wellness tools offered in the workplace we can learn to navigate life’s changing demands and attain balance of the mind, body and soul in and outside of the office.
To set the stage of my life experiences, I grew up in the midwest with two brothers, raised by a single mom. We didn’t have a lot of money, so SpaghettiOs and Hamburger Helper were a meal time staple. The Happy Meal was a balanced dinner, with ketchup being a nutrient rich vegetable. Approximately 43% of US households are low income and their nutritional knowledge may be intact. The perceived price of high quality healthy foods cause low-income families to choose the lower nutrient, cost-efficient foods. 1
As the chubby girl in school, I was excessively picked on. Obscenities were regularly written on my locker, I was pushed in the hallway, and the mean girls throwing gum in my hair was a popular sport. Bullying is a whole other talk, but imagine this teenager, nearly 170 pounds who had no concept of a healthy diet and meaningful exercise. I didn’t know where to look or what to look for to improve my physical and emotional situation.
Thankfully, some schools these days offer healthier food options, and by the time this generation is in the workforce, my dream is that all companies will have evolved, and on-site wellness will no longer be a perk, but instead a requirement to recruit and retain the cream-of-the-crop talent. In fact, an article from Business Wire says, 42% of workers say they “have purposely changed jobs due to a stressful work environment” that affects both their life inside and outside of the office.” 2
Back to the story, and skipping ahead to my twenties. I moved to San Francisco and was shocked to find people buying fresh, organic veggies at local farmers markets and everyone running the steep hills, not because they’re being chased by mean girls, but for fun and exercise – I was curious!
In 2009, I got lucky with a personal trainer who peaked my interest fitness and nutrition even more. He talked to me about natural vitamin sources, balanced dietary supplements, and what processed food really does to the body. He showed me how to exercise with good form, to be effective and push my limits while not hurting myself. The fitness and nutrition flame was officially ignited within me. But, like 92% of society,3 I worked in the rat race, The Corporate World where I’d eat lunch over my keyboard, then after a long work day I had very little motivation to go to the gym.
Today, with smartphones and social media at our fingertips, the days of a simple and separate work life balance has been replaced by an always-on mobile workforce. There is a rise in mental health challenges, and an increasingly competitive work environment. Employees are expected to be responsive, even during hours they're not in the office, yet they’re not afforded opportunities during the workday to fulfill their personal mental and physical needs. The 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report 61% of businesses reported having “a healthier workforce and increased productivity as a result of having a wellness program in place.” 4
Even after job changes over the 10 years that followed, not one environment ever truly encouraged or offered me resources to better my health and fitness. My managers rarely took a break, so I didn’t feel right leaving my desk. I had no time to learn about sustainable diets on my own time, not to mention, I didn’t know which new diet and fitness trend to believe in.
Perhaps skipping a few work happy hours a week would have opened up some time, but that was the only chance to get to know the people I spent so much time with in the office. Had we bonded over mat pilates instead of margaritas, I’m pretty sure I’d have less embarrassing stories, with fewer mid-week hangovers.
Now we’re up to 2013, and I finally loved my job. I’d travel, eat and drink on the company’s dime. I made great money, had a great apartment, a car, a boyfriend – all the things I thought I was ‘supposed’ to have at 30 years old. Little did I realize how in-my-own-head I was. I rarely talked to my family. I’d go out drinking with random people to keep busy. And, although I physically lost weight, I was unhealthy inside and out.
On September 15, 2013 I had enough. I felt alone, with no purpose. That day I decided to cut alcohol out of my life, and took my first step on this awesome path I now live. That November I found myself in Costa Rica…literally found me…I woke up from a mediation and said, “‘I’m going to become a yoga teacher and personal trainer”.
After a weekend workshop I was certified to train at a local gym, then five months later I went to India for yoga teacher training. I had some money saved, but with Bay Area rent that wouldn’t last long. I needed to pick up more teaching gigs quickly!
Through a friend, the door was opened to start teaching for a corporate group. I was inspired by how this company not only paid for their staff to take a class, they encouraged them to stop working for at least an hour each day. The ignited flame was now a torch - I knew there was something to this! “How can I help people avoid falling into the darkness, of mental and physical agony? I got it, by bringing wellness to them, where they spend the most time…at work!
Studies prove consistent, multi-faceted corporate wellness programs build team camaraderie and engagement with their employer, in turn heighten productivity, decrease absenteeism, and lower healthcare costs. Harvard Business Review states: Johnson & Johnson estimated that wellness programs saved the company $250 million on health care over the past decade, with a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent. 5
By investing in the well-being of their employees, research shows that companies and employers will retain more satisfied and loyal employees, as a result of showing they care. Springbuk’s collected stats from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), which indicated that 69% of employees would participate in wellness programs if provided by their company. 6
Through trial and error, and working with great corporate customers, FitPros has a formula that really works. We’ve learned that one-off fitness classes and talks are a nice to have, but they’re not “sticky”. Employees need to know that you’ve invested in a holistic wellness initiative that will support their physical, mental and nutritional goals for the long-haul.
Okay, great, you’re on the wellness bandwagon, – some now offer fitness classes, health talks, massage, etc. – on-site wellness was a hit, at first, then attendance started to drop, and then HR or the finance managers question if the programs are a good fit for their staff.
Good news - your objective to recruit and retain quality staff increased, but paying for on-services is just the start! Bad news - you will see attendance drop off if your wellness program doesn’t have legs – literally legs, people within the company to take action. We call them Wellness Warriors. You may call them Ambassadors or choose something catchy to match your company’s brand or name. For example, AdRoll calls their staff “Rollers” and at Square employee’s are “Squares”.
Effective wellness programs start with internal promotion. Wellness Warriors are all about enhancing the workplace culture, providing peer support, and serving as health-conscious role models. They are the eyes and ears of wellness in the workplace. Warriors intrinsically motivate their colleagues to participate in the programs offered.
A good service provider is your partner, and will work with you to devise a plan for internal awareness. At FitPros we will design flyers for your to spread the wellness word. We offer Personal Trainer led meetups to give your Wellness Warriors ideas that motivate and inspire. Working in an environment that advocates healthy living, encourages work-life balance. Establish a community of like-minded health advocates in the workplace.
Everyone has the power to influence healthy changes in their workplace. But, what will motivate employees to get involved, and convince coworkers that it’s the cool thing to do? They need know:
it’s not a plot for the company to get them to stay on the job longer.
the company truly wants them to take some time away from their work.
they will learn habit changes to positively impact their life in and outside of the office.
After a company invests in a wellness program, the very next step has to be full implementation. This doesn’t have to be as big of a job as it sounds. If you can nail the steps above and pick motivated Wellness Warriors, this next step can be simple!
One suggestion is to spend time with each department to get a sense of who on that team prioritizes living healthfully already. Warriors are easy to identify. They will be incentivized simply because they see how it will benefit their work and life balance. That, in conjunction with recognition is typically incentive enough, but you can consider buying a healthy meal when all the Warriors meet monthly to brainstorm, or give them a free class or massage at their favorite studio. All of which align with encouraging healthy behaviors in the workplace.
To recruit and retain high-caliber employees, it’s imperative companies are competitive in offering wellness programs that support a healthy work life balance, while being mindful of their wellness budget and company’s bottom-line. A fully integrated, impactful program will not happen overnight, and will not succeed without ongoing, whole-hearted support from the top down.
FitPros, is a workplace wellness service provider that was established with the intention to make healthy living both attainable and accessible to people where they spend the most time—at work!
Written by Lindsay Bailey, Founder & CEO of FitPros.com
Editorial review by Natalie Avellan, Freelance Copywriter
3 “Almost all of those questioned (92 per cent) considered themselves to be “living in the rat race”, with 87 per cent of those describing their lives as either stressful or pressurised. Almost a quarter (19 per cent) said they thought about quitting the rat race by downsizing, moving to the country or retraining “all the time”, with 71 percent confirming the idea had “crossed my mind”. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/thinking-quitting-rat-race-you-9602706