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  • Writer's pictureFitPros Workplace Wellbeing

WORK + LIFE: Balance or Collision? Why Workplace Wellness Works

Last month at the CAHR19 conference the FitPros team had a blast leading 2,500 people through morning stretches and meeting Human Resource leaders at our booth 516. Monday morning we led a “Netwalk”(an engaging networking walk), and Tuesday we had a packed house for a fun yoga class. At 11:15am Tuesday I had the privilege to present on my favorite topic with one of my favorite people, Kaleana Quibel the Wellbeing Director at Sequoia Consulting, a cutting edge broker who provides strategic benefits, HR, and risk management services to help today's hyper-growth companies run happier, healthier, and free from risk. If you didn’t get a chance to see the session live here is a Session Recap or please feel free to read on as I describe everything Kaleana and myself discussed.

When collaborating with Human Resource one of FitPros goals when devising their wellbeing program is to instill inspiration that will encourage the benefits team to drive health engagement in their company. Like Samuri we arm them with a strategy, staff activities and give tools to internally promote and then guard their fortress to ensure a smooth execution.

There are many steps to successfully implement a sustainable wellness program. A primary point to keep top of mind is that that every company is unique. The employee demographic within each business varies, where the office is geographically located impacts the program design as does the role of each employee and their home life circumstances. Not to mention, after all of the aforementioned is determined then the credentialed service providers are scouted, streamlined implementation required consistent communication touchpoints, and then getting staff to show up is a huge task, but sadly it often gets overlooked by HR teams because they’re so burnt at this point. Oh, and don’t forget, to ensure the instructor has teaching insurance and the vendors can supply your building management with a Certificate of Insurance. Wow, that’s so much for an HR team to take on!

Don’t worry, FitPros to the rescue!

Amazon CEO, Jeff Bazos recently said, “work life balance is debilitating and work life harmony is the better framework." Well, thanks Jeff you’ve debunked a statement that I’ve touted for years. But, he has a point. Work life balance implies that we are splitting our time equally between work and life. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s just not the case. Whereas, “work life harmony implies that if I am happy at work then I am better at home, and if I am happy at home then I come to work more energized and productive”.

We are an ‘always on’ society these days. Instead of the constant pressure to separate work and life, what if we take the perspective of harmonizing the two?

People Before Platforms

There’s a caveat to this statement because I am an advocate for platforms. Platforms can help us prove tangible ROI (return on investment), which can be difficult in the wellbeing space when we’re dealing with people’s behavior changes and unique lifestyles.

For the sake of this topic, we’ll talk about how it’s typically 20% of a company's population who cost nearly 80% of their health care costs and discuss how to shift that metric.

Can you think back to when you decided that HR was going to be your profession. I am truly curious because I have never had HR as a job title. Was there something that said “I’d like to help the humans within a company”? Now I have a ton of HR friends and ya’ll know how to have a good time. But, if helping people was at all a motivation for you let’s tap into that.

It blows my mind that 75% of our nation's health care expenditures go towards what could have been preventable diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and only 5% of our nation’s health care budget goes towards health education (1).

It’s also a fact that 1 in 5 adults suffer from a mental illness (2). Mental illness is a broad category, with stress being the common thread. It’s said that over the next 2 decades mental illness in the workplace will cost more than cancer, diabetes and respiratory conditions. The American Psychiatric Association cited that 120 thousands deaths are caused from mental illness each year, resulting in 190 billion dollars annually (3)!

Now that I’ve impressed you with my stats is it okay if I share a few personal things IF I promise to tie it back to how it impacts your people and what you can do to incorporate their life experiences in your program planning?

Let’s Get Personal

In my single parent midwest raised household Speghettos and Hamburger Helper were a mealtime staple. The Happy Meal was a balanced dinner, with ketchup as the nutrient rich vegetable. I had no idea where to look for proper nutrition and fitness advice.

As an adult I worked in the corporate world rat race for over a decade where I would eat lunch over my keyboard, didn’t leave the office most days and when I did build up the motivation to go for a jog during lunch my Manager would make me feel guilty.

That same company that made me feel guilty about mid-day exercise would cater pizza and beer for team-building. My teammates and I coined those sporadic gatherings “forced fun”. Those ‘get to know your colleagues’ with unhealthy food and alcohol typically led to a group of people continuing the fun at a nearby bar. Later someone would do something memorable (and not in a positive light) and then the next day we’d all be slightly hungover while gossiping about the embarrassing thing that Jane Doe did. Now as a business owner I can look back and see what a waste on our productivity those type of “team-building” functions activate.

Do you ever find yourself having lunch at your desk?

Are there days when you don’t leave the building?

Struggle to muster up the energy to workout after a long day?

Even after 6 years in the health and fitness realm I still have to dig deep often for my ‘tools’ to snap me out of it. So, don’t be hard on yourself. You’re human. Instead let’s dive into what’s at the crux of those demotivators and talk tools to support you and your people.

The Sick Can Find Their Way

For me to break out of that funk it took leaving the corporate world in 2013 to become a Personal Trainer, I spent time in Rishikesh, India for Yoga Teacher Training, and became a Certified Health Coach. I know, a bit extreme. But, I had to learn how to mindfully feel and appreciate every part of my being. Of this body that I spent so many years shaming.

It was when I was asked to teach yoga within a company that I became inspired by how this employer encouraged their staff to stop working and take a class in the middle of the workday, and they paid for it. That was so foreign to me. Opposite to the way former Managers treated me. I could see the change in these employees from the start of class when they came in all tense with a long to-do list, then leaving with a sense of clarity and invigoration to get back at it.

It was then that a flame was ignited. “How can I help people avoid falling into the darkness of physical and mental agony that I felt?” I got it! Make health and fitness accessible to people where they spend the majority of their time - at work!

The majority of people can’t or don’t need to take the drastic change that I did. And, with your support they won’t need to. Now, I am not claiming to be a psychic, but I’m guessing some of you are thinking “I have so much on my plate already”. I respect that. Wellness may feel that it was a bomb dropped on you. Not only does the wellbeing of your staff come high expectations you now have to basically learn about health and fitness, a whole industry you may not have studied. Talk about pressure! Let us help you start small, yet effective.

To make a lasting impact and encourage behavior change your employees must intrinsically want it. And, if your expect them to participate in your wellness offerings they need to have confidence that those resources will be there months, years from now and throughout their journey with your company. The wellness program may change and benefits will evolve, but the foundation of care and compassion should remain consistent, and that stems from you.

Onsite Wellness Solutions

Early 2016 I started FitPros. We are a health and fitness company that brings wellness to the workplace. We support many of the world's leading companies with their wellness initiatives. Our approach is to be your wellness consultant to create custom solutions to improve your employees health, happiness and commitment to your company.

Today we have 25 wellness offerings with a footprint in 24 U.S. cities. We will continue to scale throughout America, with international capabilities on the horizon. Understanding onsite wellness is just one piece of the wellness puzzle we align with credible and strategic partners for online challenges, screenings and more. Our intention is to be more than a vendor, we are your partner and will work together to enhance your workplace culture to make it easier for employees to make healthier choices. In turn, help you recruit and retain top talent.

Every Body Is Different

This next anecdote that I’d like to share happened in 2015, before FitPros. It opened my heart and led me to this place of gratitude and service that I occupy today.

My brother Cory was the creative type. He could pick up any instrument and play it just from hearing a few notes. However, he struggled with depression. He was unhealthy, over medicated and sick often. He had a hard time making friends and keeping jobs. On June 2, 2015 Cory was running late for work, driving too fast and texting.

Cory’s death taught many things, but for the context of this topic, he reminds me that everybody is going through something. What wellbeing means to one employee is very likely different than it is for another. You may not have a big budget or the capacity to implement a grandius wellness program, but you do have a purpose and right now you are tasked with supporting your employees by making wellness tools accessible.

Earlier when I share all those statistics on obesity and mental health did you think, “that’s not my population?” Well, if 1 in 5 people struggle with a mental health issue then I guarantee that it is your population and they are just not comfortable enough to ask for support.

The intention for me sharing my journey was to tap into your empathy and encourage you to hear your people’s needs. I respect that you’re doing a lot already, but the truth of the matter is that people mostly want to feel supported and be part of a community. Sick people are costing your company money. Likely more than you have budgeted for a prevention program (aka wellness program).

Why Wellness Programs Fail

​The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report that productivity loss that’s linked to absenteeism costs employers nearly $1,700 per employee per year (4) . Let’s do some back of the napkin math for your CFO. Write down how many employees your company has. Now multiply that by $1,685. Is it safe to say that number is greater than the budget you have for wellness?

It’s easier to turn to a “quick fix” like a short-term one-off wellness activity, but sustainable change is hard and habits take time to break. A great example would be New Years Resolutions. Did you know that 88% fail? It’s easy(ish) to start the first few weeks, just like it’s easy to bribe employees to participate at first, but can you guess what makes it all stick? Time and intention.

We recommend that you develop a long-term and integrated strategy that targets your total population. A strategy that is both onsite (in person) and offsite (digital) that offers a variety of options for your varying demographics and their unique lifestyle needs. This plan should align with your company’s values and business purpose.

To save money and share resources collaborate with other internal groups, such as events and marketing as well as facilities and operations. They are each likely doing individual team-bonding type things for which you can learn from each other and join forces to ensure a consistent message that will enhance your employee’s experience with your company.

Another big reason wellness initiatives fail is because leadership is not bought in. You hear that it needs to come from the top down, and yes, that is true, but team leads and Middle Managers hold a lot of influence within their team. The role of a Manager should entail helping their colleagues find pride in their work which directly impacts productivity. Employees look to their boss for permission. Can you build an alliance with Middle Managers? You could offload some of the 1:1 work by arming those leaders with tools to be empathetic, meanwhile slide your fancy flyer of wellness events on their desk to encourage the Manager to invite each employee on their team. Lastly, with these Managers you could build a wellness committee to learn about their management style and hear what their teams are going through. Set up and online Slack channel to funnel ideas and ask them to report back to you monthly with a rundown of what’s going on with their team.

When Wellness Programs Work

People want to feel included. It’s human nature to crave belonging. Companies can cultivate relationships through social wellness programs that bring people together, and not in a ‘forced fun’ way because it will resonate with their lifestyle needs.

Countless studies show that employees who have a bestie at work are more engaged and less likely to leave. On the flip, lonely employees are less productive and more likely to quit because they are not as invested.

Next, intrinsic motivators are more powerful than external rewards. It’s when a choice is driven by internal motivation that it truly sticks. A stat from McKinsey Data said that “when employees are intrinsically motivated they are 32% more committed to their job, suffer less burnout and perform 16% better than employees who seek rewards. "

There is a time for extrinsic motivators to deliberately increase creativity and innovation. And, there are employees who just don’t find their job interesting enough to go above and beyond the role requirements. Extrinsic prizes can also be good to jump start a program to gain interest. Keep in mind that for the greater majority of people who don’t win it is demotivating and defeating the purpose of creating a culture of support. In fact, too much team competition has been proven to destroy comradery when it crosses a certain point.

The last point on how to make wellness work is to be innovative. Throughout your long-term and integrated program it’s important to have educational workshops where people can listen to relevant information, but mix in high engagement activities like a self defense workshop, cooking class, paint party and so on.

Well, how do I know what my employees need and what will intrinsically motivate them you might ask? Read on.

Power of Surveys

The first step of a FitPros consultation is to ask if you’ve identified your employees needs through surveys. I can’t tell you how often we hear, “well, not exactly, but some people ask for yoga.” Hmm okay...or this one, “oh no, we send many emails to our employees already they won't take a survey and we have to limit internally promoting the activities.” What?!?

You’re considering to spend good money on wellness activities and you want to retain good people, should you ask exactly what will keep them and support their lifestyle? You are working hard to create a program that is important to you, but if you don’t know what triggers your people then it’s not going to resonate.

It’s important to ask specific questions and frame your survey to be fun in a way that will provide valuable information to help structure your wellness program. Ask open-ended questions to allow employees to elaborate. Instead of asking for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ frame the questions in such a way that will give you greater visibility into what they care about. For example, ask “why did you answer that way” and “what are your top life stressors”.

On in the footer under resources there’s a link for a complimentary survey example. When you become a FitPros client we will help you customize your surveys.

Write us to learn more at


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dec. 4, 2014

2 Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2019

3 Insel, T.R. (2008). Assessing the Economic Costs of Serious Mental Illness. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 165(6), 663-665

4 Worker Illness And Injury Costs U.S. Employers $225.8 Billion Annually. January 28, 2015

Want to bring Workplace Wellness that Works to your office?

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