If you are like the average Canadian, you work about 39 hours per week at your main job. Let’s face it, though, most of us work longer hours than the average. And, often our ‘free’ time at work is also spent there. Think about the number of times you’ve eaten your lunch at your desk or started your day with a breakfast meeting.
Making time for fitness and healthy eating can be a challenge when we spend so much time at work. So, why not bring fitness and nutrition into the workplace?
Benefits to Companies, Big and Small
With rising health care costs, many companies are recognizing the importance of encouraging health and wellness with employees. Healthy employees translate to lower absenteeism and higher productivity. Since wellness also affects mental health, healthier employees mean better morale in the workplace.
Companies are doing a variety of things to encourage wellness, such as:
- Hosting in-house health fairs with fitness and nutrition professionals to provide assessments;
- Reducing insurance premiums for employees who don’t smoke;
- Hosting “lunch and learn” seminars on fitness, nutrition and stress management;
- Subsidizing gym memberships and the purchase of fitness equipment;
- Hosting yoga classes on site;
- Stocking healthier food options in their coffee rooms and cafeterias;
- Sponsoring participation in charity runs, walks and rides.
Companies need not be large to offer wellness options. There are inexpensive and easy-to-implement ideas for promoting wellness at work.
One Great Example
Clever Canines, a 36-person, dog training and ‘day school’ company based in Calgary started their own company-wide 13 week fitness challenge. In this case, the owners, Tracie and Joe, were looking for motivation for their personal fitness and nutrition goals. They asked for support from their employees, who were more than enthusiastic about the idea.
They created 5 teams with 5 to 6 people on each team. Each individual on the team established personal goals for the challenge. The rules were simple:
- Create health and fitness goals unique to your own circumstances that are measurable and calculable weekly as a percentage.
- Each week complete the goals and record the percentage accomplished. For example, if you say, “I will exercise 2 times per week for 30 minutes each and I will bring in a healthy lunch 3 times per week”, and you do both, then you achieve 100% for that week.
- Team members add up their scores for the week and report back to their team leader.
- Team scores are published each week for all teams to see.
- The team with the highest score at the end of the challenge wins a trophy and bragging rights until the next challenge!
Through this challenge, individuals got the support and motivation they needed, and as of week 11 of the challenge all the teams had reported achieving over 85% of the goals they established. The team approach made individuals accountable for delivering on their goals to keep team scores high. The positive “pressure” of not wanting to let team members down, made individuals more committed to following through on their goals.
Some employees also introduced co-workers to new ideas and activities. For instance, one individual brought in an instructor from his boxing class to run private sessions for them. Through this challenge, the personal commitment to a better lifestyle is lasting. As one participant said, “I’m not going back to my old habits – no going back to refined foods nor lack of exercise.”
Little things like exchanging recipes for healthy dishes can also make a difference and be inexpensive to start.
Small Individual Steps, Big Personal Rewards
There are also things each of us can do as individuals to encourage wellness in our workplaces. Ideas that help you while motivating others may include:
- Inviting a colleague/friend to join you on a lunchtime walk, run, yoga class, etc.;
- Taking the stairs rather than the elevator;
- Going on a walking meeting instead of a lunch meeting at a restaurant;
- Asking a nearby gym or yoga studio to provide group discounts for you and your colleagues to attend a class;
- Asking to use company space for an in-house yoga class;
- Hiring a fitness trainer with 2 other work friends;
- Starting a “healthy dish exchange” club where you bring in one dish once per week to share with others in the club. Receive a healthy dish in exchange from others;
- Preparing healthy snacks/meals for the next potluck lunch;
- Bringing in your lunch instead of going to a restaurant or fast food place and encouraging others to do the same;
- Providing suggestions for more healthy food options/catering for company meetings.
Beyond the Traditional Workplace
If you are self-employed, retired, or don’t work in a traditional work setting, you can still encourage wellness in your own circles. For instance, promote a fitness challenge among your family, friends, “mom group”, etc. Network808 did just that! As a networking group of small businesses in Hawaii, Network808 challenged its members to join others in a “Mission Slimpossible Challenge”. Through Facebook posts, some group events, and sharing of ideas, members are encouraging each other to meet their personal goals. Motivation is high in this network group as they tease each other with photos and post encouraging messages. (https://www.facebook.com/Network808MissionSlimpossible)
On a much larger scale, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, in North Carolina set up a “community level initiative to encourage and empower program participants to increase their level of physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption.” (FitCityChallenge). The initiative has the ultimate goal for the City to be recognized as the fittest community in the U.S.A. Their website includes a wealth of information about and tools for fitness and nutrition. It also outlines ways to introduce challenges and initiatives with families and in worksites. Visit the site at www.fitcitychallenge.org.
As we’ve discussed in past posts, fitness and nutrition need to be built into our daily lives for ongoing adherence. Create strong motivation, disciplined practices, and support by following positive wellness habits at work and in your personal networks.
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