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Which Corporate Fitness Trends Will Shape 2023?

Content Impact Award - TalentCulture 2022As a corporate fitness professional, one of my favorite activities at the end of each year is to set aside time to look back at what has unfolded over the past 12 months. It helps to review what has worked for our clients (as well as what didn’t work so well). An open-minded, reflective analysis is always a good way to put things into perspective before considering new possibilities and mapping a game plan for the New Year.

As part of this process, I’m constantly tracking what’s happening with corporate fitness trends. So much has changed over the past few years, thanks to the pandemic and the increase in remote work, it’s important to keep ahead of what no longer seems as relevant or useful and what is gaining traction. And in looking toward the year ahead, all the signals indicate that much more change is still to come! 

So, fasten your seatbelts and let’s look at how employers can prepare for the future. Based on trends I’ve been following, along with my direct experience with our teams and our clients in recent months, here are 3 emerging priorities that are likely to define corporate fitness in 2023:

1. More Personalized Training

Get ready for a big surge in employee demand for more personalized services — things like personal training and small group training. Multiple factors are driving this corporate fitness trend. For example:

Early in 2022, as people slowly started to emerge from a more sedentary pandemic lifestyle, I started hearing that employees were looking for help to get back on track with their fitness and wellness goals. Not surprisingly, during the Covid years, many people developed some unhealthy habits — especially in terms of diet and fitness. The isolation of working and living at home full-time didn’t help, either.

Many people are now looking to break out of that cycle and are longing for a stronger sense of community. So, prepare to see an upswing in more intimate training environments that give employees broader support and guidance, along with opportunities to connect with others and share their journey through community experiences.

Also, my clients confirm that employees are interested in wellness goals that involve more than physical workouts, alone. People want to get back in shape, but they also realize the importance of focusing on things like sleep, nutrition and stress management. And this means they’re increasingly interested in a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. These objectives are often easier to achieve with programs that include individualized coaching.

Digital tracking tools can also be helpful in supporting people in their wellness objectives. Already, more than 20% of Americans are using wearables that provide convenient access to personalized health and fitness data. Many people want to use this data more effectively to develop tailored workouts and lifestyle management programs that will help increase their training efficiency, improve their daily habits and elevate their health outcomes.

2. More “Hybrid” Fitness Program Memberships

Another thing I’m starting to hear often from our clients is that their employees are looking for a seamless, connected fitness experience that aligns with their busy lifestyles. They want to workout where they want, when they want.

This is where “hybrid memberships” come in. These relatively new programs provide employees with a combination of corporate fitness center access and virtual fitness classes, along with partnerships with local yoga, boxing and Pilates studios. 

With these hybrid memberships, employees can workout at their corporate gym, at home or on the road when they’re traveling—all with the convenience of one membership rather than having to cobble it all together themselves. It’s the best of all worlds. And it’s bigger than just a brick-and-mortar fitness center—it’s a program.

Here’s one example: Kevin is a financial services professional in Indiana who comes into the office three days a week. During those visits, he goes to the on-site fitness center to lift weights. Typically, he talks with several fellow employees while he works out. It’s a great social experience. On the other two weekdays he works from home. On those days, he works out with a virtual fitness class through an app that’s connected to his fitness center and the same staff he knows and trusts. Over the weekend, he takes a spin class at a local studio that contracts with his company through the hybrid health program. Again, this hybrid program lets Kevin work out where he wants, when he wants. It’s all built into his schedule!

Inclusive hybrid memberships like these give employees the convenience, choice and variety they’re asking for. Plus, it provides access to the kind of connectedness and community people need with engagement that is hard to find elsewhere.

3. More Active Time Outdoors

We’re also hearing loud-and-clear from clients and employees that they want to get outside and move! A recent survey from the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry and McKinsey & Company, asked employees this key question:

“In which sports/physical activity categories do you expect to see a lasting increase in participation vs. pre-COVID-19?”

Of the 12 categories listed as potential responses, 84% of survey participants picked “outdoor activity” as their first choice. 

Obviously, survey results like these underscore just how massive the pandemic’s impact was on corporate wellness programs. Over the past year, some companies started to experiment with fitness activities and events designed to get employees outdoors. Now it appears that this trend is catching on and may be here to stay.

For instance, one of our clients — a leading insurance company — has invested in a mobile open-air fitness trailer from BeaverFit. This makes it possible for employees to participate in healthy outdoor activities on a daily basis. Combined with programming delivered by on-site fitness professionals, this open air program is flourishing. And workforce wellbeing is improving as a result of employee participation in regular activities with physical and mental health benefits.

Final Notes on the Future of Corporate Fitness

These three corporate fitness trends are only a few of the emerging ideas we can look forward to seeing in 2023, as the space continues to evolve. With more personalized programming, more flexible options, access to innovative digital tools and a broader range of creative fitness locations, employee wellness is poised to make an even stronger comeback in the coming year. I look forward to seeing other innovative trends emerge that we aren’t even thinking about yet!

Is Quiet Quitting a Symptom of Poor Mental Health?

One workplace buzzword many people are eager to leave behind is “quiet quitting.” The phrase dominated headlines this year, especially when a Gallup poll revealed that at least half of U.S. workers are disengaged.

Although this term is quickly running its course, the underlying problem remains. In fact, work engagement continues to slide, indicating a growing disconnect between employees and employers. No doubt, the quiet quitting phenomenon is a symptom of ongoing workplace upheaval. But I suspect it also reflects the need for better mental health support at work.

What Research Says About Workforce Wellbeing

Even as post-pandemic work engagement is dropping, countless studies reveal that depression and anxiety are on the rise. And the uptick in layoffs and economic uncertainty creates even more stress. Let’s look closer.

Nearly three-quarters of employees (72% ) say they’re concerned about finances – up from 65% last year – according to a recent report from financial wellness solution provider, Brightplan. And PWC research indicates that declining financial health impacts employee mental health and work productivity. Specifically, PWC found that 69% of employees who are financially stressed are less likely to feel valued at work – and therefore, they are becoming less engaged. 

Depression and anxiety are also leading reasons why people take time off from work. In fact, employers lose an estimated 12 billion workdays annually as a result of employee depression and anxiety. According to The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization, this costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion a year. Both organizations acknowledge the need for concrete action to address workplace mental health.

How Can Employers Respond?

Some employers may ignore these disturbing trends. But others are taking action by creating an environment where workers feel more valued and supported.

For example, if you notice that “quiet quitting” is spreading among your ranks, it’s likely that these employees  feel under-appreciated. By offering professionally managed support groups as a benefit, you can send a much-needed message that tells people, “We see you, we care about your wellbeing, and you are valued here.”

This kind of benefit extends assistance to people who might hesitate to pursue individual therapy — which has historically been costly and difficult to access. And the pandemic has only made it worse. For example, at the height of the Covid outbreak, the U.S. average wait time to see a therapist ranged from 29-66 days.

The Benefits of Group Support

Multiple studies underscore how support group participation leads to improved employee mental health and job performance. In fact, our own research found that when employees attended group sessions, 50% became more productive and 100% experienced improved attitude and outlook.

Why are these results so striking? When employees have access to a clinically-backed support group program, their social connectedness and mood tend to improve. This, in turn, alleviates depression and anxiety. And group support not only helps reduce anxiety and stress. It can also play a central role in preventive care strategies designed to avoid employee burnout.

Why Group Support Helps

Depression and anxiety can fuel feelings of isolation and loneliness – two key reasons why people seek group support in their personal lives. Providing a safe space where employees discuss meaningful issues and concerns can increase their positive feelings about work and improve overall job satisfaction.

Because group support encourages dialogue among people with different perspectives, it can help participants build trust, empathy and openness that carries over into the workplace. However, it’s important not to require colleagues to join the same group. Also, it’s important to respect participants’ privacy by preserving their anonymity.

While the benefits of peer counseling are well known, new studies demonstrate how digital group support can extend mental health services access to more diverse populations. For example, some people have limited mobility or are located in rural communities where trained mental health providers aren’t unavailable.

Video-based group support is an excellent alternative, because it is affordable and accessible online from nearly anywhere on any digital device. This encourages connections and therapeutic conversations without requiring participants to wait for weeks or travel long distances.

Tips to Improve Group Support

When offering this kind of mental health benefit to your employees, keep this advice in mind:

1. Emphasize Voluntary Participation

Everyone comes to the table with a unique background and point of view. This is why the group model can be a particularly powerful tool. So, although encouraging individuals to take advantage of this benefit can be helpful, avoid pressuring anyone or threatening them with repercussions. The goal is to destigmatize mental health and make pathways to wellbeing more accessible and affordable.

2. Prepare to Overcome Fears

Group support is a highly misunderstood term. Too often, people associate group settings only with treatment centers. In the workplace, many people who need support fear they’ll be perceived as “weak” and their careers will be damaged if they join a group. For anyone concerned about this, you can share positive use case data demonstrating how helpful and healing group support can be. Employers can leverage this information as a reference tool and assure concerned employees that their identity will be protected.

3. Insist on Anonymity

Video-based group support should provide access to online sessions on any day and time that works best for each member, while also protecting their identity. Solutions like Sesh, which is 100% HIPAA-compliant, let every user select a pseudonym. Individual data is never shared, and employees are notified when anyone within the same organization registers for their group.

My Perspective

I discovered the value of group sessions while in treatment for an eating disorder. Being part of a group was the catalyst that catapulted my recovery to the next level. This experience led me to launch Sesh

Typically, therapist-led support is difficult to access, difficult to pay for and designed for monolithic audiences. That’s why I’m committed to extending therapist-led group support to people from all communities, circumstances and identities.

With an affordable, accessible group support experience through their employer, people can finally receive the high-quality mental health support they need and deserve. This helps individuals cope with challenging personal issues, while helping businesses create a more harmonious, productive workplace. And in the process, it may also silence quiet quitting. That is my hope.

Keys to a Successful Open Enrollment Season

Open enrollment season is upon us again, and the world of work continues to shift at a head-spinning pace. This fluid environment poses benefits-related challenges that HR leaders can’t afford to ignore. For example, decision-makers are wondering:

  • How to address employees’ evolving needs. It’s essential now to meet individuals where they are and provide clear pathways to benefits that resonate.
  • How to communicate effectively in a “work anywhere” environment. Everyone deserves easy access to clear, relevant benefits information, regardless of whether they’ve returned to the office, they’re working remotely, or their schedule blends both work modes.

Why Benefits Education Counts

To illustrate how important education is for a successful open enrollment season, consider these U.S. health benefits research findings:

  • 72% of employees wish someone would tell them the best health insurance for their particular situation. (Justworks/Harris Poll)
  • Nearly 90% of employers think their benefits are clear and easy to understand. Yet only 65% of employees agree. (via MetLife)
  • 54% of employees don’t know the full scope of their health benefits. Yet nearly 65% say these offerings significantly influence their willingness to stay with an organization. (Justworks/Harris Poll)

This means education is vital—not just to help people choose relevant benefits. The truth is that, without effective benefits education, you’re putting employee retention at risk. But improving open enrollment communication doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Below are a few simple ways to help employees through the decision-making process and ensure better overall results:

5 Ways to Improve Open Enrollment Education

1) Host Multiple Information Sessions

Conducting a single all-hands open enrollment season meeting no longer covers all the bases. Even if 100% of your employees work on-site, you can’t expect full participation. Some people will be out ill or on vacation. Unavoidable business priorities will keep others from attending. It’s smart to plan ahead and assume conflicts will make it impossible for everyone to join a live session.

You can rise to this challenge by producing content in various formats (for example, an in-person meeting, a live webinar, a digital recording, and a series of podcast episodes). You’ll also want to share this content through multiple delivery channels (for example, sending email messages, sharing in Slack groups, and posting on your organization’s intranet platform).

The goal is to make information easily accessible and available whenever people can fit it into their schedules.

2) Plan Open Enrollment “Office Hours”

To augment your core benefits “broadcast” content, consider offering prescheduled office hours with an HR staff member. You can structure and promote this as an opportunity for individuals to drop by in person or online and discuss their specific circumstances with a benefits expert.

Often in public information sessions, employees hesitate to ask questions about what they don’t know. But office hours provide a private safe space for discussion. This frees employees to speak more openly about their specific concerns. At the same time, it helps the HR team provide more relevant information to ensure individuals understand the impact of their open enrollment choices.

You may also find it helpful to extend the value of these sessions by repurposing the content for broader use. In other words, you can select some of the most common questions from “office hours” visits and repost them anonymously as “frequently asked questions” on a wiki or web page.

3) Get Your Vendors Involved

Sometimes, information is best received directly from the source. Hosting virtual live and recorded benefits fairs gives vendors a platform for sharing details about their solutions and services. It also provides more time for providers to discuss specific questions in-depth with employees.

So, instead of conducting a standard 1-hour session where your HR team summarizes available health benefits, you could schedule a series of 30-45-minute sessions showcasing key vendors. (For example, you could feature each of your health insurance companies, along with sessions devoted to specialized vendors, such as onsite dental services, wellness consultants, or fertility benefits providers).

These sessions can focus on basic facts about each solution, as well as ancillary benefits that are underutilized. Then you could close each session by answering individual questions from the audience.

Also, if you’re scheduling topic-focused HR office hours, you may want to ask vendor consultants to join relevant sessions. Or you could invite key vendors to conduct their own 1:1 sessions. Sometimes, employees feel more comfortable talking to external benefits specialists. For these people, dedicated vendor sessions or 1:1 office hours are an ideal solution.

4) Integrate Micro-Learnings into the Process

Micro-learnings are brief educational events and materials targeting topics that tie in with key benefits, such as health and finance. This kind of knowledge sharing encourages more employee interaction and tends to generate deeper interest in relevant benefits.

To illustrate, here are a few micro-learning themes:

  • “Urgent Care vs ER: What’s the Difference?”
  • “The Link Between Mental Health and Overall Health”
  • “How to Balance Work Life with Family Caregiving

Top online learning providers (such as LinkedIn Learning and YouTube channels) already provide excellent educational content about these topics. This means you don’t have to create content from scratch. Instead, you can curate strong programming from several online sources and then easily deliver the content to interested employees.

Packaging and promoting this kind of useful information upfront is invaluable for employees. It saves them time because they don’t have to research these topics on their own. Plus, the convenience of “anytime” access to high-quality educational content about health and benefits enhances workforce well-being.

5) Customize Educational Materials for Various Interests

Every employee is unique. And the beauty of today’s workforce is in its diversity. So everything about open enrollment season should support this reality. In other words, it’s important to appeal to various interests within your workforce.

For instance, recent grads may not appreciate benefits that appeal to new parents and vice versa. Instead of offering a generic “one-size-fits-all” menu, think about how you can categorize benefits so they align with groups that will value them most. Then present these benefits collections on your open enrollment site as packages. (For example, you could specify “Benefits that support LGBTQIA+ employees.”)

Clearly, you’ll find overlap among groups, so you don’t need to recreate an entirely new package for each community. But structuring benefits options in this way helps people more quickly identify the benefits information they’re likely to want.

If you’ve already established dedicated employee resource groups, consider creating packages for each of those ERGs and sending a customized message to each group with a direct link to their accompanying package. This extra measure ensures that individuals can quickly and easily find materials that matter most to them.

Conclusion

As we continue to navigate today’s dynamic business and benefits landscape, this year’s open enrollment season is sure to present challenges. But continually reflecting on your communication process, seeking employee feedback, and making informed adjustments can help you move forward more smoothly.

Remember to distribute information in more than one format. Also, make it as easy to find as possible, in as many places as your budget and resources will allow. And above all, focus on personalizing communication when you can. Although this is a “broadcast” communication challenge, benefits decisions are highly personal for each employee. The more willing you are to meet people where they are, the more successful you’ll be.

Photo by Tero Vesalainen

How The Best Employers Will Support Employee Health in 2021

As 2021 begins, human resources professionals are well-positioned to consider the actions they can take this year to help employees stay healthy. Here are five excellent ways employers will support employee health in 2021…

1. Investigate Opportunities to Relieve Stress

Keeping stress levels down at work can go a long way in helping people stay healthy. Some of the go-to stress-relieving activities include having on-site yoga and meditation sessions. While those can be beneficial, experts clarify that such activities alone are not sufficient.

It’s time for an all-encompassing approach concerning managing organizational changes, ensuring employees have what they need to excel in their roles and that they can adequately handle their workloads. Such aspects can keep stress levels low without sacrificing output. As people feel less stressed, their productivity will often rise, too.

Creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to admit feeling stressed is equally vital. For example, in a workplace where managers value high performance, people may worry that speaking up about feeling stressed due to their workload may lead to accusations that they are falling behind compared to colleagues.

2. Show Support During Mental Health Struggles

The COVID-19 pandemic called more attention to mental health struggles. Even for those who didn’t contract the virus, the worry and extra responsibilities associated with the global health threat caused additional burdens. Women bore the brunt of these societal issues.

A recent global Deloitte poll of working women showed that 39% noticed worsened mental health during the pandemic. Moreover, 75% said they experienced increased caregiving responsibilities, and a third reported a heavier general workload.

Regardless of a person’s gender and situation, employers should strive to stay sensitive to and aware of any possible mental health difficulties. They can support employees by modeling good self-care and encouraging workers to take breaks when overwhelmed, for example. Educating employees about the diversity and prevalence of mental health difficulties also helps decrease associated stigmas.

3. Help Employees Understand the Specifics of Their Health Coverage

Usually, people who receive health insurance through their employees either participate in traditionally fully insured or self-funded plans. Research shows that, of the approximately 150 million Americans who receive health insurance through employers, 61% do so through self-funded or partially self-funded plans. One of the main differences in the types is that self-funded plans involve paying the employer for coverage instead of a carrier.

Regardless of how an employee receives coverage, they may not understand the extent of associated benefits — especially newly available perks. During the pandemic, AXA Asia — part of a global insurance brand — expanded its free telehealth service to help approximately 6.5 million people. Some providers also have specialty content that helps people learn more about diagnoses, treatments, and preventive measures.

Human resources professionals should consider sending weekly tips about policy features or suggestions to help them get more out of the coverage. A company-wide email could be one effective option.

4. Cultivate a Workplace Wellness Culture

Many company decision-makers mistakenly believe that implementing a few minor changes is enough to create and maintain a workplace wellness culture. However, getting genuine, lasting results requires a more concentrated effort that relies on employee input.

Asking employees what they need and want will likely get better results than providing them with packaged, one-size-fits-all health solutions. For example, giving a gym membership to someone who’s intensely uncomfortable with the thought of exercising in public. Aske what they need, and you will probably get the desired results.

People responsible for improving or starting an employee wellness program should explore ways to reach people where they are, which means understanding that everyone has different goals and definitions of wellness.

5. Teach Employees to Avoid Health Scams

Learning to spot phishing scams is often part of workplace cybersecurity training. It’s indispensable now, since many scammers ramped up their efforts to take advantage of the unusual circumstances caused by COVID-19. Most people living through the pandemic have never dealt with something like this before. The associated uncertainty, coupled with the desire to stay well during these challenging times, makes some people more likely to fall for health-related scams.

In one recent example, cybercriminals created a fake version of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service website. It explained that people had to provide bank details for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. To make matters worse, many older and vulnerable people living in the United Kingdom can get vaccinated soon and were likely not surprised to get emailed details about applying for a vaccination date. Health authorities confirmed they would never ask for residents’ bank details, however.

Employers should consider how incorporating health scam awareness into employee education could boost wellness. Suppose a person gets their bank account depleted after falling for a scam. In that case, they could go through extraordinary anxiety, periods of depression, and difficulties in getting essential items.

Employee Health: Input Must Guide Changes

These five tips encourage employers to think about how they can help employees stay healthier in 2021. However, it’s ideal if employee feedback shapes change to existing wellness efforts or entirely new initiatives.

Once employers see what workers need, want, and are likely to participate in, they increase their likelihood of bringing meaningful and sustainable results to support employee health. Moreover, workers will see organizational leaders consider their values. When that happens, they feel heard and appreciated, positively impacting morale and overall participation rates.

An Open Letter to You The Worker

Dear Hard and Dedicated Worker,

I am writing to you today as our data highlights that you have not been spending time taking care of yourself. While we acknowledge that you do good work, we also want you to remember that you need to rest and take time to treat yourself with tender loving care. In case you got too busy being an exceptional worker, we wanted to remind you that you need to make time for yourself every day to do what brings you joy. You should never wait for a vacation or retreat to take meticulous care of your body, mind and spirit. They need to be fuelled regularly.

We recognize that this is not an easy task as there has been no holistic wellness manual given to you, so we ask that you stop what you are doing right now–whether it is email, meetings, offsites, more meetings, PowerPoint decks, Excel spreadsheets, collaboration spaces, blogging, conferences, planning, strategizing, writing, feeling busy–and take a few minutes to breath and think. Please grant yourself time for you every day.

Please understand that work-life balance has always been a myth that is unattainable. You are one whole person who has a life and in it you get to work, play, learn and live. You have been born with free will, which grants you a choice, for example, to be a workaholic or lifeaholic. You can choose how to define your own success–whether it is pursuing work-life balance or seeing yourself as a whole person living a whole life, with its ups and downs. To be human is to feel deeply. Nature does not rush. Nature is fierce. And so are you when you give yourself the space to emerge.

To be fully human requires you to treat yourself with extreme gentleness and meticulous care. Your life is about the choices you make. Please grant yourself permission to play. Expose yourself to healthy food, people, thoughts, experiences and work that fuels you. When you take meticulous care of yourself, you set the bar not only for yourself but for everyone around you, about how you treat yourself.

You can choose to make excuses for why you can’t do it, or you can just do it! It’s always a choice.

What do you choose?

Much love to my fellow lifeaholics,

Ayelet

Sanity Dose #207: We have more choices than we can imagine and the ones you make matter deeply. Your state of mind is key to healthy living.

Creativity is conceived as a reproductive act with a tangible result–a child, a book, a monument–that has a physical life going beyond the life of its producer. Creativity, however, can be intangible in the form of a good life, or a beautiful act, or in other virtues of the soul such as freedom and openness, style and tact, humor, kindness.- James Hillman 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

4 Ways Leaders Inspire Employee Wellness

While today’s employers continue their steadfast commitment to improving employee health and productivity, top-level leadership support remains a key ingredient for successful employee participation.

According to results from the 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, 84 percent of employers say improving employee health is a core component of their organization’s health strategy, and nearly four in five plan to sharpen their focus on building workforce health and well-being in the coming years.

However, research also shows a number of factors are keeping employers’ health and well-being programs from being as successful as they could be. Near the top of this list: A lack of senior leadership support.

Managers are top motivators

According to recent survey results from Welltok and the National Business Group on Health, “Whispers from the Water Cooler: What motivates employees to improve their health and well-being,” 57 percent of employee respondents rank their manager as a top motivator to improving their overall health and well-being.

What I’ve seen over the years is that visible support from a company’s leadership, regardless of the level within the organization, sets the tone for employees—communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, participate in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.

Here are four ways I have observed that leaders at all levels of the company can support wellness program and engage employees in their health and well-being.

  1. Show, don’t tell
    Some of the most successful employee corporate wellness programs have visible leadership that can be called upon for support—whether it’s taking the first official step in a new walking program or approving strategic program decisions. Employees often listen to the words, but trust the behavior exhibited by senior leaders, such as when the CEO is first in line for a health screening.Where I work, at HealthFitness, our senior team has made a commitment to encouraging healthful behavior in the everyday routine of our employees. If you visit our Minneapolis headquarters, examples of this in action are easy to see. Employees have free access to treadmill workstations and an on-site fitness center—and senior leaders at all levels of the company regularly use both, opening the door for employees to do the same.
  2. Share success with employees
    Leaders at one large manufacturing company share health management program successes with employees, showing aggregate percentages of how many employees are at high, medium and low health risk, and how the company’s collective health is improving. Providing these results reminds everyone that their health choices affect the company’s health and demonstrates a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality.
  3. Ensure health is part of your core business strategy
    Express your company’s passion and direction for health and productivity in your mission, vision and goal statements. Put corporate leadership front and center in communications about the program. Use all the tools in the arsenal: videos to employees, all-employee correspondence, group meetings and blog posts, among others.
  4. Support healthy behaviors at the workplace
    Provide healthy vending and cafeteria options. Map out walking/running trails and ensure they are safe. Bring fitness equipment on-site for maximum employee access. Organize a monthly farmers market or a fruit and vegetable co-op at the worksite. At HealthFitness, every Friday, employees at our Minneapolis headquarters are treated to healthy breakfast items such as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and energy bars.

These are just a few of the strategies I have seen be successful in the workplace. What about you? What innovative strategies have worked for you to help leaders support employee health and well-being in your workplace?

Photo Credit: anniejoubran1 via Compfight cc

Employee Rewards: Don't Feed To Please

Why Using Food For Employee Rewards And Recognition Is A Bad Idea

At one point in your work life, you’ve been offered food by your employer. Food is a go-to for recognizing and rewarding employees.

Whether it’s donuts in the morning, a pizza lunch, ice cream snacks or some other incarnation, food is one of the ways that many employers show appreciation for their employees. What many employers don’t realize, however, is that food as a reward backfires more often than it succeeds.

1. Food Excludes

Even in small companies, there will be employees with a myriad of food preferences and restrictions. Unless the employer is willing to provide a wide selection of food, someone is going to be left out.

Imagine how you might feel if everyone was gobbling down ice cream as a reward for their hard work, but you are lactose-intolerant or perhaps a vegan, and, therefore, can’t participate. Would you feel equally as rewarded as your peers? Would you be motivated to engage with your work when the rewards promised are unavailable to you?

2. Food Doesn’t Last

Rarely do we remember the food we’ve eaten. Unless it was an extraordinary meal, once we’ve finished swallowing the last morsel we forget all about it. The excitement is gone. For a reward to incentivise employees it needs to be something that leaves a lasting impression. In psychology terms, a reward needs to be compelling enough to trigger an employee’s internal desire to repeat an action in order to receive the reward.

So you have to ask yourself if I want my employees to hit their sales targets every week, will providing a pizza party be a big enough incentive? Can my employees get pizza any time they want or is providing pizza something extraordinary that they will want to work hard for?

3. Food Is A Habit

Eating is habitual, it’s something we do all the time. It’s expected that at some point during the day we’re going to consume food. When an employer provides the food it’s nice because we didn’t have to get the food ourselves, but some employers make a habit of bringing in donuts every Friday. In this case it’s no longer a surprise, it’s expected.

When we begin to expect something without having to do anything to earn it, it’s no longer a motivation.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t bring in donuts every Friday. It’s a very benevolent gesture, and one many employees probably appreciate, however, you shouldn’t expect it to motivate employees.

Employee recognition and rewards are essential to getting your employees to engage with their work. When you effectively recognize and reward employees for their efforts you motivate them to continue the desired behavior. However, motivating through food alone won’t produce the results most employers are looking for: increased productivity, improved efficiency, and great results.  To properly motivate employees, you need to consider their internal and external drivers. Food just isn’t a strong enough incentive to motivate these drivers.

If you’re looking for some effective ways to recognize your employees, check out Top 10 Ways to Recognize Employees, by Herd Wisdom.

 

Image: bigstock

 

5 Tips To Overcome Being Overwhelmed At Work

Work stresses people out. In fact, 1 million Americans call in sick over stress every day and 25% say work is the most stressful thing in their lives. The volume of work, urgency of quarter or year end, competing demands and the need to succeed can merge into a sensation of being overwhelmed. When we’re overwhelmed, we rarely do or deliver our best.

These five tips can help you reclaim control over your time and your experience so you achieve real results with less angst:

1. Organize for Lower-Stress Success

Eliminate stress and increase your odds of achieving your goals by 64% by writing down what you need to do to achieve goals. If you manage a team, insist on transparency on what each team member is doing, where their attention is focused and what their progress is. If you don’t have a tool to see progress on actions and goals yourself, do a morning check-in with the team to align scarce resources in the remaining days. With clarity and transparency, you’ll stop worrying about what isn’t getting done and have more time and the facts to use days efficiently and effectively.

2. Prioritize Ruthlessly

Not everything on your list or the team’s can — or even should — get done. Ruthlessly prioritize where your time and your team’s should go every morning for the rest of the year. Spend your energy on work that ties clearly and directly to your quarter or annual goals and metrics … in other words, those things that actually move the needle for you and your boss. Using the matrix below can help distinguish what matters and make it easier to stop doing and stressing about the rest.

3. Don’t Sacrifice Yourself

When you’re most busy and stressed out (and the weather is bad), it’s tempting to sacrifice exercise and other healthy habits — don’t. Exercise and healthy eating reduce stress and increase your productivity as well as your perceived happiness. In fact, 20 minutes of exercise several days a week improves your happiness and productivity every day of the week! So set aside time even if it’s indoor yoga, stretching or working your own stairwell.

4. Change Perspective If You Can’t Change Circumstances

Examine the root causes of stress and the sensation of being overwhelmed. Which are self-inflicted, which are external and which are your reaction to internal and external conditions? If you can change the circumstances, then set out a plan to effect those changes to create long-term improvement. If you can’t change the circumstances and situation, consider changing how you relate to them. Ask a trusted advisor to give you a candid assessment of where you could revamp your response and reaction to the situation and be open to what you hear. In more entrenched situations, consider a professional coach to help increase your capacity to execute and achieve under duress.

5. Lighten Up

When you find your anxiety or anger rising, stop what you’re doing to stop what you’re thinking. Take a short walk or stand, stretch and take a few deep breaths. Try a few “compassion breaths” to relax and lighten your perceived load:

  • Focus your attention on the sensation of anger, anxiety or stress — is it anxiety about lack of time, fear of failing or forgetting something critical?
  • Rather than shifting away from the sensation, hold it in your attention.
  • Now think about all the millions of people in the world you don’t know that have that same anxiety or worry.
  • Take a long inhale, imaging that you are breathing in the collective anxiety, anger or stress of those millions of people.
  • Exhale, imagining that you are breathing out calm, peace, success or the antidote to those worries to all who experience it, including yourself.
  • Repeat three times, deepening your breath and holding it in longer each time and being more genuine in the compassion you convey with each out breath.

At the end, your sense of being alone with pressure will be replaced with more compassion for yourself and others — and your load will be lighter.

Unfortunately, when you are overwhelmed is the most difficult time to break the cycle – but shifting to and building the habits of success is infinitely better than staying mired in overwhelm:

  • Set and share clear goals aligned with organization objectives
  • Allocate your efforts to achieving your goals above all else
  • Ensure you have the capacity to achieve goals operationally, emotionally, and physically

With more professional and personal capacity, you’ll feel and do great!

About the Author: Deidre Paknad is currently the CEO of Workboard, Inc. Workboard provides apps for managers and their teams to share goals, action items, status and feedback and to automate status reports and dashboards.

photo credit: adrian.coto via photopin cc

Why I Stopped Eating Lunch At My Desk

Let me start by saying I can be a bit of a workaholic. I’ve been known to check my work email at 10 p.m., stay late at work on a Friday, and even put in extra hours over the weekend. So, it comes as no surprise that I’ve taken many of my lunch hours sitting at my desk, working while I eat. I’m not alone in this either, as nearly 3/4 of Americans eat lunch at their desks. However, while I may still work overtime, I won’t eat lunch in my cubicle ever again. Here’s why:

1. Unhealthy Choices

If you have a lot of work on your plate, it often seems like eating while tackling your to-do list is the only option. However, eating while working often leads to making poor food choices, like eating snack foods left in the office kitchen, or ordering in an unhealthy lunch.

2. Productivity

While it may seem like sitting at your desk all day to work will help you accomplish more than you would taking a lunch break, the opposite is actually true. Working all day without taking any breaks can actually make you less creative and less productive and inevitably hit a rut. In order to be the most efficient, your mind needs to take breaks to recharge in the middle of your workday. While quick bathroom and water-cooler breaks can give your brain some time to relax, eating lunch away from your desk will definitely help you be more productive.

3. The Physical Effects

By now it’s no surprise how bad it is to sit at a desk all day. As being sedentary without pause for eight hours or more each day can wreak havoc on your body, taking a lunch break is absolutely vital. Taking this time in the middle of the day to walk around, stretch and just get away from your desk will no doubt improve your health.

4. Social Life

One of the many perks of taking a lunch break at work is being able to socialize with your colleagues. If you’re stuck behind your computer screen all day, chances are you won’t be able to talk with your co-workers (unless it’s via email). This can definitely cause unhappiness at work. Bortek Industries encourages its employees to take breaks together and often has team lunches to help people get to know each other. Taking the time to eat and socialize with your colleagues outside of the office, even if it’s once a week, can boost your mood and make the rest of your workday more bearable.

5. Eating Mindlessly

If you’ve ever watched a movie with a bowl of popcorn close by, you’ve likely eaten the entire bowl without even realizing it. The same phenomenon often happens at work when you feel forced to eat at your desk. Instead of portioning your bag of chips, you end up eating them all, creating poor food habits.

When it comes right down to it, there’s noting productive, healthy or helpful about eating lunch at the office. In fact, it’s purely a sacrifice of health and happiness, with zero gain. Knowing this, I may still hold onto my workaholic ways, but I definitely will never eat lunch at my desk again.

photo credit: MBK (Marjie) via photopin cc