4 Ways to Encourage Active, Healthy Teams in Winter

The beginning of 2018 has brought with it record cold and extreme snowfall in many parts of the country, making some workers feel like they’ve entered a new ice age. Despite workers having to deal with snow-caked sidewalks and frigid mornings, work must go on.

Outside the tangible obstacles of winter, an employee’s ability to cope with the “winter blues” is another issue. In fact, it was recently reported that 28 percent of British workers skip lunch during the winter to avoid the outdoors, despite most workers claiming that forgoing outdoor time negatively impacts not only their mood, but also their health. This practice can lead to decreased productivity, kicking off a vicious cycle of downtime and disengagement.

To help employees break the inactivity cycle of winter and overcome the winter blues, leaders need to think of ways to encourage movement in their people, transforming an icy situation into a bright and rich opportunity.

While leaders may not be able to maximize the benefits of cold-weather workouts for their employees (you certainly can’t force people to go for an outdoor jog), there are a few simple ways you can encourage movement and increase physical activity right in the office.

Set Up Centralized Trash Cans and Printing

Think twice about where you set up commonly used items like trash cans and printers. The decision could be an opportunity to get people moving. Think about it: You wouldn’t station a coffee pot at every worker’s desk, so why have 20 trash cans in 20 different places?

In addition to making people walk a little to throw things away, centralizing trash cans helps cut down on maintenance costs by not having to supply and empty numerous bins. Likewise, having a single printing center streamlines maintenance while encouraging movement and workplace interactions — a benefit to the body and the soul. As a bonus, these changes declutter the workspace and aren’t that difficult to implement.

Keep the Water Flowing

Water is, of course, integral to any fitness plan, and proper hydration is important for maintaining a positive mood and promoting higher energy levels. Water coolers, like trash cans and printers, should be placed in a common location. But beyond centralization, office water stations have an added benefit in terms of encouraging movement. Good hydration increases the cadence of restroom breaks, which gets people out of their chairs even more.

Use Walking Meetings

While the sedentary statue of Rodin’s “The Thinker” is an iconic figure, movement actually helps the brain work better than hours of sitting. Thus, curbing the dreaded rambling meeting (something about sinking into chairs seems to anchor people in that mode) should be a top priority. Stand-up meetings are a good step in the right direction, but taking it a step further — literally — means that you can cover the necessary ground while remaining succinct and precise.

Walking meetings, in which teams stroll around the office to discuss business, provide a major emotional boost and drive enlivened and creative thinking. Plus, these meetings can be done even during a blizzard, leaving workers feeling energized when they return to their workspaces to implement the ideas discussed.

Lead by Example

Employees look to leadership to set the mood and culture of the organization, and that’s just as true for the culture of physical activity at your workplace. Beyond the strategies mentioned above for promoting an active workspace, you can tailor the culture of your organization around activity.

Set up company walking clubs or stair clubs and be a proud member, take part in any health screenings or flu shots, make exercise convenient by allocating workout time throughout the day, or challenge your colleagues to report their personal bests for daily steps taken by using pedometers. These practices can all be undertaken in the spirit of camaraderie, and they’re a great way to not only encourage physical activity, but also to foster team dynamics.

Winter isn’t a time for business stagnation, so why should it be a time for employee stagnation? By centralizing essential items, promoting good hydration and physical engagement, and leading actively, you can cultivate an active workspace that staves off the cold weather slump while increasing productivity and morale. Winter can be an exciting start to the new year, so step up and get your people going.

Determining If an On-site Fitness Center is Right For You

Think the days of the company gym have gone by the wayside? Think again. Amid the boom in individualized fitness apps and technology, many organizations are also doubling down and expanding their use of on-site fitness centers. Here’s why.

On-site fitness centers establish connections. Our research recently found that 75 percent of employees seek personalization and personal touch in their employer’s well-being offering. These are the driving factors for participation for many employees, and in many cases an on-site fitness center can better facilitate personal connections among colleagues and center staff that both enhance company culture and help employees work together in making progress on their health goals.

On-site fitness centers are personalized and convenient. On-site fitness centers also make it easier for employees to build healthy activities into their day—which we know is crucial to achieving health goals. One of our clients, University of Louisville, has made its on-site fitness center a hub for the entire well-being program—“Get Healthy Now.” The center acts as a place where employees and their families can make progress on their goals—whether they be physical, mental, financial or otherwise. The university offers a free campus shuttle to and from the 22,000-square well-being center so that all employees can access the center’s offerings, which include not only workout classes, but also health risk assessments and personal coaching, mental health and mindfulness workshops, smoking cessation classes, and workshops that support legal, social and financial development. Coupled with its online health management tool, employees have anytime access to support for every dimension of their health.

On-site fitness centers help build a meaningful culture of health. By including live, on-site offerings as part of the mix, organizations can more directly engage employees and help to build a culture of health that meets employees where and when they need support. An on-site well-being center can also be a creative way to engage an employees’ family and the local community. For example, the University of Louisville makes their on-site fitness center available to all employees for free, and only charges $10/month for spouses. Additionally, the university offers free health screenings to employees and their spouses, and hosts health events for the community throughout the year. A centralized hub for well-being creates opportunities to build a more meaningful culture of health for employees and their families.

On-site fitness centers can generate healthcare savings. Organizations are seeing real results from investing in their employees’ health. The University of Louisville’s “Get Healthy Now” program includes live, on-site offerings as well as virtual resources to support employees—a mix that is allowing the program to reap a 74 percent participation rate. Employees who participate in the university’s program experience decreased health risks and reduction in healthcare claims costs. Overall, program participants see an average claims savings of $1,300, which has resulted in an estimated $4.3 million in reduced claims spending for the university. The university’s team has found that for every dollar invested in its wellness program, $7 is generated in healthcare savings.

I am proud to work closely with many thoughtful organizational leaders who see their company’s fitness center as more than a place to lift weights and sweat the stress of the workday away. They understand it has a much bigger potential to be a hub for well-being—not only for employees, but for the community. And they also understand that a successful well-being program takes action on employees’ desires and needs, and provides the tools and resources they need to make progress on their goals. Given the increase in remote work, heavy travel schedules, and general desire among employees for flexibility, organizations must also layer in health support resources that can be made available anytime, anywhere—whether that means a fitness tracker and application, an online tool with assessments and plans, virtual fitness classes, or all of the above. Employees have made it clear that they want both live and virtual resources to make progress in their well-being goals. And, when done right, we will all reap the benefits.

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4 Ways To Make Workplace Wellness A Culture Win

Here’s an idea for cutting edge talent management: workplace wellness programs. Implemented well, they’re mutual ROI meets wearable tech meets a deep level of employee engagement that reflects beautifully on employer brand. Not only can they enhance performance, but they show a genuine concern for employees’ well-being. And they’re part of one of my most basic adages: a happy employee is good for profits.

The American Heart Association found that for every $1 invested in workplace wellness, companies can receive up to $3 in return. But, like everything, there are right ways and wrong ways to implement workplace wellness programs. It depends on the company’s goal in adoption: how involved do you want to be? What’s the budget? What are the incentives and rewards?

Short-term benefits aim for mental clarity, higher productivity, morale and loyalty boosts, and all that. The larger goal of reducing healthcare costs and preventing injuries requires you build a wellness program that’s good for the long term.

But think about the culture of the workplace: if your employees are scattered all over the globe in different time zones, you’re either going to have to satellite physical fitness spaces in, create digital ones, or both. If you’re centralized, have some fun and create an amazing wellness and fitness center that gives employees bragging rights. And depending on the scope of the program, it can seem benevolent or big brother— is it opt-in or mandatory? Do employees get rewarded for participating?

Also essential: bring it up to date and make it tech-friendly. Here are 4 ways:

1) Provide wearable tech: It’s inexpensive, it’s personal. Wearables are booming. Some 13 million wearable devices will be integrated into corporate wellness plans over the next five years, according to ABI Research. The tech offers encouragement without seeming required, and apparently, 44 percent of US workers are already wearing it at work. Activity trackers can be linked to social wellness apps; customizable versions can create company-wide programs with events, competitions and rewards. Employees can monitor their own personal progress and make it social. Chances are, they will. There are versions with elaborate data tracking, from blood pressure to heart rate and beyond. Others include eating habits as well — offering recognition for making healthy choices. When it’s small and personal it doesn’t seem invasive. And face it: we all love gear.

2) Create occasions: If routine is the enemy of innovation, break it up by observing the myriad healthy holidays: get your employees on their feet on National Walking Day (the first Wednesday in April, when employees can participate by walking for at least half an hour). Create a “Fitness Friday” with allowable hours for gym, yoga, walking or running during the workday. Because we’re way past casual Fridays now, it’s much more fun to make them actually mean something. Also, adding a fitness component to an already busy workweek without allotting for allowable time will make it feel like an extracurricular drag. You may see a whole lot more participation outside work anyway, but don’t expect it.

3) Offer tangible incentives: Did I mention rewards? Incentivizing participation is key to driving and sustaining employee engagement. There are countless ways to do it, but ones that hit the wallet are certainly the sweetest, including discounts on health premiums, flextime or home days, gift cards (but watch that gold watch syndrome), healthy retreats — a great way to build in creative collaboration and team brainstorming between massages and yoga. Leaderboards, team goals, coaching consults —  you can build deeper engagement by polling employees on what they want in terms of recognition, and make it adaptable as opposed to one size fits all.

4) Measure its effectiveness: After a mid-sized bank in Illinois instituted a wellness program as part of its benefits package, it achieved 95% participation. There’s a point system, a whole range of activities and programs to choose from, and a close tie-in to healthcare and lifestyle changes. It’s expecting an ROI at the end of three years that will show measurable reductions in healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, and higher morale / productivity — saving between $1.50 and $3.50 for every dollar spent. It’s measuring the results annually in quantifiable terms, starting with baseline screenings for each participant, and measuring everything from health to productivity to insurance usage.

There are countless fitness apps that can be brought into a workplace wellness program; and it’s a great way to measure performance as well. The point is to make it part of your intentional employee brand. Also nice: having people that are shiny, happy, healthy representatives of your company. They tend to smile more. No matter how much we work on improving recruitment and engagement, there’s something about a company that lets you walk outside and kick a ball around during a meeting that just can’t be beat.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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Mapping a Healthy Workplace

Sixty-two percent of respondents to the Staples Business Advantage 2016 Workplace Index say the availability of a wellness program is a selling point when looking for a new job, but 58 percent say their workplace doesn’t offer one. So it’s no wonder companies are talking about them a lot these days.

A large part of the ROI that comes from instituting health and wellness programs is, obviously, healthier employees. Sixty-one percent of Aflac’s annual Workforces Report’s participants report they’ve made healthier choices and experience higher job satisfaction levels due to their companies’ wellness programs. And what goes hand-in-hand with healthier, happier employees, and improved productivity? Decreased overall health costs for their employers.

Net Costs of NOT Creating a Healthy Workplace

With the end of summer upon us, and the dreaded flu season just around the corner, the healthier you can keep your workforce, the better. Staples’ Sixth Annual Flu Season Survey uncovered some pretty alarming statistics on just how many people come to work sick, and the financial impact unhealthy employees can have on an organization. More than half are still coming to work sick because they feel there is too much going on at work to take a sick day.

“The flu is responsible for an estimated 70 million missed work days and billions of dollars in lost office productivity each year, so clearly businesses need to provide education and tools to keep workers healthy,” said Chris Correnti, vice president of Facility Solutions at Staples Business Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples.

“It’s not just missed workdays that have a detrimental impact – 66 percent of respondents say presentism – going into work sick but not maintaining productivity – is worse for a business than an employee staying home, a sharp increase from 31 percent last year.”

Mapping a Healthy Workplace

Before you get started mapping a healthy workplace, you’ll want to take a long, hard look at your workplace culture, and focus on the objective that best suits your organization. UHA Health Insurance recently outlined three “first steps” that will help set you on the right path to a corporate health and wellness program:

Identify Your Priorities. “For example, if you have 30 employees, and only one person is a smoker, focusing on smoking cessation is unlikely to generate participation from the majority of the group. Choose the particular issues that are relevant and important to your team.”

Do Your Research: “Find credible sources of information to clarify the particular issue you intend to address, and learn everything relevant you can on the subject.”

Build Your Program: “Clearly identify the issue, why it’s a problem, and what concrete steps can be taken. For example, if you want to focus on healthy eating, guide your team through key steps to improve their food choices such as meal planning, taste tests, and reading food labels.”

Next, do a walk through, with a critical eye, of your grounds (if you have them) and your office space. Do your employees have access to natural light? If they don’t, are there areas outside where they can hold walking meetings and get some fresh air? If you have an open concept design, are there private spaces for those who need quiet, or who want to have small brainstorming sessions? Is there room for a standing desk or two? Is your breakroom stocked with healthy snacks? Do you even have a breakroom? (By the way, Staples Business Advantage can create water and beverage delivery solutions for businesses large or small, taking some of the hassle out of keeping kitchens and breakrooms well stocked.)

Ok, so you’ve narrowed down your focus, and taken a good hard look at your office environment, and made tweaks where possible. Now, let’s take a look at a few other things that will help you foster wellness at work.

Workplace Wellness

Wearables: I’ve written before about how much I love wearables. They’re small, simple, and relatively inexpensive, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy getting a present from their boss? With 44 percent of American workers already sporting fitness devices at work, implementing a fitness program in your organization is a small but significant step toward increased health and wellbeing, and can also encourage team building. Trackers can be linked to social wellness apps, and departments can compete against each other for monthly or quarterly rewards.

Eliminate Stress with the Right Technology: Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization. How much does stress cost American business? Up to $300 billion a year. One way to help cut back on workplace stress is by ensuring your employees have the right tools and technology at hand to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Make sure, where security allows, you have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in place, and access to Wi-Fi. This is especially important if you offer “work from home” or remote positions. Invest in the best collaboration apps and video conferencing systems to bridge the gap between remote employees. And that ease of collaboration and communication that comes with having up to date technology translates to your “in house” teams as well. Slack is a well-known business messaging app, and businesses using it have reported a 32 percent increase in productivity. Having top-notch project management systems in place will also help alleviate workplace stress, as well as boosting efficiency, time management, and accuracy.

Promote Employee Buy-In: It’s all well and good to have a workplace wellness policy in place, but if no one is using it…well…you know the rest. Give employees the time they need to stay healthy—in fact, make it a part of their workday if you can. Promote “Fitness Fridays” or “Bike to Work” days. Speak to your teams and find out what they would like to see as part of their program. Perhaps once a month coaching, or massage. You can even go as far as to provide discounts on health premiums, or “earned time off” bonuses based on monthly fitness output (steps walked, etc.). The key here is to let employees know that it’s not only ok to take a break for fitness, it’s a necessary part of their workday.

The bottom line is that the net cost of NOT creating a healthy workplace far outweighs the cost to build one. Having an established workplace wellness policy in place won’t just help you have happy, healthier employees as well as raised productivity, it will also serve as a gold-star incentive when you are actively recruiting. And that’s a win-win any way you look at it.

This post is sponsored by Staples Business Advantage.


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Workplace Wellness: The Story Starts With Healthy Culture

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce is one of our featured guests at #TChat Events Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014. Join us to discuss employee engagement issues! See details in the preview post: “Does Your Workforce Feel the Love?“)

Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Headlines are a funny thing. They often do a terrible job of telling a story. Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation published what headlines described as a sobering report on the state of workplace wellness.

At first glance, these initiatives appeared to be falling far short of the mark. But (as is so often the case) headlines only tell a tiny slice of the story. To find the truth, we must look beneath the surface.

Wellness 1.0: A Flawed Model

It’s correct that the traditional concept of wellness is broken. Employers have been overly prescriptive with wellness strategies — relying far too heavily on specific programs, health risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings. These tactics typically produce short-term gains, but they lose on long-term impact. This “Wellness 1.0” approach clearly has failed.

The Power Of Wellness 2.0

Traditional wellness has struggled because it overlooks a critical issue — telling employees how to act is not the same thing as empowering employees to make their own healthy behavioral choices, and supporting them along the way. In short, for workforce wellness to gain a meaningful foothold and make a lasting impact, culture must come first.

How can companies accomplish this mission? In theory, it’s simple. But in reality, it can be a challenge. Developing a culture-first mentality means focusing on employees’ Total Quality of Life — including physical, mental, social, emotional, and financial health. It’s not just about convincing them to join a weight loss program or complete an annual HRA. It’s about connecting with them in ways that put lifestyle changes within easy reach, and encouraging them support one another through the process of transformation.

Creating a culture geared toward Total Quality of Life requires solutions that are engaging, social and fun, so employees naturally weave them into daily activity. It means moving beyond traditional wellness boundaries by connecting participants with a highly available online platform. It means providing “anytime” access to smart tools and resources that comfortably fit into an employee’s world — making it simple, interactive and rewarding to choose healthier options on a continuous basis.

Success Factors: Walking The Walk

Virgin Pulse Total Quality of Life Employee Engagement whitepaper cover

Download the related Pulse Paper now

Every Total Quality of Life strategy should incorporate healthy goals as foundational elements. For example, it’s essential to encourage nutritious eating habits and regular physical activity. But it’s also important for employers to demonstrate commitment to those goals by offering things like healthy cafeteria options and access to onsite workout facilities, so employees can easily integrate these choices into their daily routine.

Other elements can take Total Quality of Life even further. For example, classes that help employees establish and manage a 401k, or learn smart retirement savings strategies demonstrate an even deeper commitment to workforce well-being. The result? The more employers invest in employees’ personal and professional growth, the more committed, engaged and productive those employees will be. In short, a holistic approach is a wise investment in future business performance.

Measurable Improvement: It’s A Matter Of Time

Of course, cultural shifts take time. But they’re far more effective if employees believe you care about them — not just as “human resources,” but as whole humans. Employer commitment is key. Once employees move forward with wellness objectives, and begin to reach early milestones, they’ll start feeling better about themselves. Soon, personal achievements like weight loss or community volunteer involvement begin translating into direct payoffs at work. You’ll see more passion, creativity, and focus on the job. And when you reinforce these positive outcomes, it will lead to even more ambitious objectives.

Rewriting The Wellness Story

What headlines you should expect for Wellness 2.0? This next-generation approach to wellness, focused on Total Quality of Life, is helping companies shift their approach to a culture of continuous engagement. So keep looking for stories of individual and business transformation, fueled by more productive, loyal employees. Those stories are real, and ready to be told.

(Editor’s Note: Looking for more details about how to engage and support your workforce? Download the latest Virgin Pulse Paper, “Total Quality of Life: A Roadmap for Employee Engagement” by TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro.)

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

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