Balancing a healthy lifestyle is hard enough at home where you’re tempted by dinner invitations from friends, takeout menus shoved in your door, or that secret stash of chocolate hiding in your cabinet.
One place where I find balancing a healthy lifestyle to be even harder is in the workplace. I don’t know about you, but at jobs I’ve had in the past, I’ve been bombarded with birthday cake, free bagels, and leftover catered food from large client meetings. One of my friends works at BuzzFeed, and they even have a free froyo machine complete with toppings in their office! Something about free food just makes it irresistible, and even though you might be focused on your healthy habits, all it takes is one measly free donut to lead you astray.
Now that I’m working in the health and wellness industry, however, all of this has changed for me! I now work for a company that promotes a healthy lifestyle not just for its members and stakeholders, but also for its staff! (Of course we still have the occasional birthday cake or catered meal, but the options are much healthier). We have a solid wellness plan in place, which I totally love. It’s so much easier to maintain my healthy habits when I’m surrounded by people who are doing the same!
That being said, here are a few tips for those of you who would like to set up a health & wellness plan at your own company, but don’t know how to begin.
1. Have a chat with your manager and/or HR. At my old job, our HR department had a whole wellness committee where you could brainstorm health and wellness ideas. I was (obviously) on the committee and although I left before all of our ideas netted out, I definitely saw some healthy improvements around the office. At my new job, I made it a point to chat with my manager about my interest in health and wellness from day 1. I’ve found that being open and expressing your interest is actually a lot easier than you might think, and you’d be surprised how much people are willing to listen to you!
2. Be proactive. From my experience, a lot of companies have small budgets set aside for initiatives just like this, but they often lack the manpower to get it going. If you are proactive about setting up a plan and pitching a reasonable budget to your manager and/or HR department, there’s actually have a decent chance you’ll get it approved. By approaching the situation like you would a new business meeting, you’ll get great experience (which you could probably even add to your resume if you wanted to), impress your employers, and hopefully set an employee wellness plan in place. Three birds with one stone doesn’t sound too bad to me!
3. Start small. Change can be hard, and while maintaining healthy habits might be high up on your priority list, remember that everyone’s goals aren’t the same. Also, your fellow employees will probably all be starting out at varying fitness levels, so it’s a good idea to start off slow or let people customize activities to their liking.
4. Set tangible goals. People will feel good about themselves if they know they’re making progress, so set some goals for your fellow employees to accomplish. At my job we have one month dedicated to an Employee Wellness Challenge (June, since that’s National Employee Wellness Month) and there are different challenges for each week. We set up a tracker in a Google doc so that everyone can track their goals publicly, and small prizes are awarded at the end of each week for those who met their goals (there’s a FitBit as the grand prize!). Our challenge includes simple goals like incorporating more water, exercise, and fruit & veggies into your diet, but it feels like a huge accomplishment for those people who have never focused on getting healthy before, and suddenly they’ve met all their goals.
Here are some of the activities we’ve implemented at my workplaces (old and new) that might be good starting places for you:
- Host a month-long Employee Wellness Challenge, and track goals on a Google doc
- Schedule weekly walks outside (set up a recurring calendar appointment in Outlook so people won’t skip this)
- Host a healthy potluck to kick off the wellness initiative where everyone brings in a healthy dish
- Hold a weekly healthy recipe swap where employees email their favorite healthy recipes to one another
- Send out healthy tips of the day (or week) which can be things like reminders to get up and walk around or inspirational articles you’ve seen online
- Turn summer and winter parties that would have been held at a restaurant or bar into an active event like a hike, kayak adventure, or bike ride
- Hire a fruit delivery company to deliver produce at the start of each week (apples, oranges, bananas, etc.)
- Buy communal healthy breakfast options like yogurts, granola, oatmeal, cereal, and skim milk
- Bring in a yoga instructor to teach yoga classes to employees once a month during lunch
- Encourage employees to take advantage of Groupons and deals for local exercise classes (give them a $5 or $10 voucher to be used on a fitness class)
- Allow employees to swap out regular desks for standing desks or exercise balls
- Purchase a treadmill desk for the office and allow employees to sign up for different time slots to use it (we are getting one of these soon!)
- Pick a medical cause that’s important to an employee, and sponsor employees to participate in a race or fitness event benefiting that cause (e.g., have everyone do one of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure events)
Hopefully with these tips you will feel inspired to go forward and start a health & wellness initiative in your own office!
Question of the day: What healthy activities does your company promote?