Creating a healthy work environment

May 31, 2012

At Wellness Corporate Solutions, employees enjoy 10-minute walks every day, meditation sessions led by the senior vice president and a community-sustained agriculture service that provides produce.

The company, which is dedicated to introducing and normalizing healthy behavior in the workplace, is the reigning champion in our search for the healthiest office in Washington. Learn how they implement healthy habits at work and how you can do the same at your job.

Hi all,

Thanks for joining us - we're looking forward to chatting today and helping you create new healthy workplace habits!

Hello everyone.  Really glad to be here today to talk about making your workplace healthy!

I go for a 45-minute walk every day during my lunch hour, then come back and eat. Of all the places I've worked, the city locations offer the best walking environment. There are some sidewalk trees, and the buildings themselves offer a few feet of shaded sidewalk even at noon. The rural areas and industrial parks are much worse -- no sidewalks, no shoulders on the roads, no shade.

Walking breaks are a great way to break up the day and give your mind a rest! We also find it spurs creativity when working on projects and/or during meetings. If working in rural areas, the best approach would be to recruit coworkers to join you - not only is this safer, but it's also effective in team-building and establishing this healthy practice as a workplace "norm"!

I think this is the worst behavior. People need to get up and move. Either managers/supervisors encourage this behavior or don't know it exists. People feel fearful in this high unemployment environment to take legitimate lunch breaks. First step in a healthy work environment: Let people take lunch!!!

I hear you and couldn't agree more! A key part of a healthy workplace is management allowing and providing time for healthy practices.  For us here at WCS, our leaders allow us to use our lunch time flexibly.  Some of us opt to eat more quickly (maybe at our desks) so that we can use the extra time for taking a couple walks outside at other points during the day.  

Thanks for setting such a positive example. I'm fortunate enough to work for a firm whose main nod to healthful living is strictly enforcing work-life balance. If I'm not out the door by 5:05 my boss is literally there yelling (nicely), "Go home!!!" Having worked in a polar opposite environment (unpaid OT silently encouraged), this is the single most healthful thing a company can do for its employees, even more so than daily exercise -- though that's nice, too! Keep up the good work.

Work-life balance creates time and energy to devote to your "outside" interests! This is great to hear, and we love that a workplace fostering this balance isn't unheard of (now). Thanks for posting! Here at WCS, we work on time-flexible schedules, have some employees who telecommute and also plan post-work workouts to be sure we're all fitting in health!

What is the least expensive way to start an on-site wellness program? Can we do programs internally? Or is it best to have an outside company come in?

Good question.  There are absolutely inexpensive ways to start wellness programs without outside help. Sometimes an internal initiative can be the most effective method for getting employees involved.  Try organizing group walks or runs during lunch or after work.  Take advantage of the talents of your workforce by recruiting employees who might have health related hobbies to start clubs focused on nutrition or fitness, perhaps even scheduled on-site fitness classes. This list could go on and on.

That said, when you want to take things to the next level (challenges, incentives rewards, coaching etc), the organization and resources of an outside firm (like WCS) can help you expand your program and save money in the long run. 

How do you suggest I approach my boss or upper management to ask for healthier food choices in the office kitchen? Are there any key talking points I can make?

To get the "conversation" started, start bringing in your own healthy food! We have a lot of in-office chats about "What's for Lunch?" (even starting a Pinterest Board with Pins straight from our kitchen); everyone has very different tastes and preferences, and we love to try new things. Some have noticed a pure love for things like cinnamon, all-natural almnond butter, avocados and fresh tomatoes (to name a few), and now we keep those staples stocked in the "pantry"!

Once people take notice, steer the conversation towards what's currently available in the kitchen & what "healthy subsitutes" could be made. If there are always candy bars, switch to healthier options like fruit & nut bars. Instead of people bringing in desserts, start a rotation for fresh seasonal fruits. In place of the frequent bagels and/or donuts, ask for low-fat yogurt and granola. The key here would be to think of solutions, and create a new norm for "office food"!

Some tips from our lunch table: do a weekly or monthly office Potluck with healthy foods, invest in a corporate CSA account (we have one with Good Life Farm), snack on nut mixes, and/or start a "Salad Friday" (we order from a locally owned Cafe).

What are your recommendations for reaching out to corporations to encourage and recruit corporate teams for nonprofits organizing wellness activities i.e. walks, cycle events, runs, etc? This seems a great way to encourage wellness, giving back to the community and building team camaraderie.

That's a tough one.  I agree that these events are a great way for corporations to encourage wellness while endorsing charitable activity. They're also an excellent medium through which the C suite can promote healthy work-life balance.  Perhaps management can subsidize their employees' participation by paying for team admission or footing the bill for custom jerseys.  

It could be a really fun and different wellness offering for companies who provide incentives for their employees' wellness activities.  Perhaps we should chat. 

We have a business dress code at my office so as much as I'd like to walk mid-day, it just doesn't feel like an option. What do you suggest (especially for women in heels all day)?

We wear heels sometimes, too! Most of us keep walking/running shoes at the office so we can make a quick switch for a mid-day walk. Having these shoes available not only helps for comfort, but also provides that little bit of extra motivation (they're just sitting there...) when you need a break to get up and move.

Don't know if I have the name right, but what have you heard about the raised computer options so that you can work while standing? Is it just a fad?

To learn more about these desks, read the March MisFits story "Devices that let you walk, pedal and stand while you work".

To weigh in on that one... I don't think that standing desks are just a fad. We conducted a pilot study of them with one of our clients and had a great response!  Many workers loved the flexibility to switch between sitting and standing throughout the day.

We've all been hearing about sitting disease lately right? Standing while working can be a great step toward combatting that. Our very own Juliet Rodman stands almost the entire day, often using her desk as a ballet bar to stretch her legs while responding to emails!  

Do you have an opinion on whether it's unhealthy to eat while standing? When I'm sitting a lot of the day I often think to stand while I eat lunch, but there are some old "myths" about not standing while eating. Any thoughts?

My thoughts - if that's your break from sitting and you want to stand while eating? Go for it! This is also a great way to eat away from your desk.

Wellness Corporate Solutions clearly has a great internal wellness program but how can I start one at my company? Can you give me three or four steps to get one started so I have a plan of action? Thanks!

Start with what you know and feel passionate about! If you're a runner, suggest a running group. If you're a healthy foodie, suggest a "Healthy Potluck" day.

Also, ask around and see what people would want to participate in (the more participation, the more effective the program!) - you may be surprised to learn what your coworkers are doing and/or would want to join! We have some companies with certified in-office Yoga, Zumba & Pilates instructors that teach at lunch and/or after work. You could also look into starting an in-office Fitness Challenge (check out our "Soulja Fit" challenge album on Facebook!), bring on a local Dietitian for "Lunch & Learn" seminars, and/or recruit people to sign up as a team for a local race (e.g. 5K or 10K).

Jared, would love to chat/pass around ideas on this topic.

Great! You can reach us at info@wellnesscorporatesolutions.com

Employers all say they want you to be healthy and have a life outside of work, but when you go grab lunch or take a walk around the block you get the evil eye. How can we get our manager to see how important it is? Are there any statistics available that show an increase in overall office productivity when people have a break during their day? I know I have read that "clearing your head" is important, but I need some hard proof for the boss!

Our site offers information on how effective workplace wellness initiatives can be in increasing productivity, reducing turnover & improving employee satisfaction (which should all strike a note with Managers!).

Here are a few great reads from our blog, Corporate Wellness Insights: 

Rested Minds = Productive Minds

Employee Engagement, Mental Health & Wellness

Gotta run! Thanks for joing us everyone.  If you have further questions or are interested in using Wellness Corporate Solutions to get a wellness initiative going at your company, reach out to us info@wellnesscorporatesolutions.com

Thanks to all for joining! Great questions - we're inspired by your motivation to make a change and spread the workplace wellness around!

In This Chat
Juliet Rodman
Juliet Rodman is the senior vice president at Wellness Corporate Solutions. Rodman is also a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and blogger at "365 Days of Wellness".
Jared Rice
Jared Rice is a registered dietitian, and a clinical content manager and wellness Coach at Wellness Corporate Solutions.
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