The Monday edition of a our local paper is usually quite spare, but it’s my favorite day for reading it because they devote the Lifestyle section to health and fitness. Today, they profiled workplaces that actively encourage workers in their efforts to be fit, including one group of co-workers who lace up and head for the running path every day at 3:00. Their CEO is supportive, saying:
“There is no doubt in my mind that if you are physically active, your brain is sharper and you are a better problem-solver. Exercise and fitness help us maintain our edge.”
Wouldn’t it be great if all workplaces had such forward-thinking leaders? People who look at the benefits to the employees, to the workplace environment, and eventually, to the bottom line. Generally speaking, fit employees aren’t sick as often as their peers, have more energy and less stress, and exhibit more positive attitudes. (source)
A fair number of companies do offer “wellness” programs, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“In a June 2009 employee benefits survey of 522 employers, the Society for Human Resource Management found 72 percent offered wellness information, 64 percent provided vaccinations, and 59 percent had wellness programs. Tobacco use cessation programs were offered by 39 percent, weight loss by 30 percent and on-site fitness classes by 12 percent.”
The company I worked for until 2009 had a few “wellness” initiatives, such as partially-subsidized Weight Watchers @Work, some vaccinations, and loads of health information. To me, though, the emphasis seemed to be on keeping health care costs down for the company, not so much on improving the employee. At least, that’s what I got out of it.
My co-workers and I took matters into in our hands. In June 2008, I created the “Top of the World Challenge” and dared the entire department to join me in the stairwell of our 10-story building and climb steps in exchange for…stickers.
I gave all the details in an earlier post, but basically, each participant (about 30 or so, if I’m remembering correctly) tracked and reported the number of flights they climbed each week and when they reached a milestone, I put a sticker on their scorecard/badge which was affixed to their nameplates. We also kept a poster-sized scorecard in the lobby with stickers. Executives noticed and nodded approvingly, but none of them joined in. Undeterred, my co-workers were still climbing when I left the company in April 2009.
So even if you don’t work for a company with sponsored fitness programs, you and your co-workers can create your own initiatives and work together for better health. Who knows, maybe some of them are wishing right now that someone would get something started. Can YOU be that someone*?
Sidenote: I’m running way behind in my reading. Please bear with me. My life went ‘splodey (not in a good or bad way–just super busy all of a sudden), but I hope to catch up soon!