Does Your Workplace Encourage Fitness? Do You?

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. :)

My Top of The World Challenge badge

My Top of the World Scorecard

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!

17 thoughts on “Does Your Workplace Encourage Fitness? Do You?

  1. Hey Cammy, good post! My last employer had a full gym and a full-time trainer on staff. We only had a couple hundred employees. You were encouraged to take time from the job and visit the trainer during paid working hours. It was awesome! Cheers, Rick

  2. The previous company I worked at, I was considered an exercise fanatic because at lunch I walked around the complex… a Whole Quarter Mile! On Foot! On Purpose!
    This company… most of the engineers that I work with spend lunch running. They average 11 miles at lunch. No, really. The ones who aren’t running are at the gym. I go out and jog a couple miles, and they try hard to act supportive rather than pitying. (They’re nice, but can’t imagine being a couch potato.)
    Maybe the next company I work at, I’ll fit in :)
    (Still, I’d rather be where I am than where I was.)

  3. what a great idea you had for your co-workers. I’m a work at home mom, so it’s just about inspiring my husband (also works at home..) and myself to get our butts into the gym.
    it’s turning out to be nice couple time actually.

  4. What a great idea! DM is currently doing a Live Smart campaign similar to what you initiated at work. Every year we are all encouraged to participate at some level to improve our health. Many of the larger companies sponsor teams and allow extended lunch breaks for those wanting to use a gym. It’s been a big success!

  5. Our workplace is pretty supportive, running a couple of wellness programs each year. They also built a sand volleyball court a few years back and we have an interdepartmental comp each year.

    In find you have to pick you targets carefully when trying to be supportive. Some people take you the wrong way and think you are having a go at them.

  6. My workplace definitely encourages fitness. They’re sponsoring a 5k in February, and during spring, summer, and fall, there are afternoon bike rides for both faculty and students to participate in. It’s a good time for students to mingle with faculty outside of classes.

  7. Cammy, I do remember that post about your climbing stairs time at your last job. A great idea for you to do that! Unfortunately, I think most companies do wellness for their own monetary reasons vs. the health of the employee – not saying all but alot, I bet.

    I have worked for companies with programs & gyms & in fact, for one, I was the one that helped buy the equipment!

  8. When I first started reading your post I was jealous of all the people who worked for the great companies you noted. But then getting further into your post I realized that, yes, I can make a difference where I work too. I’ll have to come back and read more and check out your “all the details.” Thanks Cammy. You are so inspiring and I hope your life is less ‘splodey this week. We (I) need you.

  9. My last employer certainly didn’t encourage fitness… In fact, the owner was an obese, chain smoking, wheezing man in his mid-forties who looked like the prime candidate for a heart attach or stroke. And the stress load was immense…

    This was a hotel on a wine estate which often hosted conferences and I loved the companies who worked out in groups in the early mornings – and there were surprisingly many of them.

    Most recently we had an 82 year old lady (and her boyfriend) staying with us for two weeks. They played golf every other day and went for walks in the vineyards. You could just see that she’d been active all her life.

  10. That is a really cool idea, the stairs thing!!

    The experience that I have had is much like yours… kinda some half-hearted attempts by the company to save some money on insurance.

    Yeah… it would be nice if companies treated employees like more than “head-count” and “over-head”… wait, is there a reoccurring HEAD theme today? I think I will write about my head soon!! After all, it is O.K. to have a round head!!


  11. My workplace most definitely does not encourage fitness. It pretty much only encourages negativity and pettiness..which is why I’m actively looking elsewhere!

  12. Cammy thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. I am still in the developing stages and it is great to see interests in my posts.

    My husband and I are self employed together and we make it part of our day to workout together. I completely agree that people who exercise are less likely to get sick and have more energy. I wish all companies would incorporate fitness plans it might surprise them as to how much money they would save in health care. :-)

  13. Hi Cammy,

    I once had a boss that made fun of overweight people behind their backs….. does that count for anything? It gave me an incentive not to be the butt of his jokes…..

    Leave it to you to organize the Top of the World Challenge! Really fun. I’ll bet your former co-workers miss you terribly.

    I’ve been very busy, too. (Busy being smacked down at current workplace.)

    Catch back up with you later!

  14. Great post Cammy. I soooo wish my workplace encouraged fitness and work/life balance. Unfortunately, not so much….we’re on our own on this.

  15. Hi Cammy. Terrific site and topic. With the innundation of health care in all our lives the last couple of years, it’s fitting for employers to provide some type of wellness program, though most don’t. It seems to me that the trade off between the cost of providing a wellness program and the cost of healthcare would somewhat offset.
    I work in law enforcement and am at a Federal Building. While we don’t have a gym, we are provided three hours each week (three separate one hour blocks) that we can use to exercise. The trade off is that if you take advantage of the three hours, then you agree to an annual physical assessment each year to see if taking advantage of the time is helping you from a fitness standpoint.
    I hit 40 this year and have decided to try to make a change to be more healthy and fit and I’ve been soaking up all I can, like a sponge. I’ll check in to your site from time to time as it’s informative and easy to read. Thanks for your efforts and best wishes.

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