Tag Archives: health

5 Tips: How to Increase Employee Engagement with Workplace Wellness Programs

The key to a successful workplace wellness program is employee engagement. The reverse is also true. That is, one way to increase employee engagement is a successful wellness program.

Yesterday we were in a client’s break room, waiting for a meeting room to open up , and I noticed several flyers on the bulletin board about various wellness offerings. I was surprised by my initial reaction, which was, “Who would sign up for those?”

Why did they strike me as loser offerings? Because they seemed preachy and goody-goody and completely devoid of anything fun. One sounded like the school nurse was going to take you through a lecture on the five food groups. I’m not suggesting that wellness should be a barrel of laughs, but a good program creates energy and involvement. The more employees you can get to participate, the stronger your program will be.

An effective wellness program will do more than just increase productivity because people feel better and have more energy. It also gives co-workers a chance to do something together that’s unrelated to their usual work roles. It equals the playing field, so to speak, in a way that lets junior employees spend some time on an equal footing with those who rank above them in the company hieirarchy. It will also build relationships between people in different departments, which helps smooth the way to better teamwork and increased collaboration.

So how do you create a wellness program with plenty of employee engagement? Here are five tips:

1. Ask the employees what they want. Particularly in a small company, you can solicit input from the group. You can do a survey, if you want, but it might be easier just to ask people about their wellness concerns. Are they looking for ways to find time for exercise? Do they really wish they could quit smoking? Are they trying to eat healthier?

2. Get their help in constructing the program. Give some influential employees ownership of developing the program. If the group wants a yoga class at lunch, let an employee track down a good yoga instructor willing to do a class in the conference room. If they’re interested in a buddy-system diet, let an employee research South Beach vs. The Zone vs. WeightWatchers.

3. Make sure management joins in. The top level people in the company need to suit up and show up. If you give the impression that the boss is too busy for exercise, for example, employees might interpret the fitness program as something meant only for those who aren’t as serious about their work. Besides making it clear that you’re committed to wellness, it adds extra motivation for participation, at least by those employees who want more chances to rub shoulders with the boss.

4. Add an element of competition. Put together a contest with some level of cash prize, or a free day off, or something employees will see as worth their while. Look for a way to compete that doesn’t automatically give an advantage to the fittest among the group. For instance, instead of a contest to see who can bench press the most weight, compete on who can complete three workouts a week for the most weeks.

5. Create a collaborative goal. If your group tends to get a little too competitive, choose a goal they work towards together. Maybe after the employees collectively walk or run 10,000 miles, the company donates $1,000 to a worthy cause. Or let the collaborative goal benefit the employees more directly. After they lose so many pounds as a group, you’ll hire a massage therapist to give chair massages on Friday afternoon.

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Small Business Strategies: Starting a workplace wellness program might be easier than you think

Meditation room at Tribe

What can you do in the new year to improve employee morale and productivity without spending a ton of money? Easy answer: start some level of wellness program in your office. If you’ve ever considered doing something like that, this might be the perfect time.

Wellness programs allow you to give employees something they find meaningful without handing out big pay raises. Many small companies froze salary increases last year. In others, employees watched people in their company lose their jobs, and were understandably meek about pushing for their own salary reviews. But don’t think that means they’re not thinking about what they give the company for what they get. A workplace wellness program can be a very good way to let employees know you value their contributions.

Of course, it’s also the beginning of a new year. The perfect time for fresh starts, healthy new habits and lifestyle improvements. Your employees are probably already thinking about what they can do in 2010 to be healthier. A wellness program can help support them in their individual goals. It’s also a powerful way to bring new energy into the workplace.

How do you do it? You don’t have to build a company gym or pay for an on-site spa chef (although you could). Think in terms of providing flexibility (time) or resources (access). You can pick one element of wellness, like fitness or stress management or healthy eating and focus your program around that area. Or you can put together a small smorgasbord of wellness offerings. Here are a few examples:

• Allow employees extra time for lunch two or three days a week so they can fit in a walk or a run. At Tribe, we tell employees they can put up to three hours a week on their time sheets for exercise during the workday. We’ve found that whenever someone manages to fit in a workout or  yoga class during the day, they’re likely to come back to the office with a good idea or solution for something they’re working on. If nothing else, their energy level is higher that when they left.

• Use one of those empty offices for a meditation room. Move the desk out and put a small couch or a comfortable armchair in there instead. Or just put out a few yoga mats or some big floor pillows.  Add a few meditation CDs and a CD player, and you’re good to go. If employees feel comfortable spending 20 minutes meditating in the middle of the day, alone or with a coworker, that can go a long way towards reducing stress levels.

• Put a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room, and stock it weekly. When employees hit that pre-lunch or mid-afternoon slump, being able to skip the vending machine and grab an apple or banana instead can be a highly appreciated perk. Supporting wellness in the office can actually come down to some very simple (and inexpensive) changes.

The biggest thing employees are looking for in a wellness program is a way for the workplace to support them in living a good life. As a business owner, you do that by providing meaningful work and fair compensation. But lately, many companies have been asking employees to work harder without the hope of a big, fat salary increase. Especially in this economic environment, one of the best things you can do for your employees is to provide the flexibility and resources for them to take care of their own health.

Small Business Strategies: Creating workplace wellness programs

Guy in suit meditatingYou know that your employees will be more productive if they’re well, but how do you put that into action? If you’re not a huge corporation, you may think you can’t afford a wellness program, but there are plenty of things you can do to create an environment that supports healthy living.

Wellness programs are also great for your office culture. Not only does such a program reinforce the idea that your company is somewhere people live healthy, balanced lives, it also can be powerful for building relationships among your staff. Doing something together that’s not work related, like a yoga class or a fitness contest, takes the corporate  hierarchy out of the equation and lets employees relate to each other outside their job functions.

As the boss, it’s important for you to participate as well. Not only does that speak volumes about your commitment to wellness, it also allows your staff to interact with you in ways that don’t involve you being the top dog. So put on those running shorts and put your ego aside. And remember, it’s okay if some of your employees can run faster than you. 

Here are some ways you can promote wellness in your company, at a range of price points:

1. Keep fresh fruit in the break room. Or any sort of healthy snacks. When employees feel a little blood sugar slump, it will be easy for them to grab something that won’t make them crash again later.

2. Start a lunchtime walking group. Or an after work running group. This can be a casual employee-led group. You don’t need to hire an instructor. (Although you may want employees to sign a waiver acknowledging responsibility for any potential injuries.)

3. Give wellness hours. Allow employees to take an extended lunch once or twice a week for exercise. Or to take an hour during the day, whenever their schedules allow. At Tribe, we allow everyone to put up to 5 hours a week of wellness hours on their timesheet. This gives them the idea that it’s okay to work out during the workday, but they very rarely use more than an hour or so of wellness time a week.

4. Set aside a meditation room. This can be an empty office, or you could let the conference room be used for meditation, when it’s  not needed for meetings. At Tribe, we  have a small office containing nothing but a couch and a CD player. Two or three people will often do a short meditation after lunch. I once asked a friend to come in and lead a lunchtime meditation lesson, but Tribe folks also use a lot of guided meditations on CDs.

5. Sponsor a yoga class. We used to do Yoga Fridays at lunch, which meant anybody who had time piled in a car and drove to the nearest yoga studio. Occasionally, I’d treat everyone to a company-paid class, but most times we all paid our own way. The important thing is that they didn’t have to feel guilty about that company-sanctioned two-hour lunch.

6. Spring for a massage. This is especially appreciated in the midst of a busy season. You can offer a gift certificate for a massage to one employee who deserves it, like after pulling off a particularly challenging project, or you could have a massage therapist come in and do 10-minute chair massages for the whole group. 

7. Establish a company fitness competition. We do this every year at Tribe, and it’s created some significant changes in a few employee’s lives. Our fitness competition lasts for 12 weeks and starts in February, right about when we’ve all abandoned our New Year’s resolutions. If you’re interested in setting up a similar plan, you might find some helpful ideas in my blog titled “How to launch a workplace fitness competition.”

Small Business Strategies: The power of a vacation

Flip flopsWhen you own your own company, it can be very difficult to tear yourself away from the business for any stretch of days long enough to be considered a vacation. But taking a vacation is one of the most responsible things you can do for your company.

This is very tough for us Type A types to believe. We get so wrapped up in the urgency of the day-to-day workings of the company, and sometimes even in our own self-importance. It’s hard to believe the business wouldn’t immediately run adrift the second we take our hand off the tiller. 

When my first agency hit its one-year mark, my business partner and I contemplated a spa trip, both to celebrate the success of our first year and to plan for the next. We just could not imagine being out of the office for the five days the trip would take. We broached the subject with our first employee, who was by that point handling many details that neither of us were much good at anyway. When we asked if she thought that she and our skeleton crew could possibly manage without us that long, she burst out laughing. “I think we can handle it,” Rebecca said drily and turned on her heel to get back to work. 

The thing about getting away from the business for a number of days is that it pulls you out of the mire of details and deadlines. It breaks that ant trail of list making perpetually marching in your head. And eventually, not right away, but when your mind begins to calm, you will find clarity. This is where the power of the vacation lies.

With the distance of time and geography, you provide the space for big ideas to appear. The perspective you gain from stepping back from the business allows you to see both issues and opportunities you hadn’t had time to notice before.

Of course, this clarity doesn’t come right away. For me, at least, my mind churns as busily as ever for the first few days of a vacation. I sit on the beach thinking of things I need to make sure people back at the office remember to do, or hike in the desert hills with accounting numbers banging around in my head. But eventually, the salt water or the desert air do their trick. 

Most of the really smart business ideas I’ve ever had occurred to me on vacation, in a moment of stillness toward the end of the trip. I was staring out at the ocean in the early days of Tribe when I realized I could never make the income I wanted with only my own billable hours, at least not without working many more hours a week than I wanted. A few weeks after that vacation, I had six or eight freelancers working on client projects, and I was billing all their hours with a nice markup. Jennifer and I were sitting at the pool towards the end of one of our Arizona trips when we realized it was time for Tribe to get real office space, to collect all our home-office people in one location. That decision was huge to Tribe’s ability to grow, and to serve our Fortune 500 clients who were becoming increasingly less tolerant of trying to track us down in our virtual world. I was sitting on the beach on a family vacation a few months later when I realized it made a whole lot more sense to get a loan from our bank for the office build-out instead of trying to pay that out of cash flow. That decision gave us financial flexibility that made all the difference one tough slow summer. 

The hard part is trusting that it will happen. As the days of vacation trail behind me, I almost always think it’s not working. I somehow expect that my mind will immediately stop its usual racket the minute I’m out of the office. It takes time. It takes hikes in the mountains or runs on the beach, it takes long nights of good sleep and leisurely afternoon naps, it takes reading a few books, having some good meals, sitting on the porch for cocktails with people I love. 

Then suddenly, the big picture or the new idea or the instant clarity floats up out of nowhere. Often, it’s something that is so clearly the right thing, it later seems obvious. You just never saw it before. And likely would never have seen it, if you hadn’t taken the time to slow down for a few days.

Therein likes the power of vacation.

Small Business Strategies: How to launch a workplace fitness competition

Tribe FitnessYou don’t have to be a big corporation to have a company wellness program. A fitness competition is a great way to bring wellness to life in your office, and it’s not particularly expensive or cumbersome to pull off. At Tribe, our fitness competition is an annual event, starting sometime just after the new year and having us all buffed out just in time for swimsuit season. (You can see some of our top contestants in the photo at above.) Here’s how we do it:

Rules of the game: Everyone is eligible to play, but no one has to. (For instance, our accountant Lauren never plays because she says, “I already look good in a bikini and that’s all that matters.”) The duration of the contest is 12 weeks.

The prize: A cash prize is good. We offer $500 cash to the winner, but I think our folks would participate with just as much zeal if the prize were only twenty bucks. After a few weeks, the contest becomes about much more than money. Whatever you offer as the prize is potentially the only expense of the competition.

Individual entries: Each player comes up with their own fitness plan and sets a goal to complete so many workouts or hours of exercise weekly. That goal cannot be altered once the contest begins. We’ve had people do everything from early-morning outdoor boot camp to late night hockey games to training for a marathon. Players are urged to set a goal that’s not too ambitious to pull off week after week, but not so modest a goal that the rest of the group will make fun of it.

Wellness hours: We also allow everyone to put up to five hours a week on their time sheets for wellness hours. That means they can take a long lunch to do a yoga class down the street or take a mid-afternoon break to work out in our office building’s tiny gym downstairs. Many days we’re too busy in the office for them to take advantage of that, but they seem to really like this option, when there’s time for it.

Scoring: We make a giant chart with everyone’s name and squares for each of the 12 weeks. On Monday mornings, we all stand in front of the chart and report on whether or not we’ve met our goal for the previous week. If you did, you get a star. If you didn’t, nothing. There are no partial points. If you only did four of the five workouts that comprise your goal, no star. Honor system prevails. 

The winner: The person with the most stars at the end of 12 weeks wins the prize. But along the way, the competition gets fierce. At Tribe, we frequently have ad hoc teams spring up, despite the fact that it’s an individual score. One year Team Studio was the big rival for Team Breezeway (which was composed of everyone with a desk sort of in the hallway because they don’t have a real office.) One year we had several finalists tied at the end of 12 weeks and had to go into sudden death, which stretched out for a couple of months and was painful to watch. This year we agreed to settle any ties with a vote, for which aggressive campaigning is allowed.

The benefits: At the end of 12 weeks, everyone is more fit. A few of our people have made dramatic changes in their bodies and lives through the fitness competition. It’s also a healthy change to have us all competing on the same level playing field, so the intern is as likely to rise to the top as the CEO. (Maybe more so.) Maybe most importantly,  it elevates the sense of camaraderie and fun at work. You can feel a  heightened level of energy in the office, and that probably impacts our work as well.

Seven reasons business ownership can be better for your life balance

cyclistMany professionals, particularly women, in high-level corporate positions find themselves opting out of their shot at the corner office because of the wear and tear on their life balance and family time. But entrepreneurship can be a way to have more flexibility and control over your time, while still pulling in a big income. Here are seven reasons I recommend that frustrated corporate folks don’t opt out, but opt to own.

1.  Location, Location, Location. Owning your own company gives you the option of working at home. Even if you lease office space, you might decide to work from home a few days a week or in the afternoons when the kids get out of school.

2. Owning Your Calendar. Rather than being at the beck and call of all those corporate meetings called by somebody else, you have control of your calendar. If you want to be at the school play on Wednesday, you can schedule that client meeting for Thursday.

 3. Being There For Your Kids. Show me a mother with a boss and I’ll show you someone who feels guilty when her children need her during the workday. When you own your own company, you don’t have to apologize when your kid is sick – you just rearrange your schedule to be at home.

 4. The Company Evolving With Your Kids.  While your kids are very young, you might prefer to work from home. Once they’re in school most of the day, you might want to lease office space but leave work in time to meet the school bus. And when they hit those tumultuous teenage years, you might want to be around the house a little more in the afternoons. A business owner often has the freedom to accommodate his or her kids’ changing needs.

5. Time For Outside Interests. Believe it or not, many entrepreneurs manage to take up time-consuming activities solely for their own enjoyment, like training for a triathlon or competing in horse shows. Although more and more corporate employers are growing more flexible about scheduling a work week around parenting responsibilities, you’d be hard pressed to find one who’ll give you afternoons off for long bike rides or a horse show two hours away.

6. The Luxury of Support. As a business owner, you can build in support from your staff. Employees in small, closely held companies often cover many functions of a personal assistant, or even a back-up family member. It’s not unusual for small business owners to have an assistant who’s willing to run out to carpool when they’re stuck across town in a client meeting, or who’ll pick up groceries for the soccer team dinner when the boss runs out of time.

 7: Perks Aplenty. Business owners also are able to offer themselves all kinds of extras your corporate boss might not. You might have your company lease or buy you a company car. You can write off any travel that can be justified as a business expense. You can plan your annual management meeting at your favorite spa resort. Running the show gives you the opportunity to invest company money in what’s important to you – whether it’s bringing in healthy lunches or a massage therapist to keep your crew performing well during stressful times. Or hiring yourself an executive coach and a crackerjack assistant.

Small Business Strategies: Six tips for improving your wellness

girl yoga treeAnyone who runs his or her own business knows wellness can be the trickiest part of the life-balance equation. With your quirky hours and the nearly endless demands of your company, it’s tough to fit in the things you know are good for you. Sometimes the easiest way to feel healthy and energized rather than exhausted and out of shape is to tune in to that inner voice when you’re making choices regarding wellness. My trick for that is to ask myself one simple question:

Is it a Hell Yes? If not, then it’s a Hell No. Here are six tips for better wellness through the Hell Yes principle:

1. Try the Hell No diet.  Here’s how it works. You can eat anything you want. But five times a week, say Hell No to something fried or refined that you’d ordinarily eat. If you usually have chips with your sandwich, skip them one day. Your assistant brings doughnuts to the office every Monday? Pass them by this week. Reaching for your afternoon soda? Skip it, just this once. Over the course of the week, those five omissions will add up to a serious caloric reduction, and have saved you a bunch of sugar and fat grams as well.

Note: It doesn’t count if you skip something you wouldn’t ordinarily have eaten. For instance, you can’t just drive by the ice cream store and say Hell No to a banana split, if a banana split isn’t something you’ve even considered having in years.

2. Listen for your inner Hell Yes, when you’re tempted to skip exercise. Is being fit a true Hell Yes for you? If it’s really a priority in your life, then listen for the inner wisdom to remind you of that, on those days when you’re tempted to flop down on the couch instead of suiting up for your workout.

3. Sometimes it’s best to say Hell No to a workout. When you don’t feel like exercise, listen closely to which voice is doing the whining. If it’s the part of you that would just rather flip through a catalog munching crackers at the kitchen counter, remind yourself that fitness is a Hell Yes in your life and head to the gym. But if you’re sick or injured or just plain exhausted, your gut may be telling you it’s a good day to rest. Listen to that voice.

4. Say Hell No to your personal vices. You know what they are. Do you sneak a cigarette when you’re out with friends? Overdo it on sugary things? Drink a little too much caffeine? Or wine? The Hell Yes principle is a fast way to tune in to your intuitive knowledge. Ask yourself, and answer honestly: is this harmful to me?

5. Say Hell No to too little sleep. Do you wake up every morning feeling fresh and ready to go? I didn’t think so. Most of us don’t get quite enough sleep, even though we know we do a better job running our companies when we do. Keep in mind that sleep is when the body does some of its most important repair, and that a good night’s sleep helps reduce stress – and might even make you look younger. Whatever’s stopping you from getting to bed on time, learn to say Hell No and cut out the light.

6. Say Hell Yes to the things that make you feel goodWhat are the things that make you feel well cared for and pampered? Is it a spa pedicure? A massage? Professional hair color? Acupuncture? A hot bath? A nap? Remind yourself that you’ll be better equipped to take care of business if you take care of yourself first.