Most people would rather be unhealthy than do something they feel others disapprove of or might be embarrassing.
Think about it.
We know that making a loop (or two) around the office a few times a day can improve health. As can doing lunges while waiting for your food to heat up in the microwave. Or jumping up and down at your desk a few times a day.
So why don’t people do it?
It could be that they don’t want to sweat (even a tiny bit), don't want to be judged by others about looking silly, or they think leaving their desks makes them appear less productive.
Small changes can have a big impact on health and often cost nothing.
So how can you encourage employees to do small things that improve their wellness and ahem, productivity?
I spent 13 years of my career at an employer who encouraged, supported and celebrated wellness. People doing loops around the office were met with high fives and many strong work relationships were formed in this manner.
What did they do differently?
The company leadership made it a priority to make moving and eating well “normal”. It didn’t happen all at once (and they invested a good chunk of money into it which they get back in health care savings). At lunch, the workout room was full (they had to expand it) and groups got together to walk outside. Production crews started their day with light movement and stretches. It was more unusual to be “inactive” and eat poorly than be active. Company catered food was delicious and healthy when provided.
Of course you don’t have to spend buckets of money on programs to make this happen. It comes down to culture. All of us can relate to feeling “too busy” to get up and move around during the day. But are we really? Also, for those who chose to move, often, instead of being congratulated as great examples for others, the attitude is more like “must be nice to have so much extra time during the day”. Even if that movement is during breaks or is shorter than a bathroom break.
So what can you do to encourage wellness (including your own)?
- Give yourself permission even if no else does – taking time to physically move at intervals during the day actually increases productivity- stepping away can actually help in problem solving – take your breaks!
- While it would be great to think that you will have people in your corner, it might take a while for them to come around. Don’t worry about everyone else. You will have to live with your decision to be inactive. Don’t give that power to someone else.
- Invite others to join you – there is strength in numbers
- Walking groups are a great way to get to know your colleagues better. You can even talk shop if it makes you feel less guilty about leaving your desk. Create the new normal and be bold about it. “Bob and solved a business problem during our walk today, so glad we took the time”.
- Encourage leadership to be active as an example to others
- As the leader of the IT Organization, I was told numerous times by people on my team that my lunchtime workouts made them feel like “they had permission” to incorporate activity into their day. Most of my team was active and all were actively pursuing better nutrition (and we openly discussed this as a team). In IT there can be some really long days, taking a few minutes to get some activity in didn’t add much time.
- Create little workouts that are manageable and provide variety during the day
- I have small weights that I use for just 3-5 minutes to do a little something when I have time. Figure out what works best for you and get after it!
Wellness is a journey of a thousand steps, but well worth it. Start by getting into a groove for what works with your schedule and your company. Building a culture of wellness is certainly not easy, but it can be forged through any idividual getting up and moving.