Many business owners are realizing that employee wellness can be tied to performance. For that reason, some forward-thinking employers are incorporating standing desks and fitness opportunities into the workplace.
“We believe promoting health and wellness reduces sick days, which improves productivity and employee satisfaction," says Jonathan Sacks, owner and CEO of PUSH Agency, a worldwide live marketing and promotional staffing company. “Our employees aren't confined to working at their desks. They can use our outdoor workspace and get fresh air, sunlight and a change of scenery. We also provide bicycles—with helmets—so employees can ride on their breaks."
Since employees spend many of their waking hours at work, encouraging healthy living in the office is important, agrees Mike McEwan, owner of JANE, an online boutique marketplace featuring women's and children's clothing and home décor.
“JANE's office is a well-designed space that encourages creative thinking, productivity and wellness," says McEwan. “We provide adjustable desks for all employees. They can work standing or sitting in a chair or on a yoga ball. Our 30,000-square-foot space gives employees the chance to increase blood flow and oxygen levels by walking between the various departments for collaboration and meetings."
Methods of promoting employee wellness will vary according to your company culture. Here are several ways to inspire employee wellness at your company.
1. Encourage employee wellness by getting your team to move.
“Ultimately, healthy living creates higher energy levels, which helps in all aspects of your business," says Bart Silvestro, CEO of Chef's Cut Real Jerky. “I'm a strong believer in creating a high-energy workplace with upbeat music playing. We also promote taking walks with team members to discuss current projects and problems."
Carol Talbot, speaker and author of YOU the Divine Genius, notes that sitting eight to 15 hours a day is not something the body was designed to do. “All that sitting is causing health problems," she says. “Fortunately, there's a lot that can be done in the workplace to shift our sitting culture, including holding walking meetings and encouraging desk-bound employees to get up and move around at least once an hour."
—Matt Geiger, co-founder, Blend
Prolonged sitting can be highly detrimental to good health, agrees physician and spine specialist Pawan Grover of Inovospine, a company that provides innovative treatments for acute and chronic back pain.
“During prolonged sitting, blood can pool in the legs and lead to blood clots," he says. “Even in a static standing position the muscles can't pump the blood as effectively. If you're moving your legs or shifting your weight when standing, it could be helpful, because that causes your muscles to pump blood."
2. Incorporate standing desks into the office.
Movement can be important to employee wellness. That's why standing desks are becoming a welcome and healthy addition to the workplace.
“Standing desks are a must at our company," says Nina Church, co-founder of Nomva, a line of probiotic super smoothie packs. “We found the ideal solution with regular desks that easily convert to standing desks. This offers the best of both worlds and encourages employees to stand at least a few minutes each day."
At Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals, a professional skin care company, they've had standing desks for several years now. “We've also implemented thick-cushioned standing pads at stations and headset telephones to ease the strain on those who are at their desks or on the phone frequently," says founder and CEO Rhonda Allison.
Before investing in standing desks, Grover suggests making sure that standing is advised for your employees. Some health problems require that you sit down (e.g. individuals with knee or hip problems). Grover suggests encouraging employees to protect their spines against slouching by using lumbar rolls in chairs and taking frequent breaks to stretch.
Other additions to enhance employee wellness include ergonomic chairs and keyboards and adjustable monitors.
3. Offer fitness opportunities that promote employee wellness.
Promoting exercise is another great way to help incorporate employee wellness into your company culture.
“We have a yoga instructor come in once a week, we offer Pilates, [and a] membership at a fitness club so that employees have every opportunity to engage in healthy habits on a regular basis," says Allison.
At Nomva, they allow employees to wear activewear at the office. “Being in sneakers and workout clothes during the workday can signal to employees that they are active people and give them the encouragement to stretch, get in a quick workout or walk at lunch," says co-founder Caroline Beckman. “We do a weekly workout, which is a fun bonding experience that really energizes us."
HealthyWage co-founder David Roddenberry notes there are many tactics employers can use to incorporate exercise into the office. (And he should know—his company facilitates corporate wellness challenges.)
“Try treadmill desks, walking paths at work and fitness competitions," Roddenberry advises. “We've found that walking or weight-loss challenges are popular, because they have the potential to engage all employees and their families. Fitness challenges can be offered at no cost to your company. Employees contribute to the pot, committing themselves to the challenge."
At Nootrobox, a biohacking company focused on improving brain performance with nootropics (cognitive enhancing supplements) and energy-on-the-go products, they offer gym subsidies and encourage all employees to work out in the morning. “Our biohacking research has shown that morning workouts are optimal for health and productivity," says the company's CEO Geoff Woo.
Matt Geiger, co-founder of Blend, a millennial chatbot platform, adds that his company has a workout machine in the office. Geiger says it gives employees “permission to focus on their health and well-being while on the job."
4. Promote relaxation as a part of your company culture.
According to Grover, stress can cause poor health conditions.
“Stress causes the body to be in survival mode and release a stress hormone called cortisol," he says. “This is a very destructive hormone that decreases our immune system and breaks down the body."
Helping your employees to remain as calm as possible can help promote employee wellness. Some companies use meditation to help relieve stress. “Blend offers a daily 15-minute meditation, with some guided, breath-based and Eastern tradition practices," says Geiger. “Most of our team members report reduced stress and more mental clarity after participating in our health programs, which leads to more creative ideas and stronger results from the entire team."
Rhonda Allison's team combats stress with a four-day work week. “A shortened week gives employees a balanced lifestyle," says Allison. “Having three days to regroup and take care of their lives enables them to bring their all to the table when they're at work."