Leader Wellness: Changing Corporate Health Culture

Workplace wellness has become quite the catch phrase in the world of corporate health and it seems like everyone is “doing it.” While large-scale wellness programs might be a good way for large companies and organizations to try and whip everyone into shape, I don’t think it’s the right approach for everyone.

In fact, for many organizations, the old adage “small things make a big difference” rings even more true for health and wellness initiatives. You don’t leap off the couch one day and decide to run a marathon. You train first. The same concept applies to workplace wellness. Trying to make a sudden change magnifies the potential for a failed program and leads to low participation rates and wasted resources implementing and running the program.

At Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC, we believe that health and wellness play a vital role in effective individual and organizational leadership. For this reason we are further developing workshops and offerings in this area to continue delivering an innovative and holistic approach to leadership challenges.

During recent workshops, participants discussed ways to integrate meaningful yet simple health and wellness changes into their organizations. Here are some examples of what other organizations are doing that inspired our participants. I hope they will give you some ideas and inspiration as well.

Active Meetings
John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic magazine has an open invitation for anyone in the company to join him for his lunch-time bike ride. For many employees, it’s a great way to get the bosses ear in an informal and relaxed setting. In a recent interview with NPR, Fahey said “what happens is, I find out sort of what the scuttlebutt in the hallways is. And sometimes, it’s totally ill-informed and sometimes, it’s spot-on. But it’s really good to know what people think.” Other ways of incorporating this concept is to work in a daily 20-30 minute walk around the school track or circle the block a few times. The important thing to remember is s to be consistent and make sure that other managers in the organization support attending the sessions. You will be seen as an approachable leader who takes fitness seriously and knows how to integrate it into your daily life.

Dump the Doughnuts
Who made the rule that doughnuts, bagels and pastries are required in the waiting room, at meetings or company events? Chef Ann Cooper (also known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady”), the Director of Nutritional Services at Berkeley U.S.D. asked the same question about school lunches. She pushed the envelope and put salad bars into all Berkeley schools. In a 2007 Ted Talk Chef Ann Cooper said “everyone said it couldn’t be done…kids would spit in it….” Now, what does this have to do with the doughnuts at your next meeting? Challenge the assumptions about meeting food. Try healthier choices such as bananas, apples, pears, cucumbers, nuts, sliced cheese and hummus dip. Serve water and iced tea instead of soda. You may be pleasantly surprised that people will be excited about these changes. So much so that they will be encouraged to make healthier choices at other times. One added bonus, people will be more alert and participate more during the meeting because they won’t be overloaded on carbs and sugar.

Stop the Stress
Job and stress are often synonymous for many of us. According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly 1 million Americans are absent from work each day due to work-related stress. Stress not only has poor effects on us mentally but it can also lower immune function and even have a negative impact on our heart. The biggest problem with stress is that many of us don’t know how to deal with it properly. Providing people with “stress education” is an effective, affordable way to help people deal with stress in a healthy way. At Quantum Health in Ohio they have taken it just one step further. Employees created a “serenity room” a dimly-lit private room with massage chairs and soft music for people to relax and unwind. A recent Inc magazine article provides a comprehensive list of other ways to help reduce stress in the workplace.

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Tanya McCausland, N.E. is a holistic health and lifestyle coach and founder of EatFit. LiveWell. She has made it her mission to help individuals and organizations successfully make positive changes that will have a huge impact on their health, happiness and bottom line.

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This article is from our July, 2011 newsletter. Click here to view all our newsletter articles and features.

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