Weave Health and Wellness Into Your Company's Culture
With the New Year passed, let’s make a resolution: no more resolutions -- at least ones that cannot or will not be kept.
Often, my resolutions have revolved around wellness. When it came to my company, Jetco Delivery, I was behind the curve on corporate wellness issues and I am now changing that.
Although I did not focus aggressively on wellness in the past, it wasn't because I failed to care about my employees. The opposite was true. I care deeply.
My thinking was (and still is) that employees are adults. Each person makes choices about what to eat and drink and whether to smoke or exercise. As a business leader, I don't believe it is my role to judge or lecture my employees about how they should live their lives. I am not an expert in these areas, and I follow the rule of not throwing stones at from a glass house.
Yet I could no longer stand by and watch people make terrible choices. I could not simultaneously witness absenteeism and skyrocketing health care premiums. And it's difficult to sit back and observe people whom I care about smoke themselves into an early grave.
Nonetheless, it's easier to talk about corporate wellness than it is to operationalize it. Putting posters on a wall, sending a payroll memo or having a onetime meeting is easy, but the program won’t gain any traction. Having a biggest-loser competition could be fun, but it is more of an event than a long-term plan to truly embed wellness in a company’s culture.
So, my dilemma became how to weave wellness principles into the company's culture without gimmicks and judgment of others. The following is my action plan to operationalize wellness:
My employees’ share of health insurance costs now contains a discount for nonsmokers. Recognizing that smoking is wickedly addictive, the discount also applies to employees who enter a smoking-cessation program.
The discount rewards the behavior of people who don't smoke and those making a good faith effort to quit. When smokers consider the price of cigarettes plus the loss of the discount, the disadvantage is clear. Instead of casting judgment about smoking, I have simply raised the stakes so that smokers have a greater economic incentive to quit.
When my company has lunch meetings, I now insist on healthy options. Fast and greasy is no longer an option. That doesn’t mean that the company has eliminated all less-than-healthy treats. It means that the organization is offering choices to employees. I'm planning to revamp by midyear the company's vending options so that the majority of the choices are comparatively healthy.
My company is also building a new office with a workout area. If your office can't accommodate a workout area, consider paying for employee's gym memberships). You can’t necessarily lead your employees to a workout, but you can provide them support and tools. Encourage people to work out together: There's nothing like letting the team know that everyone is in this together.
Look for insurance premium discounts if you actively support a wellness program. Above all, create an environment that lets people measure success against their own personal goals and not some manufactured standard.
Perhaps you've heard this comment from an employee: “Maybe I should start smoking. The smokers around here get so many more breaks.” While comments like this scream sarcasm, they are also true.
So, I'm taking strides to ensure that breaks are applied evenly. I'm also moving the outdoor smoking area farther away from the office to be less convenient and so nonsmokers need not walk through a cloud of smoke on the way in.
The company has employees who are knowledgeable and committed to their own wellness and has harnessed their power. They are now an in-house resource for other employees. Whether the topic is diet, exercise or yoga and balance, these employees can serve as an internal and nonthreatening resource for team members.
Invest in ergonomics. Get rid of poorly made chairs. Put as much thought into an ergonomically efficient office as you do into buying the next major piece of equipment for your facility. Most office employees are in sedentary jobs for the better part of a workday. Investing in ergonomics is the same as investing in employees’ health and that's the ultimate respect that you can offer.
You can implement simple changes to promote wellness and also stay clear of judging others and respect the decisions that each person makes. As you weave wellness into your organization, have a plan to operationalize your objectives.
What is your action plan to weave wellness into your company’s culture?
Corporate culture and management advisor Brian Fielkow is the author of Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture, a how-to book based on his 25 years of executive leadership experience at public and privately held companies. With a doctorate in law from Northwestern University School of Law, he serves as owner and president of Jetco Delivery, a logistics company in Houston that specializes in regional trucking, heavy haul and national freight.