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Follow Web Mogul Arianna's Lead, and Breathe!

Follow Web Mogul Arianna's Lead, and Breathe!
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A recent New York Times Magazine piece featured a photo of Arianna Huffington leading her employees in a group meditation. Now, that’s an idea I can get behind: a culture of wellness that starts at the top.

Related: Weave Health and Wellness Into Your Company's Culture

Building and leading a successful company means cultivating a high-performing team that can think clearly, communicate effectively and be productive, day after day. To achieve that, wellness is an imperative. Cultivating a workplace wellness program can reap huge returns:

  • At the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a workers compensation and injury-care unit reduced sick days by 80 percent and ultimately reduced health insurance premiums by nearly 50 percent.
  • Johnson & Johnson estimated that it had saved over $250 million in healthcare costs over a 10-year period through its wellness programs.
  • Another employer reported that more than half of its participating employees classified as high-risk had transitioned to a low-risk group in just six months.

When you’re a big business, those kinds of numbers mean real savings. And when you’re an army of two or 10 or even 50 employees, inattention to wellness can be even more costly. Chronic wellness issues can cripple nimble teams. But how, as a small business owner, can you foster a culture of wellness when time is short, money often tight and time at a premium?

Think beyond the workplace.

Your company’s wellness challenges happen before, during and after work. Design a corporate wellness program that fits with your employees' lifestyle. Survey your population and ask them what they would most value. A 20-something employee base may want at-home high-intensity fitness workouts for early weekday mornings, while mothers with young children may opt for midday yoga breaks, evening meditation to reduce stress or help with healthy family-meal planning.

If you understand your employees, you can cater your programs to help them make better choices about how to pursue wellness in the office and out.

Related: All About Wellness: 5 Steps That Will Make Your Company More Productive

Make wellness a part of your process.

At the office, there are so many things you can do, even if you’re not a meditation pro, like Huffington, or can’t afford a stand-up desk for everyone on your team. No matter what your sophistication or budget size, you can build wellness moments into your daily work process.

Four ideas to consider:

  • Embrace stand-up meetings. One person takes notes; everyone else stands.

  • Remind people to move and stretch. At Grokker, our videos play on screens throughout the office. Build a company campaign around movement and post it in community office spaces, reminding people to get moving. Watch morale climb while sick days plummet.

  • Gamify it. Invite the team to do seventh-inning stretches together at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., or to count calories burned or steps taken. "Most improved" gets a Starbucks gift card.

  • Make time for meditation and yoga. Follow Arianna’s lead. At our company, we have 30-minute beginner yoga sessions twice weekly. Several studies, such as this one out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, show that yoga and meditation help improve cognitive function, over other forms of exercise.

As a leader, it’s up to you to be the best example. Encourage your team members to take care of themselves, talk about your own wellness regimen and make it easy for employees to bring the wellness habits they are learning at work into their homes.

Once you make employee wellness a company cornerstone, your business and your employees will be richly rewarded.

Related: 27 Insights for Creating and Sustaining Workplace Happiness