Workplace Wellness

Want a More Active Workspace Now? Here Are the 3 Wellness Strategies That Will Get You There.

Ever considered a walking meeting for your crew?
Want a More Active Workspace Now? Here Are the 3 Wellness Strategies That Will Get You There.
Image credit: Maskot | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder and CEO, Varidesk
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

America's healthcare system needs to visit the nearest emergency room. But, before you run for the defibrillator, take heart that some of the top names in the business world, including Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett, have stepped in to try their hand at a little surgical intervention.

Related: Help Employees Stay Healthy and Fit

Early this year, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced a joint initiative to create a healthcare company that will use technology to help ease health burdens for employers and workers alike. Not surprisingly, their solution has garnered attention -- and has likely gotten many employers thinking about their own employees' health and needs.

Of course, few businesses have the level of resources that the Amazons and JPMorgans of the world possess; for smaller companies, it's a tall order to face the complicated U.S. healthcare system alone and head-on. But every company, no matter what its size, can still prioritize certain preventive measures that contribute to overall wellness.

What's more, they can customize those measures: Instead of looking for a "one-size-fits-all" solution to the work world's healthcare problems, small businesses and entrepreneurs can adopt a much more personalized approach -- one that starts right in their own workspaces.

Some of the indicators of a truly healthy workplace

Most small businesses and entrepreneurs want their workers to be healthy for both the employees' and the company's sake. But too often they look at the issue from a macro level.

For instance, if you have an employee with poor dietary habits, his or her journey may differ radically from that of a triathlete. In most situations, the poor eater and triathlete are sitting at the same desks and have enlisted in the same wellness program, while their roles and their lifestyles are entirely unique.

Each employee has specific needs, and if businesses would only start creating flexible solutions from the bottom up, they could address these individual needs instead of focusing so broadly on problems that nothing gets done.

At our company, we've incorporated a wellness program through Kersh Health that offers everything from health screenings, to fitness challenges, to education, all focused on individuals' needs. The goal isn't to make employees feel that everyone is aiming for the same results -- it's to help them change the way they work, and live in the way they want.

By building wellness into corporate culture in this way, small businesses and entrepreneurs can move beyond common workplace habits -- like prolonged sitting -- that affect employee well-being. In fact, an Annals of Internal Medicine study showed that getting up at least once every 30 minutes can be a lifesaver -- literally. Australian research conducted with more than 3,300 employees showed an association between sitting for long periods and increased psychological stress. And a Texas A&M study noted that memory capacity improved with the simple addition of standing desks.

Companies that build wellness into their culture not only benefit from having employees in better physical health, they also create the kind of in-office energy that drives success and attracts the best talent as a result.

Improving wellness with a more active workspace

Companies don't have to reinvent the wheel to address their employees' healthcare needs. Again, it's all about being flexible, and with a few changes, organizations can create a more personalized way for employees to get healthier and be more productive with an active workspace. How do you do that? Three strategies will help you start:

Related: The Top 4 Ways to Engage Your Employees in Their Own Healthcare

1. Take small steps to initiate big changes. Does everyone really need a trash can under his or her desk? How about a printer in people's individual offices? And, are your people getting enough water throughout the day?

Many companies are putting items like trash cans, printers and water stations into the same kinds of common spaces they have for the coffee pot or break room. Doing so encourages movement and collaboration, which helps prompt many benefits for small businesses. In fact, interesting research from New Mexico Highlands University -- presented at Experimental Biology 2017 -- has discovered a possible connection between the impact of footsteps and our moods, given the ways that even "light" walking can boost blood flow to the brain.

At your office, you can make this transition to a more active work life even more interesting by handing out pedometers or fitness trackers so that your people can track their progress or vie for the most steps taken in a day. Plus, your company could save on cleaning costs by having fewer garbage receptacles, as well as on equipment and maintenance expenditures. In addition, according to a report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, proper hydration is key to staying positive and even having the energy to power through the most challenging sales proposal.

2. Set up walking meetings. When was the last time you left a meeting thinking, "That was quick and refreshing"? Never?

Making the "stand-up meeting" literal is a great first step: Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that workers who meet on their feet are more engaged and less territorial. Going a step beyond and instituting walking meetings, it seems, promotes creativity and productivity.

A walking meeting, which can be held inside or out, depending on the weather and office setting, not only gets everyone's heart pumping, but also tends to promote succinct speech. As a Stanford University study indicated, 81 percent of participants polled said they experienced a boost in creative thought when they upped their exercise levels. By livening up meetings with a little oxygen and some much-needed activity right there in your office, you'll soon see the creativity start to flow more readily.

3. Lead by example, and get help through strategic partnerships. As a leader, you should set the tone for your employees by doing, not saying. At the same time, stay open to feedback about how you can tailor your workers' active experiences, because no one works or lives exactly the same way.

For example, if you offer blood drives and flu shots, be the first in line. If you're planning a team challenge, proudly become a member of the team and show your spirit. You can't ask your people to do something you're not willing to try yourself, so boldly lead the charge. And, if you're worried you're not ready to go it alone, look for a provider to assist.

Make no mistake: The issue of health care in America isn't an easy one to fix. A robust wellness program doesn't equate to the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan healthcare plan. But, the visibility that that initiative has brought to the need for organizations to promote an active and healthy lifestyle in the office is essential to everyone's well-being.

Related: Prioritizing Health Can Help You and Your Business

Creating an active workspace doesn't have to be expensive or cumbersome. Get your employees moving today, and you'll quickly find that the rewards go way beyond "happy" workers (though that in itself is an excellent place to start).

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Do Wellness Programs Make Employees More Productive? The Obvious Answer Is Yes.