Welcome to Wellness: A Holistic Approach
An often overlooked area of employee wellness is centred around nutrition, exercise, and sleeping. If your employees are empowered to take care of their personal wellness by eating well, sleeping well and exercising (even just getting 10,000 steps a day does a world of difference) you can ensure that they’re also going to be lead healthier lives. At the end of the day your healthier employees will take fewer sick days and have less usage overall on their extended medical benefits.
What are some easy ways that you as an employer can ensure your employees are even doing one of these things properly?
Your employees are adults and should be in charge of their health and nutrition, but leading employers are taking on a supporting role. Ensuring that your employees are eating well and receiving all of the nutrients that they need leads to increased mental alertness and awareness but also to a reduction in time spent away from the office due to illness. We had Ewa Reid from Healthful Guide weigh in on how companies can optimize nutrition in the workplace by providing access to the right foods, educating staff on how to eat well, creating a culture which supports positive eating habits, and providing support programs for individuals and teams.
Access. Poor eating habits at the office are most often the result of a lack of time and a need for convenience. Without access to healthy lunch and snack options, employees will often opt for whatever is closest at hand. Companies can help encourage healthy eating by making “healthy” convenient. Providing healthy options at the office with occasional lunch catering (or better yet, an in-house cafeteria), and healthy snack delivery or vending options encourages employees to make better choices in the office. Companies can also encourage better choices OUT of the office by partnering with local businesses that offer healthy food and setting up a corporate program with a great discount (ex: 15% off). You could also consider a program like FED, or at the very least, stock the office with healthy snacks, SPUD is our go-to.
Education. As the old saying goes; “giving a man a fish feeds him for a day but teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime.” Providing access to healthy food between the hours of 9-5 is only the first step. Educating employees on how to eat well 24/7 is the key to happy, healthy and productive employees long-term. Invite local practitioners like Nutritionists and Naturopathic Doctors to speak to your team about healthy eating and living. Some examples of topics include: ‘How to avoid the 3 o’clock slump’; ‘How to plan and pack healthy lunches and snacks’, ‘Foods to improve mood and maximize productivity’, ‘Preventing illness with anti-inflammatory eating’, etc. Another great option is to invite a local chef who specializes in healthy eating to offer a cooking demonstration and teach staff a new recipe to try at home.
Culture. Stressful, rushed and/or distracted eating is one of the number one causes of digestive issues, which can in turn lead to increased illness and absenteeism in employees. Companies can help minimize these issues by creating a culture which discourages eating at one's desk and encourages staff to take up to a full hour for lunch. Another way that companies can weave optimal nutrition into their culture is through a digital newsletter; by starting a wellness section in the newsletter and inviting health practitioners to submit articles. Another fun way to encourage employees to cook is to start a Monthly Healthy Potluck or by run a Healthy Cooking Contest.
Support. No corporate wellness program would be complete without establishing a support system for optimal nutrition in the workplace. Similar to a walking club or running group, support groups like a Healthy Eating Group (via Slack channel or Facebook) can serve as a safe space where staff can share goals, progress milestones, and exchange recipes. Creating Team Challenges - like a ‘Healthy Weight Loss Challenge’, or an ‘8 Glasses of H2O Challenge’ - can also encourage workplace health initiatives. Finally, as not all employees will wish to publicize their personal health matters, offering private and individual support to them is equally important. One way to do this is to offer Nutritional Consultation Drop-In session in your office. Reaching out to a local Nutritionist to come in and make him/herself available to your employees for a few hours in a private “drop-in” consult capacity can provide the personal attention they need.
Sleep deprivation is a huge crisis and has become a much talked about issue since it was brought to the forefront of the public's mind by Arianna Huffington after she previously collapsed due to exhaustion in 2007. “The impact on our health is dramatic. We have all the data now that shows how it affects every aspect of our health.” This includes everything from a suppressed immune system (it might be why you’re always getting a cold), hypertension (less snooze means a harder time processing stress), and obesity (the sleepy crave bad carbs and sugars). (Source: Here’s Arianna Huffington’s Recipe For A Great Night Of Sleep)
When our ancestors were faced with a threat, like an angry bear, it triggered a “fight or flight” response - releasing a cascade of chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to help them fight the bear. In today’s society, we are always “fighting the bear” - only the bear comes in the form of deadlines, presentations, difficult clients, etc. That’s why so many working professionals suffer from chronic stress and elevated cortisol, which can lead to wide range of health problems - one of which is disrupted sleep. That’s why it’s so important to leave the office at the office. Companies need to set the precedence that work does not get taken home, and executives must lead by example.
Further, companies can encourage ways for employees to process the cortisol out of their system during office hours with tools like naps and meditation. It’s been shown that it is “better than caffeine and neither nap or caffeine for improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning.” It’s been shown that it is “better than caffeine and neither nap or caffeine for improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning.” (Source: It’s Time to Start Taking Naps At Work)
If you have space, offer a quiet area that your employees can go to, to refresh and recharge. Think: nap room - these can work wonders for employees that are new parents. If that is too bold to implement you could bring in a meditation specialist to host a lunch & learn. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness and generate kindness to name a few things. Testing out a Meditation is a great place to self-start on this self-care journey too! I’ve personally have tried out Calm & Headspace and found them to be amazing tools in my own self-care journey.
Personally, I recently got to attend a guided meditation led by Deepak Chopra and let me say I am a changed woman. Previously, I was a person who thought that meditation was “hard” and that “I wasn’t doing it right”, however, what I learned was that everyone meditates in their own way. While there are general guidelines (example: let thoughts/images / etc. flow through your mind and don’t hold onto them) it was far easier than I had anticipated and the 30-minute session had me wanting to meditate again. Sometimes all it takes is an expert to walk you through.
There are SO many exercise options in Vancouver from barre class, to spin class, to running clinics, to traditional gym gyms. If you are one of the lucky few in the city that has an on-site gym then this step should be fairly easy for you, however, if you don’t have an on-site gym this step takes some minor work to set up.
Gyms want new members ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Call up your local gym or a few gyms to see what are the best corporate rates they can offer you and your team.
Alternatively, try to incorporate a fun fitness activity into one of your regularly scheduled team events and see where it goes from there. Maybe a recreational beach volleyball league will form, or a group of spin class enthusiasts will arise, or even your next CrossFit champion.
While no company can ever be perfect we hope that you find this guide useful in setting some guidelines for your new company or in writing new guidelines for your existing company. If you feel like you need some assistance or guidance in this area feel free to contact us as we would love to help you!