Re-Thinking Corporate Wellness

Re-Thinking Corporate Wellness

The chair, a place where many of us spend the majority of our time at the workplace sitting and staring at screens.  The modern day workplace has not changed that much over the years aside from some more ergonomic designs.  Also unchanged has been the aches, pains, and other syndromes that are a result of all that sitting.  And the news has gotten worse.

Leadership and team at conference table.

Recent studies are starting to show that simply exercising and being active outside of work might not be enough to combat these negative effects of sitting while at work.  “More than one-half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television or working at a computer,” Dr. David Alter, the study’s senior scientist at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto, said in a statement. “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”

Corporate wellness as it stands has been relatively stagnant with their answers to this growing problem. Handing out gym memberships and having annual “challenges” is just not getting the job done.  Nor are some of the more high tech analytics being done on employees in some places, although I do believe these to be part of the solution.  While these are good initiatives they hardly get to the heart of the problem, lack of movement AT work.

We need to start eyeing the real solution to this problem:  Building a culture of movement in the workplace.  So while providing opportunities for employees to be active outside of work are extremely valuable we have to view ideas that get them up and moving inside the workplace with equal, if not more, value.

How do we build a culture of movement at a workplace that is naturally sedentary?

This is no easy task with no easy answers but it does start with asking the right question.  How do we get people moving AT work?   We need to start valuing activities that make us get up and move instead of viewing them as inefficiencies. There is VALUE to moving, in fact, I will argue there is more value in moving than the value of the 10-20 seconds you save by moving your printer within arms reach of your desk. Or what about Taking 7 minutes each hour to do some targeted movement to combat the effects of sitting.  Take a minute and think about some of the reasons that would be given as to why we cannot move more at work.

  1.  All workplace culture changes start at the top.  This is one of the main reasons we encourage members of the executive team to become Take 7 certified .  Now before you argue that top down change is ineffective the reason we need to start at the top is if employees do not have support from above to make the changes necessary or to exercise their creativity to the fullest in tackling this challenge you will not be successful.
  2.  Start small.  Find your early adopters and make them your spokespeople.  Do not underestimate the power of a few people who are passionate about bringing change. IGNORE the folks who simply do not like change, they are everywhere but they almost always come along once “everyone else” is doing it.
  3.  Get people moving at their desks.  Our book provides a good guide for bringing targeted effective movements to your desk but there are literally hundreds of creative ways you can do this.
  4.  Reward and encourage this behavior.

In today’s world we are often looking for complicated high tech solutions to our every problem.  And believe me, in this space there are many really cool initiatives taking place. But unless we build a strong foundation, a strong culture of movement in the workplace all of the high tech and analytical solutions in the world are not going to help.

Written by:
John Sinclair
Dan Tatton