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Four Ways to Make Workplaces Healthier

04/23/2015 09:06 EDT | Updated 06/23/2015 05:59 EDT
Shutterstock / marco mayer

Ever think your workplace needs group therapy?

You are not alone if you say "yes." Now imagine two scenarios for me.

1) You haven't stepped away from your desk in three hours, it's about 1:30 in the afternoon and you worked right through lunch. You skipped breakfast and grabbed a coffee and a stale bagel/doughnut around 9:30 a.m. You went home from work stressed out last night, to tired and honestly a little too depressed to do anything physical. A co-worker you haven't seen in 48 hours walks in to your office (they are at the office it's just their life mirrors yours so you never see them). They ask you to cover for them while they take a loved one to a doctor's visit. That means you aren't getting away from your desk till the work day is over. What is your response?

2) You work in an office that encourages you to unplug regularly. They teach you that 3-5 minutes every hour isn't a bad thing at all. As long as your job is done well, they don't bother you about a couple of minutes hear and there. Work and life are still stressful, but bearable. You regularly hear what a great job you are doing, so you continue to step away from your work station as needed. Breakfast this morning was planned, not rushed. Lunch was planned, and although short because it's a busy day, you still ate without being rushed. You go home and take a long walk before bed or in the middle of the evening most nights. Your walk isn't a set time, or destination, it's just being outside. Your co-worker that you see for 30 minutes of yoga twice a week asks you to cover for them while they take a loved one to the doctor. What's your response?

While you are thinking about your responses to the situation, notice how small and manageable the changes are but how big the difference in how your office relationship would benefit. No one is on a brand new diet and no one is going to the gym.

Here are four things we need to change, and really quick.

1) We need to set performance standards at work. If they are being met, we need to encourage people to move. Sitting is literally killing us. Teaching efficiency and freedom to move for even 3-5 minutes is very necessary. It's one thing to go for a walk, or move around. It's another thing to do it guilt-free. Our managers need to focus on productivity, not time at a desk.

2) I asked about group therapy at the start. It is amazing what simple walking, doing yoga, or offering fitness classes can do to bring teams together. No job titles, no work talk -- just a break. The office is full of relationships, and like any relationship, if the only time someone sees you is when you ask them for something or make a demand, the relationship will be strained.

3) Weight loss challenges need to go away, and stay gone. We've got the power of social media. You can kill two birds with one stone. Imagine a staff of 300 employees. If even 10 per cent take part in a workplace wellness challenge, you have 30 people on Twitter promoting your business. This is a big part of the corporate wellness programs I set up. It's amazing what a little fun on social media can do for morale!

4) Nutrition choices at work need to be healthy and available. Our bodies are made of constantly regenerating cells. We are beings that need fuel to move and think. The food we eat is the number one influence on how well those two life giving events will go. You want your employees to be mentally sharp and healthy? Feed them.

Workplace wellness is the battle ground for the downward spiral of health in our nation. If employers want their employees present and contributing, they need to take a proactive step to open lines of communication. If you reading this want to change your health, your life, and be full of energy it will take finding a workplace that allows small changes.

This isn't about beach body and gym stuff. This IS ABOUT not dying of a preventable disease, being exhausted and work, stressed out at home and living an unfulfilled life. Getting to the gym, getting a six pack, or being the next body transformation story isn't really important. That's something that appeals to maybe 10 per cent of the population. We created a workforce and sedentary lifestyle that is robbing us from exploring the world, having fun and making memories. The lie became that the gym is the key to health, and there is a diet or pill that will fix things.

Move to go be part of this amazing planet. Eat real food to fuel your body to make memories. Smelling the roses takes going outside. Going outside takes, well, going outside.

If you follow me on Twitter and instagram you will see me in the next couple months cross off two bucket list adventurers. I'm going to explore the dunes, parks and hiking trails in Arizona. It's been a dream of mine to explore a place so beautiful for years. You'll also see me explore my backyard. Why travel when your home is as beautiful and diverse as Manitoba. Both vacations are active, I'll need to be healthy to participate in all the activity. That's what health is all about. Those are the stories that last a lifetime.

Let's take control of the parts of our health we can. I'd love if you share this article around, get health to the forefront of every workplace policy. Consulting with workplaces is my passion, and the place where the health change begins.

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