We all know about the 3 o’clock slump at the office. You’re feeling sluggish. But instead of reaching for candy or caffeine, how about doing yoga? Or going for a walk with your colleagues?
More and more employers are looking for ways to keep their employees fit, healthy and yes, happy.
“Exercise helps improve productivity at work,” says Yana Hempler, a certified personal trainer. “This goes hand in hand with not being stressed out about your job and having a lot more energy to deal with whatever your work challenges may be.”
Hempler says many companies promote health and fitness by reimbursing employees for their gym and training fees; providing basic gym equipment to be used during lunch or after work; creating “colleagues teams” for local races; and hosting health and fitness “lunch and learns.”
“Employees really like these healthy initiatives at work because they feel that their bosses care about them and their well-being,” Hempler notes.
Other benefits of these healthy initiatives include reduced stress, fewer sick days for employees and better insurance rates because workers are healthier.
At TheSquareFoot, a company specializing in commercial real estate leasing, workers do group pushups every hour (increasing the number of reps each time); use standing desks if they don’t want to sit all day; regularly participate in yoga exercises; and compete in ping pong tournaments. The company also provides healthy snacks, like fruits and nuts.
“Our employees like and agree that being active helps them have a stronger focus throughout the day, and they simply enjoy the activities we promote,” says Justin Lee, one of TheSquareFoot’s co-founders. “They are all fun and almost all a game in some way.”
Some offices offer employees the opportunity to work out while they’re on the job. For example, walking on a treadmill while making phone calls, checking emails and reading reports can burn between 120 and 150 calories.
“A lot of bad things happen to our bodies when we sit, and a lot of wonderful things happen when we are in motion,” says Steve Bordley, CEO of TrekDesk.com, a company that sells desks that are compatible with treadmills.
Many of the 20 workers at imo, a Web-based instant messaging service, use treadmill desks. The company also offers benefits like a housing stipend for employees who live close to work and walk to the office; subsidized memberships to Equinox gym; and even custom-branded Nike shoes for employees on their first “imoversary” with the company.
Online-only home improvement retailer Build.com is helping its nearly 400 employees stay healthy and active. Over half of them use standing desks, including Sean Murphy, the company’s public relations coordinator and DIY specialist.
“The benefits include less fatigue throughout the day, better blood circulation, less tightness in the legs? and just an overall feeling of better focus,” he says, adding that employees can sit at a desk if they prefer.
Build.com employees also benefit from in-house yoga, which is held twice a week with a local instructor. Murphy says the yoga results in “increased focus and flexibility, relaxation and reduced stress.”
Forget meetings in boring conference rooms. Build.com employees attend walking meetings.
“Arguably our most popular meeting room is outside,” says Murphy. “This allows us to breathe the fresh air and helps with communication and increased blood circulation and flexibility.”
Central Michigan University is making the well-being of their 2,500 employees a priority.
As part of the school’s “For the Health of It” wellness program, which launched in 1999, employees are encouraged to participate in healthy activities such as on-campus scavenger hunts and walks, as well as stress management classes and weight loss groups.
CMU has a “gain-sharing” plan whereby employees can earn money (up to $335 per person each year) for participating in healthy activities, including getting paid $75 to do an annual health risk assessment and earning a $35 per month reward for each quarter employees have exercised a certain number of minutes.
“People rave about how the (wellness) program has helped them make important changes in their lifestyle habits,” says Jacqui Pridgeon, director of benefits and wellness at Central Michigan University.
By Kristen Castillo