“Eliminating the things you love is not wellness. Wellness feeds your soul and makes you feel good.” - Iman
My friend, Charlie Grace, works for a huge company. He’s one of the hundreds of workers in this company, although he likes his job, there are certain events that take place yearly that he could do without.
“I’ve got the company retreat this weekend,” he once groused to me when I asked if he wanted to go to the Sox game with me. He then launched into a funny, yet sad, diatriabe about the “splendors” of the corporate retreat. There are meetings and speakers to rev you up and get you thrilled about the company and the progress they’re making. There are mingle events, there are pamphlets and videos and drinking, lots of drinking. At the end of the weekend there are a lot of handshakes and hugging and maybe even some personal promises to strive for more, give a little extra and the like but, Charlie says, that stuff washes away in about a month and you’re back to the desk and the day to day.
“The worst thing,” he tells me, “is one morning, crack of dawn’s ass, we’ll all be forced to gather in a huge room, with ugly carpet and a twenty something woman who’s been hired by the company. She’ll be there in her leotard and shining morning face and she’ll warm us up. Loud music with a thumping beat coming out of her boombox. All us guys are in jackets and ties, all the women are in dresses and heels, and this wanna be Jane Fonda is expecting us to roll on the floor and stretch to the stars and … worse, put down our coffee.” Charlie explains that this half hour session on the second morning, which is offered on the third morning as well, but only the people who don’t realize the second session isn’t mandatory show up, is the company’s nod toward wellness. “That little warm up session during the retreat and an email that goes around after the holidays with an offer for a reduced price gym membership and some vague warning about diabetes is the company showing they care about our health and well being.”
Showing they care by having a mandatory warm up session that no one is dressed for, no one is physically or emotionally prepared for but, if you don’t do it, you’ll get in trouble, like a kid not turning in his homework on time. Makes me feel healthier already.
I was looking at statistics for wellness programs for corporations and what I found was mostly numbers about how every dollar invested in wellness programs generated x number of dollar in healthcare savings. Yup, there it is, the magic word; savings. Most corporations see wellness programs as something that will make their people cost less to insure. They can also pay people to comply. If you want the better healthcare benefits then engage in one of our wellness programs. If you don’t engage, you don’t get the good healthcare coverage. No one really wants to hear or is motivated by the statement; “improve your health or take a financial hit”. People don't operate that way. This sows the seeds of resentment and divides your company. The club that works out against the ones who don’t or can’t. The corporation isn't being unified, it’s being divided and that’s not what the CEO wants.
But, does the CEO care?
A CEO has a lot to think about. They have minds filled with; increasing revenue, profit , market share or stock price, serving customers, globalization, technology disruption and winning the corporation’s top award to put on their shelf or go to the banquet and get an article written about them in Forbes. Where does employee wellness fall on their list? Number 20? Lower? Do they think of it at all or is that passed on to some underling to set up a contest to see who can lose the most weight or run the 5K fastest?
This competitive bent may be inviting to those who love that kind of thing, but, for those who might be interested in taking advantage of a wellness program, they could be turned off by all the high fives and the talk of someone being a loser because they couldn’t keep up in the gym. Again, what you have is a wellness program that isn’t uniting but rather ostracizing in nature.
A CEO should be thinking about his employee’s wellness beyond just stress balls with the company logo and some strive for better quote printed on it at Christmas. The employee is the CEO’s most valuable asset and making sure they’re healthy means making sure his corporation is running well. So, a good wellness program is going to start from the top and move through the company.
Unlike the “take part in the wellness program or you won’t get good benefits” approach or the half hearted nod to wellness that is the early morning warm up at the corporate retreat, people will sense the truth of what the wellness program is about so, be honest. If the reality is you’re offering the program so you can save a bundle on insurance that simply says I don’t actually care about you, I care about profits and my bonus, then don’t bother. Save the money and don’t make the employees feel like idiots or feel forced into being better. Employees will see right through that and it will cause resentment and division and then, you’ll be spending money on surveys and case studies to figure out why people are leaving in droves. Take some time, really think about what the wellness of your company means, and do something about it with sincerity and truth. People will respond better when they feel something is being done for them rather than being done to them.
The Whole Person
Wellness is not just about getting ready for the company 5k or seeing who can lose those holiday pounds the quickest, then it’s done, yay, you’re well! Wellness starts with the mental state of a person and then extends into the physical. A good wellness program is one that engages the entire person, the mind, the body and the spirit. Now, spirit may be too touchy feely for the corporate world but, the spirit, the will, the drive, the desire is extremely important and if the spirit is not engaged and fed, the rest of the body is not going to follow.
A wellness program is not one size fits all. Just because one program works for a certain company that doesn’t mean that same program is going to work for yours. The company, the employees, need to be engaged and asked what they need, what would help, what is actually unwell about them, before a wellness program can be entered into. Take this time, find out, and your chances for success will increase. If you just grab any program with the word wellness attached to it, it may not fit your company's unique needs or the company zeitgeist. Take time, ask questions, find out the specific needs, goals and desires of the employees. If you really put the effort in and care, then you’ll have a better chance of your wellness program actually working. Or, you can just buy a treadmill and throw clothes on it.
Think About Yoga
When it comes to taking care of the mind, body and spirit there are few wellness programs as comprehensive as yoga. The word itself is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’ meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. The whole idea of yoga is the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness and finding a perfect harmony between the mind, body, man and nature. If you’re looking for a way to enhance team building, can you really beat unifying the consciousness of your employees and linking it to the greater consciousness of the planet?
Yoga, unlike running a marathon or going to the gym and pumping iron, is low impact and it’s manageable for people of all ages and body types, even those with various aches and pains as well as varying levels of stress and motivation. Truly, as a wellness program, yoga is inclusive to everyone in the office.
Yoga has been proven to increase morale, general health, and find balance in people’s lives. For the CEO, you will find that taking a yoga class increases productivity, creates a greater collaborative feel to the office in a natural way without forced competitions and prizes. All of this fits the ultimate CEO-centric goal of reducing medical absences that can send health insurance costs skyrocketing.
Yoga, as a wellness plan for a corporation certainly makes sense in results and cost. Some places, like Salt Lake Power Yoga, offer wellness plans to fit your corporation, your company’s needs and they will even come to your office.
This Feels Better
Yoga has a strong spiritual base and because of this often times people will dismiss the positive benefits as being all in the mind. This dismissal is probably why a lot of corporations don’t think of yoga when it comes to a wellness option. But, the fact is, yoga has many, scientifically backed health benefits that other wellness programs may not achieve. Here are ten benefits of yoga that science and studies back:
- It decreases stress. It is known to ease stress and promote relaxation
- Relieves Anxiety. There is quite a bit of research connecting yoga to a reduction of anxiety.
- Reduces inflammation. Inflammation is a normal immune response but chronic inflammation can contribute to pro-inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
- Improves heart health. Studies show yoga helps improve heart health and function and reduces risk factors for heart disease.
- Fights depression. It decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that influences levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter often associated with depression.
- Reduces chronic pain. There is a growing body of research demonstrating that the practice of yoga helps to reduce many types of chronic pain.
- Promotes sleep quality. Incorporating yoga into a daily routine can help improve the quality of your sleep.
- Improves flexibility and balance. There is considerable research on this point demonstrating that both balance and flexibility are improved by specific poses targeting these two areas.
- Improves breathing. Many types of yoga incorporate breathing routines and these routines aid in overall better, more easy breathing.
- Increases strength, There are specific poses in yoga that are designed to increase strength and build muscle.
There are more studies and more benefits but these ten are benefits that connect to people who work in offices and spend the majority of their days hitting and hunched over a computer. Yoga isn’t just a whimsical idea, the science backed benefits as well as the centuries it has been practiced, prove the benefits are real and helpful, even in the corporate world.
The Bottom Line
Unhealthy is sometimes just a habit. Sitting in chairs all day, squinting at computers may lead to unhealthy habits and breaking these habits is something that a CEO who truly cares about the most important part of his company, should actively seek to rectify. Forcing employees to ‘get healthy’ or else is not a viable answer. Setting up competitions may feel fun for some but, for others it may recall horrific events in their past. Finding a gentle, manageable, more universal approach to corporate health may be as simple as visiting the local yoga studio. Yoga certainly addresses the mind, the body and the spirit, it unites rather than divides, it welcomes rather than competes and it can be the answer to so many questions that corporate wellness now asks, both physical and financial. Truly, the notion of a free, clear mind allows for a free and clear body. That is a step toward better wellness.