How Internal Wellness Programs Can Help Your Corporate Environment

Health and wellness are hot topics in today’s culture and have become an important part of company culture as well. Many are adjusting their eating, exercise and stress management habits to live a better and longer life. But forming these healthy habits don’t just create benefits for people’s personal lives, they can see positive changes within their professional life as well.

Companies are choosing to encourage employees to lead healthier lifestyles by creating wellness programs for all to participate in. Whether it’s a full-fledged program in an on-site gym, or simpler program like a Fitbit competition, group walk at lunch, or a midday stretch, there are plenty of benefits to be seen by a company when it invests in its employees’ well-being.

Below find 4 reasons why you should consider a wellness program for your company:

1. Higher rates of retention. When companies build a culture based around support for employee well-being, studies show that 83% of employees enjoy their work more and 91% of employees are less likely to leave the company.

2. Increased productivity. Associates who exercise regularly see an increase in concentration, which, in turn, helps increase productivity and performance during the workday.

3. Better atmosphere. Developing healthier habits improve moods and decrease stress amongst associates. This creates a better working environment that fosters good relationships and a collaborative culture.

4. More employee engagement. Participation and engagement can be difficult to develop when it comes to organizations and their employees. Constructing a wellness program can be an easy way for employees to engage and connect more to the company and people that they work with.

Want to increase engagement with a wellness program at your company? Tribe can help.




Wellness in the workplace: Make it a competition

Around this time every year, Tribe starts its annual 12-week fitness competition. Anyone can compete, but no one has to. Those who choose to join set a personal weekly workout goal they have to stick with.

Each week you complete all your workouts, you get one point. Whoever has the most points after 12 weeks wins a cash prize. If you complete almost the number of workouts in your goal one week, you get zero points. No partial credit for even the best excuses.

At Tribe, we try to make our competition as democratic as possible without making it too easy. Participants create their own schedule that pushes their normal workout routine. So for instance, someone who never exercises can set a goal of 3 workouts per week but someone who works out 4 times a week already should probably up their goal to 5 or 6 days a week. This allows everyone to participate and have an equal shot at winning.

A new addition to Tribe’s fitness competition is a health screening. At the beginning of the 12 weeks we had Megan Hill, an exercise physiologist with A Stronger Workplace, take each participant’s Before Measures of BMI, body fat percentage, flexibility, grip strength, and a few others. She’ll come again at the end of the competition to help us pick a second winner this year – for most improved overall health score.

Many companies implement similar health assessments to help lower insurance costs and overall employee health. A recent article published on Yahoo news said, “One of the largest studies on workplace wellness programs involved 14,555 employees and spanned seven years at PepsiCo. After three years, the program was associated with lower health care costs. After seven years, the savings averaged $360 per employee.”

Wellness programs can be an extremely effective engagement tool and can have even more significant long-term effects. At Tribe we realize wellness is an important aspect of internal brand culture and a great way to build engagement.

Need help engaging employees through wellness? Tribe can help!

Using wellness to build employee engagement

Wellness can play a powerful role in employee engagement. Corporate fitness programs not only improve employees’ health and productivity, but can also help break down silos and build stronger connections between employees.

Wellness programs also provide a way to humanize your executive management, if they’re willing to participate. There’s something about seeing your CEO or manager in running shorts that reminds employees, “Hey, they aren’t that different than me.” As soon as employees start to make realizations like this, they feel more of a human connection with company management. Something like a fitness competition or even a company wide 10k could spark a conversation between a frontline employee and CEO that leads to the next big idea.

One interesting provider of corporate wellness programs is Exos, known for its work with top athletes on performance training, nutrition and physical therapy. In their corporate programs, Exos takes an initial assessment of a company’s employees and then targets the key areas that inhibit them from achieving their goals

Intel reports great success from their participation in Exos’ new trials in corporate wellness. Besides the obvious ROI of healthier employees, Intel no doubt benefited from increased engagement and productivity as well.

To read more about Exos’ new health initiative follow this link: More on Exos’ health initiative here.

At Tribe we know wellness. Not only do we take wellness hours from time to time to get a workout in during the workday, we also just began our annual fitness competition. The competition takes place throughout February, March and April. Each member of the Tribe team set a weekly goal that must be completed to get credit for that week. After 3 months, the weeks are tallied up and the person with the most completed weeks wins the grand prize of $500, funded by Tribe. Now, I have never been at Tribe during the fitness competition but I hear it gets pretty competitive. I’ve already started engaging my fellow employees more about their weekly fitness, which often shifts to a productive work conversation. Bring it on fellow employees!

Interested in communicating wellness to your employees? Tribe can help.

The Quantum Wellness Cleanse aka “Why I Ate Dinner by Myself for 18 Days”

I will no longer roll my eyes when a friend is on a new diet or doing a cleanse while I savor each bite of my bacon cheeseburger. Doing a cleanse was not my idea, it was Elizabeth’s, the CEO and President of Tribe. She weighs as much as I did in seventh grade, but thought it would be a good idea.

“No alcohol, caffeine, gluten, sugar, or animal products and it’s just for 21 days,” said Elizabeth with her usual upbeat perkiness. I’m just an occasional drinker on the weekends; only drink caffeine once every couple of months, so really only giving up three things for three weeks couldn’t be that hard. I agreed to participate and was excited to see how “cleansed” I would become. I was also curious to see if I would lose any weight. Elizabeth typed up a list of what we couldn’t eat, what we could eat, and some menu suggestions.

After the first week, I thought I’d flip through Kathy Freston’s “Quantum Wellness Cleanse” book to see if there were any other food suggestions. I discovered this is actually more than just a cleanse, I was supposed to meditate each day as well. I’ve never meditated before, but since I would also never dream of being a vegan, I thought I would do it for the rest of the cleanse. I flipped to the day to find my daily meditation. It was to say on the inhale “I am” exhale, “stronger than food.” While that simple phrase endlessly entertains me, I decided to only stick to the diet aspect of the cleanse.

After eating beans, rice and salad for a week, I needed to get creative. My boyfriend bravely came over for dinner to be served quinoa spaghetti with vegan gluten free organic pasta sauce. I mixed in a bag of frozen vegetables and a side of Vans’ wheat gluten free waffles. Being the good sport that he is, he just sat down, smiled and said “I’ve never had waffles with spaghetti before.”

I made it through day 19 of the cleanse and decided I had enough. Days 20 and 21 were Saturday and Sunday and I wanted to enjoy my weekend. I lost seven pounds and had a new appreciation for not having food allergies. Taking the time to read all the packages to make sure my food didn’t contain gluten was such a pain.

I also realize I might be lactose intolerant. Either that or maybe my cleansed body prefers not to be filled with deep fried delicious mozzarella gooiness smothered in creamy Parmesan dressing. Hard to say. This cleanse definitely made me more conscience about how certain foods make me feel. And when you think about it, who wouldn’t love to lose seven pounds? I’m happy Elizabeth suggested I do it and I’m glad that I did.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

How Silence Can Improve Your Career and Reduce Your Stress

Are you afraid of silence? Our culture certainly encourages us to fill our days with noise, whether it’s by having the TV on all the time or keeping ourselves so busy we never have time to stop and spend a few minutes in quiet.

Spending time in silence is one of the best ways to cultivate that inner voice. In business, your intuition is one of your most valuable assets. In my experience, the more you listen for that guidance, and the more you act on it, the stronger your intuition becomes.

The Quakers know about the power of silence. From what I understand, their worship services do not include a sermon from a minister or priest. A Friend’s meeting begins and ends with sitting together in silence, and the silence in between is broken only when someone feels moved to stand up and share some insight.

The disciplined silence is intended to help one hear that still, small voice inside. I believe members of the Religious Society of Friends would say they are listening for the voice of God or spirit. If that concept makes you uncomfortable, just stick with the idea of listening for your own inner wisdom.

That inner wisdom can help you make better decisions at work. If you will trust it, you’ll quickly find that it is a shortcut to productivity and success. Silence can help clear away all the mental clutter that prevents us from seeing clearly what we should do next.

The simplicity of silence can also help you live a less stressful life. The enforced stillness of sitting silently can help quiet that constant to-do list in your mind. You also might find that life seems to move at a more comfortable pace when you approach it with the calm gained in silence.

Health and Fitness Are Leading the Way to More Productive Companies

Are your employees stressed out? Yes, they are. After the last couple of years, who isn’t? Just Google stress and productivity and you’ll find plenty of evidence that it is in a company’s best interest to give employees tools for healthy living. “I see it every day,” says Lijia Carvolla, owner of Physique Fitness who leads group fitness classes at Federal Reserve Bank and Children’s Healthcare. “People come in to a class all freaked out and stressed, and they leave with a smile on their faces.”

We took the pulse of corporate wellness. Tribe’s research included a global survey and qualitative interviews with employees at companies with 50+ employees in a wide range of industries. Companies included big brands AT&T, Porsche, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Deloitte and UPS.

We found that while most companies these days have some form of corporate wellness initiative, these programs are often not promoted so employees were unable to take advantage of this benefit. One employee with Deloitte was shocked to find out that he could get reimbursed for a nutritionist and receive a reduced rate at a gym. Three months after signing up for both, he’s over 20 pounds lighter. “It makes me like the company more for making me look better in my jeans,” he says.

3 inexpensive ideas for starting a corporate wellness program.
The beauty of a corporate wellness program is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are three ideas for getting started today:

Start walking. To encourage employees to be more active, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport gave out pedometers to the approximately 700 employees in the Department of Aviation. To generate some buzz around this type of program, you could hold a contest and give out small prizes to employees who reach a huge milestone, like 200,000 steps in a month.

Give employees time to work out. Allow employees to have company-sanctioned time during the week to exercise. You can even offer to subsidize gym memberships. Many top companies are seeing huge benefits from such programs (which we’ll delve into in a moment).

Provide healthy lunches for employees. It doesn’t have to be every day—once a week (or even less) can do the trick. Healthy lunches also give employees the chance to interact with other employees in a more social atmosphere, which can go a long way towards building a sense of community among employees. Tribe and Zappos were recently featured as companies that see the benefits of providing employees a healthy lunch in Dianne Crampton’s new book Tigers Among Us: Winning business cultures and why they thrive.

Wellness is good and all, but does it affect the bottom line? Corporate wellness programs were once considered soft and fluffy initiatives. Now it’s serious business. The health care debate rages on the news 24/7. Congress is considering proposals to provide tax credits to employers who offer wellness programs. In addition, lawmakers said they would make it easier for employers to use financial rewards or penalties to promote healthy behavior among employees. Here are a few stats to get you thinking:

• A study by MetLife found 94 percent of companies with wellness programs saw reduced medical costs
• A sampling of ROI for Workplace Wellness Programs: Bank of America: 600 percent; General Motors: 370 percent; Pepsico: 300 percent; Citibank: 465 percent
• Companies with Workplace Wellness Initiatives have realized a 28% reduction in sick leave, a 26% reduction in adjunctive health care costs and a 30% reduction in disability and workers compensation costs

Happy, healthy employees make happy, healthy businesses. Even small and inexpensive programs that encourage healthy employees can go a long way towards building a culture of success.

Initial Results for Wellness Survey: It’s Worth It to Work Wellness into Your Bottom Line

Initial results are starting to come in from our survey about workplace wellness programs and their impact on employee engagement. Participants are still responding, but here are some numbers that caught my eye right off the bat:

94 percent of respondents say they either strongly agree or agree that they work better together when they spend time interacting with each other about things aside from work.

81 percent say they’d be interested in a company-supported wellness contest or collaborative program. For example, a wellness competition to see who can eat 5 vegetables and fruits a day for the most days, or a program in which employees collectively walk 10,000 miles to raise money for a charity.

What does this tell us? Some employers might worry that if they give employees time to work out during the day that productivity would suffer. It’s actually the opposite. The more employees interact with each other, the better. When employees are able to put aside differences and focus on getting the work done, everyone wins – including employers. Plus, exercise helps you clear your mind. You’ve returned from the treadmill with a fresh attitude, haven’t you?

Companies have been justifiably preoccupied with the bottom line this last year, but it’s not just the numbers that impact profitability and growth. How well employees work together is paramount to overcoming barriers like a recession. It takes a diverse set of talents to think of global innovative solutions; it takes a village.

So, can’t you just take them out for a drink? Sure, but that doesn’t do much for overall morale in your company. Engaging employees in taking responsibility for their health in a supportive environment is a wonderful way to engage them with each other and your brand, to boot.

With all of the news on health care in the US, the issues with obesity and the costs of providing health care to your workforce, starting a wellness program in your office is simply good business. And, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But it is important that leadership backs it up, and ideal if they’re involved.

Where do wellness and social media intersect? I’ve noticed that many companies use social media and also have some sort of health benefit. But there’s not a lot of intersection of the two in practice. Merging a brand’s wellness efforts and social media tools is like engagement on rocket fuel. You’re creating a group of healthy employees who are engaged and invested in each other and your company.

If you’ve started a foray into either area (health or employee engagment), and it hasn’t been going well, try leveraging one to do the other.

If you’d like to contribute your thoughts, please go to:

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Tips: How to Increase Employee Engagement with Workplace Wellness Programs

The key to a successful workplace wellness program is employee engagement. The reverse is also true. That is, one way to increase employee engagement is a successful wellness program.

Yesterday we were in a client’s break room, waiting for a meeting room to open up , and I noticed several flyers on the bulletin board about various wellness offerings. I was surprised by my initial reaction, which was, “Who would sign up for those?”

Why did they strike me as loser offerings? Because they seemed preachy and goody-goody and completely devoid of anything fun. One sounded like the school nurse was going to take you through a lecture on the five food groups. I’m not suggesting that wellness should be a barrel of laughs, but a good program creates energy and involvement. The more employees you can get to participate, the stronger your program will be.

An effective wellness program will do more than just increase productivity because people feel better and have more energy. It also gives co-workers a chance to do something together that’s unrelated to their usual work roles. It equals the playing field, so to speak, in a way that lets junior employees spend some time on an equal footing with those who rank above them in the company hieirarchy. It will also build relationships between people in different departments, which helps smooth the way to better teamwork and increased collaboration.

So how do you create a wellness program with plenty of employee engagement? Here are five tips:

1. Ask the employees what they want. Particularly in a small company, you can solicit input from the group. You can do a survey, if you want, but it might be easier just to ask people about their wellness concerns. Are they looking for ways to find time for exercise? Do they really wish they could quit smoking? Are they trying to eat healthier?

2. Get their help in constructing the program. Give some influential employees ownership of developing the program. If the group wants a yoga class at lunch, let an employee track down a good yoga instructor willing to do a class in the conference room. If they’re interested in a buddy-system diet, let an employee research South Beach vs. The Zone vs. WeightWatchers.

3. Make sure management joins in. The top level people in the company need to suit up and show up. If you give the impression that the boss is too busy for exercise, for example, employees might interpret the fitness program as something meant only for those who aren’t as serious about their work. Besides making it clear that you’re committed to wellness, it adds extra motivation for participation, at least by those employees who want more chances to rub shoulders with the boss.

4. Add an element of competition. Put together a contest with some level of cash prize, or a free day off, or something employees will see as worth their while. Look for a way to compete that doesn’t automatically give an advantage to the fittest among the group. For instance, instead of a contest to see who can bench press the most weight, compete on who can complete three workouts a week for the most weeks.

5. Create a collaborative goal. If your group tends to get a little too competitive, choose a goal they work towards together. Maybe after the employees collectively walk or run 10,000 miles, the company donates $1,000 to a worthy cause. Or let the collaborative goal benefit the employees more directly. After they lose so many pounds as a group, you’ll hire a massage therapist to give chair massages on Friday afternoon.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Starting a Workplace Wellness Program Might Be Easier Than You Think


Meditation room at Tribe

What can you do in the new year to improve employee morale and productivity without spending a ton of money? Easy answer: start some level of wellness program in your office. If you’ve ever considered doing something like that, this might be the perfect time.

Wellness programs allow you to give employees something they find meaningful without handing out big pay raises. Many small companies froze salary increases last year. In others, employees watched people in their company lose their jobs, and were understandably meek about pushing for their own salary reviews. But don’t think that means they’re not thinking about what they give the company for what they get. A workplace wellness program can be a very good way to let employees know you value their contributions.

Of course, it’s also the beginning of a new year. The perfect time for fresh starts, healthy new habits and lifestyle improvements. Your employees are probably already thinking about what they can do in 2010 to be healthier. A wellness program can help support them in their individual goals. It’s also a powerful way to bring new energy into the workplace.

How do you do it? You don’t have to build a company gym or pay for an on-site spa chef (although you could). Think in terms of providing flexibility (time) or resources (access). You can pick one element of wellness, like fitness or stress management or healthy eating and focus your program around that area. Or you can put together a small smorgasbord of wellness offerings. Here are a few examples:

• Allow employees extra time for lunch two or three days a week so they can fit in a walk or a run. At Tribe, we tell employees they can put up to three hours a week on their time sheets for exercise during the workday. We’ve found that whenever someone manages to fit in a workout or  yoga class during the day, they’re likely to come back to the office with a good idea or solution for something they’re working on. If nothing else, their energy level is higher that when they left.

• Use one of those empty offices for a meditation room. Move the desk out and put a small couch or a comfortable armchair in there instead. Or just put out a few yoga mats or some big floor pillows.  Add a few meditation CDs and a CD player, and you’re good to go. If employees feel comfortable spending 20 minutes meditating in the middle of the day, alone or with a coworker, that can go a long way towards reducing stress levels.

• Put a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room, and stock it weekly. When employees hit that pre-lunch or mid-afternoon slump, being able to skip the vending machine and grab an apple or banana instead can be a highly appreciated perk. Supporting wellness in the office can actually come down to some very simple (and inexpensive) changes.

The biggest thing employees are looking for in a wellness program is a way for the workplace to support them in living a good life. As a business owner, you do that by providing meaningful work and fair compensation. But lately, many companies have been asking employees to work harder without the hope of a big, fat salary increase. Especially in this economic environment, one of the best things you can do for your employees is to provide the flexibility and resources for them to take care of their own health.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

How to Launch a Workplace Fitness Competition

Tribe FitnessYou don’t have to be a big corporation to have a company wellness program. A fitness competition is a great way to bring wellness to life in your office, and it’s not particularly expensive or cumbersome to pull off. At Tribe, our fitness competition is an annual event, starting sometime just after the new year and having us all buffed out just in time for swimsuit season. (You can see some of our top contestants in the photo at above.) Here’s how we do it:

Rules of the game: Everyone is eligible to play, but no one has to. (For instance, our accountant Lauren never plays because she says, “I already look good in a bikini and that’s all that matters.”) The duration of the contest is 12 weeks.

The prize: A cash prize is good. We offer $500 cash to the winner, but I think our folks would participate with just as much zeal if the prize were only twenty bucks. After a few weeks, the contest becomes about much more than money. Whatever you offer as the prize is potentially the only expense of the competition.

Individual entries: Each player comes up with their own fitness plan and sets a goal to complete so many workouts or hours of exercise weekly. That goal cannot be altered once the contest begins. We’ve had people do everything from early-morning outdoor boot camp to late night hockey games to training for a marathon. Players are urged to set a goal that’s not too ambitious to pull off week after week, but not so modest a goal that the rest of the group will make fun of it.

Wellness hours: We also allow everyone to put up to five hours a week on their time sheets for wellness hours. That means they can take a long lunch to do a yoga class down the street or take a mid-afternoon break to work out in our office building’s tiny gym downstairs. Many days we’re too busy in the office for them to take advantage of that, but they seem to really like this option, when there’s time for it.

Scoring: We make a giant chart with everyone’s name and squares for each of the 12 weeks. On Monday mornings, we all stand in front of the chart and report on whether or not we’ve met our goal for the previous week. If you did, you get a star. If you didn’t, nothing. There are no partial points. If you only did four of the five workouts that comprise your goal, no star. Honor system prevails.

The winner: The person with the most stars at the end of 12 weeks wins the prize. But along the way, the competition gets fierce. At Tribe, we frequently have ad hoc teams spring up, despite the fact that it’s an individual score. One year Team Studio was the big rival for Team Breezeway (which was composed of everyone with a desk sort of in the hallway because they don’t have a real office.) One year we had several finalists tied at the end of 12 weeks and had to go into sudden death, which stretched out for a couple of months and was painful to watch. This year we agreed to settle any ties with a vote, for which aggressive campaigning is allowed.

The benefits: At the end of 12 weeks, everyone is more fit. A few of our people have made dramatic changes in their bodies and lives through the fitness competition. It’s also a healthy change to have us all competing on the same level playing field, so the intern is as likely to rise to the top as the CEO. (Maybe more so.) Maybe most importantly,  it elevates the sense of camaraderie and fun at work. You can feel a  heightened level of energy in the office, and that probably impacts our work as well.