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.




Stephen Burns

A cheaper alternative to the healthier standing desk

Tribe has long been a fan of Hootsuite. Not only for their great social media dashboard, which is the platform we use to run our Twitter page, but also for their fantastic company culture and the free resources they provide for small businesses and the general public. In many ways, the company is a model for success in the social media industry.

So, when we heard that HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes had developed a new standing desk, needless to say we were intrigued. Check it out here. It’s called the Oristand, and at $25 (or $100 for a 5-pack) the folding cardboard conversion is an inexpensive alternative to large, bulky and expensive standing desks. The idea came from HootSuite employees who were cobbling together their own versions out of Ikea furniture and shelves.

For a while now, we’ve been working with many of our clients to promote wellness in the office. A major point that always arises is detrimental act of all-day sitting. Studies have shown repeatedly that the amount of time that the average American office employee spends in a chair is unhealthy. How bad is it? According to the Washington Post, sitting heavily contributes to factors that increase heart disease, pancreas overuse, colon cancer, back injuries and leg disorders — just to name a few things.

Ideally, employees would have time to spend throughout the day to counteract these effects. But we all know that taking a leisurely walk to get the juices flowing is a luxury during a busy day. Sometimes, we simply can’t take the time away from our work. With that in mind, we need to do all we can to ensure that every employee has a way to fight the negative outcomes of sitting.

Many times, the healthier options in life are not always the most affordable. In a perfect world, when it comes to employee wellness, there would be no limit to that budget. But the reality is that standing desks range from $100 all the way to $700 for top-of-the line options. That just isn’t a viable option for many companies. On the other hand, a small business could nearly outfit an entire office with Oristands for the price of one nice standing desk.

Holmes’ innovation is a huge step forward in the standing desk movement. And we hope that it’s a harbinger of the affordable employee wellness revolution to come.

Want to start an employee wellness program at your company? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to 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!

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Wellness Tips To Avoid Sick Days

Wellness programs are becoming a more common perk in the workplace. In a recent letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I responded to an article that featured the excellent wellness programs of several local corporations. I wanted to make the point that wellness is not just for big companies.

Small businesses can incorporate wellness too. At Tribe, we hold an annual fitness competition, have run local 5k races as a corporate team and offer three hours a week that employees can exercise during the workday. Those things help keep our employees fit.

But wellness also means avoiding sick days. In any office, multiple employees are touching the same doorknobs, telephones, counters and desks. And we know that disease-causing germs and bacteria are spread through touching those surfaces.

One of the smartest things we’ve done to reduce sick days is have OxiArmor applied to all the surfaces in our office.  OxiArmor is a coating that attracts, traps, and kills bacteria and viruses, including disease causing strains, using the energy of indoor light or sunlight. It took about 30 minutes for a company called Medinet to spray our entire office and that one treatment remains effective for up to two years.

OxiArmor has made a big difference. Of course, we also encourage hand washing, keep fresh fruit in the kitchen for disease-fighting phytochemicals and wipe down counters and desks with antiseptic wipes from time to time. Our staff is small, but we no longer seem to pass around the same cold or flu from one person to the next.

As a matter of fact, we don’t even offer sick days. If an employee doesn’t feel well, we encourage them to stay home. But by and large, our staff stays  healthy. Some of them have been an entire year without ever getting sick.

Vacation days? That’s different. Nobody around here doesn’t use their vacation time.

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

5 Tips for Engaging Employees With Your Wellness Program

Companies often launch employee wellness programs because of the health benefits, but these programs also can increase employee engagement. By activating the programs with initiatives that focus not just on the individual but help employees connect with their co-workers, build departmental and cross-departmental relationships and feel part of a group, wellness can foster a much higher level of employee engagement. Here are 5 ideas for how to make that happen:

1. Start a competition: This could be an  annual fitness competition, based on sticking to individual exercise goals; it could be a weight loss challenge; it could be collecting miles walked or run to reach a collective mileage goal. LexisNexis, based in Alpharetta, GA. has instituted an annual 5K run/walk called the LexisNexis Windward Challenge that has evolved into not just a race, but a family event with live music and other attractions.

2. Use your intranet to add a social element: Let your employee intranet make individual wellness efforts visible and create both a competitive spirit and a venue for support. Employees can establish individual fitness profiles with goals and report their progress against those goal; they can post their planned workout for the day; they can track their mileage or time,; or they could even find tennis partners or running buddies from the ranks of their colleagues.

3. Create a partner program: Whether employees are working on weight management or smoking cessation or just general fitness, studies show having a partner can increase success rates. That could mean pairing two people both working on the same sort of goals, or assigning a mentor who’s had success in that area to someone just beginning to make a change in their life. For instance, you might have an experienced runner mentor a co-worker just beginning to train for their first 5K. Or you might pair two people trying to quit smoking as support for each other. These partnerships can also be established and maintained via the intranet.

4. Launch a virtual competition across locations: This can be a particularly strong program for companies with locations spread across the country or around the world. Competing against other locations helps employees realize they’re part of something bigger that just their own office, and can build great awareness of and engagement with far-flung business units and colleagues. LexisNexis now includes a virtual 5K in their Windward Challenge so that colleagues in other locations can participate by running or walking a 5K in their neighborhood — or even on their treadmills.

5. Host a healthy lunch contest online: Ever notice how often people post photos of what they’re eating on Facebook? You can harness that same impulse for an employee competition. Employees snap a picture with their smart phone of what they brought for lunch, post it on the intranet, and then other employees can vote for it or simply “like” it. This could also include a recipe element, but doesn’t need to. Shots of hummus and raw vegetables or a healthy chili or big salad need little explanation for others to emulate — and usually prompt some spontaneous online conversation as well, which can connect employees who might otherwise never have had any reason to interact.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Tribe’s Annual Fitness Competition Gets Interesting

This is where the rubber meets the road. Every year, when we launch our annual fitness competition at Tribe, we all start out gung ho. Week after week, everyone hits their goal. But two or three weeks from the finish line, which is about where we are now, some of our toughest competitors begin to drop.

The rules of the competition are simple:

• The first rule of the fitness competition is that everyone’s welcome to play but nobody has to.

• Everybody makes up their own weekly fitness plan, but you have to commit to it up front. No changes allowed once the contest is underway.

• Your weekly fitness plan has to be ambitious enough that the rest of us won’t make fun of you.

• The prize is $500 cash money, funded by Tribe.

The weekly fitness plans vary widely, depending on each person’s interests, schedule  and fitness level. Lindsay combines hockey and the gym. Miles runs and does pull-ups and push-ups. Michele does cardio machines and weights (at 5 am every day). Jennifer works with a trainer twice a week and does an hour of intervals on weekends. Beth does kick boxing classes, runs stadium stairs and tackles hilly trail runs with her dogs.

We also work on the honor system. If you say you made your goal, then you get an X in that week’s box on our master chart. If you somehow fell short of that goal, you’re the only one who can tell us that.

In the meantime, life happens. Lindsay, who was our first year’s finalist in a sudden death that stretched out for well over a month, dropped out immediately this year because she decided she’d rather have a social life. Miles had a period of super-tight deadlines and long workdays that stretched out too late for running after work, so he missed his goal for a few weeks and fell out of the front runners. Beth pulled her back out  midway through her sprint work at the track the other day and was writhing around on the ground in pain, mad that she wouldn’t be able to count that workout towards her goal.

If Beth were anybody else, we’d assume she was out of the competition. But knowing her, it will probably take more than an injury to keep her from somehow managing to hit her goal this week. Come to think of it, just last week she tripped on a root during one of her trail runs, ripped off a toenail and had her shoe filling up with blood. She kept running.

Still in the running for the $500 prize are Alexis, Michele, Jennifer and (I’m proud to say) myself. So depending on Beth’s speed of recovery,  it looks like we’ll have either four or five competitors with flawless records moving into the final two weeks.

We’re still a little iffy on our tie-breaker policy. One year we had the famous sudden death that was painful to watch. Another year we all voted for our favorite finalist, which means it basically became a popularity contest. This year, we’d sort of settled on the vote system again, but now Beth is trying to raise support for a round robin that requires each finalist to do the hardest workout of every other finalist and then vote on who was strongest in each. The logistics alone make me tired.

If you have a suggestion for a better way to decide a winner, we’d love to hear it.

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.

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.