Work + Life: Balance or Collision? Why Workplace Wellness Matters
By: Lindsay Bailey
For the average person that works “full-time” for 50 years, it’s said that one-third of our lifetime is spent in the workplace. That’s 90K hours that I’d like to ensure is balanced with healthy activities that bring happiness to my life. The workplace has become highly competitive to recruit and retain high caliber employees. If an employer expects their staff to constantly be plugged in, we ought to ensure their mental and physical needs are met to attain ultimate productivity and gratification.
I grew up in the midwest with two brothers, raised by a single mom. We didn’t have a lot of money, so SpaghettiOs and Hamburger Helper were mealtime staples. The Happy Meal made an all-too-frequent appearance as a balanced dinner, and lacing it with ketchup was the closest thing to a nutrient-rich vegetable that we had in the fridge. The sad reality is that approximately 43% of US households are low-income and sustain on diets similar to this. It’s the perceived high cost of quality health foods that cause low-income families to choose lower-nutrient, cost-efficient foods.
I experienced the results of this diet firsthand, as I was the “chubby girl” in school. I was excessively picked on, obscenities were written on my locker, and throwing gum in my hair was a popular sport. Imagine this teenager: nearly 170 pounds, with no concept of what a healthy diet or meaningful exercise looked like. I didn’t know where to look to improve my physical and emotional situation.
My eating and exercising habits didn’t change much, even into my twenties. But then I moved to San Francisco, where I was shocked to find people buying organic veggies at local farmers markets and running the steep hills for exercise and fun. Being in this health-focused environment inspired me to find a personal trainer, who further peaked my interest in fitness and nutrition. He introduced me to natural vitamin sources, balanced dietary supplements, and the truth of what processed food does to the body. He showed me how to exercise with good form and how to push my limits without hurting myself.
The flame for fitness and nutrition was ignited within me. But, like 92% of our working class, I did my 9-to-5 duty in the corporate world, where I’d eat lunch over my keyboard. After a long workday in a drab office, I had little motivation to go to the gym.
With the rise of the always-on mobile workforce, a simple work-life balance is a thing of the past, making it even tougher for employees to find proper nutrition and exercise. Work environments are increasingly competitive, and there’s a rise in mental health challenges. Employees are expected to be responsive, even during hours they’re not in the office, yet aren’t afforded opportunities during the workday to have their mental and physical needs met. However, of those progressive companies that do offer wellness solutions, 61% report having a healthier workforce with increased productivity.
Moving on to 2013: I finally had a job I loved. I traveled, ate, and drank on my company’s dime. I made good money and had a great apartment, car, and boyfriend — all things I thought I was “supposed” to have at 30. However, I rarely talked to my family. I’d go out drinking with random people just to keep busy. While I had lost some weight, I was unhealthy inside and out.
Finally, I’d had enough of neglecting my wellbeing and starting making drastic changes. I made the decision to walk away from the corporate rat-race and cut alcohol from my life. I became a personal trainer and certified yoga teacher for companies. It was here that I was inspired by how these companies not only paid for their staff to take classes, but encouraged them to stop working for at least an hour each day to focus on their health. I was seeing firsthand how an employer-supported wellness program could improve people’s daily lives, and I knew I wanted to be a bigger part of it.
As I dug deeper to understand the impact corporate wellness could have, I uncovered countless studies showing that consistent, multi-faceted employer wellness programs build team camaraderie and engagement with their employer. This, in turn, heightens productivity, decreases absenteeism, and lowers healthcare costs. As a premier example, Johnson & Johnson estimates that wellness programs saved the company $250 million on healthcare over the past decade, with a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent.
I learned that when companies dedicate resources and invest in the well-being of their employees, they create loyalty and ultimately retain the best workers. Springbuk, a leading corporate health analytics platform, compiled stats from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) which indicates that 69% of employees would participate in wellness programs if provided by their company.
Soaking in all of this research and firsthand experience led me to found FitPros, a workplace wellness service provider with a clear mission: making healthy living accessible to people where they spend the most time — at work. Now in its third year, we’ve learned at FitPros that while one-off fitness classes are nice to have, they aren’t enough. Employees need to know that their employer truly cares and makes an investment in an ongoing wellness initiative that supports their physical, mental, and nutritional goals for the long-haul.
To recruit and retain high-caliber employees, it’s imperative that companies are competitive in offering wellness programs that support a healthy work-life balance. A fully-integrated, impactful program will not happen overnight, but it can succeed with ongoing, whole-hearted support from the top-down.
Lindsay Bailey is the Founder and CEO of FitPros.com. Visit FitPros.com or email hello@FitPros.com for more information.
Originally published at www.ellevatenetwork.com.