Workday Stress Relief for Healthy Hearts

Chances are, youHeart and your colleagues know a thing or two about work stress. Chances are you know that chronic tension can have a major impact on heart health. Taking the stress out of work might not be possible, but how we work to manage that stress can impact how employees feel on a day-to-day basis. So, in honor of American Heart Month, here are a few tips for promoting stress relief to your team:

  • A little education can go a long way. Share tips for stress relief with your team regularly. (You can find other great tips online, like these from WebMD, or, if you’re a client, by perusing the LifeBalance Articles section for suggestions.)
  • Here at LifeBalance, we’re huge proponents of taking “moving” breaks. 10 minute walks around the building, a few jaunts up and down the stairs, a lunch break workout – all are heart-healthy, invigorating outlets for stress. Bonus: Our employees say it helps them stay focused!
  • Stretching throughout the day can make a major difference when it comes to easing stress (and reducing daily aches and pains). Encourage employees to perform brief stretches at their desk a few times a day. Start or end meetings with a few stretches. Or lead 5-10 minute stretch breaks during the day. (Check out suggestions from the 2BWell Clinic for examples of great office stretches.)
  • Bring stress relief to your team! Mindfulness is all the rage right now, and for good reason. Check for local companies (or ask us to help you find local LifeBalance Vendors) that can provide on-site yoga, meditation or mindfulness classes.
  • Invite a massage therapist on-site regularly or during high-stress projects to perform chair massages for your staff.
  • Have a tense meeting on the docket? Need to work out an issue between two colleagues? Rather than staring one another down in a conference room, suggest walking meetings to work out conflict. The fresh air and movement can diffuse tension and allow for more relaxed dialogue.
  • Get the LifeBalance Program so that you have a wide variety of discounted stress-relieving options for every one on your team.
  • Practice what you preach! Round colleagues up for that walk, do a few regular stretches of your own and attend the on-site yoga class. Your team will feel more comfortable trying stress-relief tactics if they see others employing them while at work, particularly those in HR or leadership roles. And it demonstrates that those daily stress-management exercises are supported from above.
  • Lastly, address stress in the workplace. Talk regularly with your employees about their stress levels and get their feedback. Poll your colleagues to find out what THEY think would help them keep stress at bay while at work. After all, there are plenty of tips for managing employee stress out there, but each team is unique; communicating with yours is the best way to ensure that your stress-busting initiates are relevant and helpful for your team.

The Wellness Weave: How to Simultaneously Improve Employee Health and Satisfaction

Fitness Ball at Desk

Want healthy and dedicated employees? Weave a wellness focus into your engagement initiatives to ensure employee well-being and satisfaction.

Wellness doesn’t have to be a stand-alone component of your benefits package. We believe that wellness is most effective when it’s woven into the very fabric of an organization, when it becomes a part of a company’s seemingly-unrelated goals and initiatives.

Take, for example, employee engagement. In its article 6 Simple but Highly Effective Ways to Boost Employee Engagement, the Huffington Post outlines a few great steps that employers can take to help employees stay motivated and committed. These include:

  • Create a Positive Work Environment
  • Make Work Matter
  • Give Employees Opportunity to Grow
  • Eliminate Stress
  • Invest in Education
  • Show Appreciation

While none of these steps specifically mention wellness, all provide opportunities to focus on well-being.

Not sure what we mean? Let’s break it down. Here are Huffington’s six suggestions, with our tips for weaving wellness into each of them.

1. Create a Positive Work Environment. The Wellness Weave: Make that work environment more positive by making it a wellness-focused environment. Add to happy hours regular group walks or runs (after work, perhaps?) and afternoon stretching sessions. Provide nutritious snacks, host healthy potlucks, encourage active breaks, and hold walking meetings when discussing tough topics – the fresh air and movement will do wonders for tension.

2. Make Work Matter. The Wellness Weave: Make sure employees know THEY matter. Show that both their work AND their health and happiness are essential to the company’s success. Support their efforts to lead a balanced lifestyle with flexible scheduling to allow for fitness, volunteering, family events or after-work engagements. Offer health perks, like wellness discounts or rewards, and make sure employees take their vacation. Show them you know they are more than their job title, and they’ll show you how good at their job they can be.

3. Give Employees Opportunities to Grow. The Wellness Weave: Give employees opportunities to grow healthier. When talking to employees about their career goals, find out what their personal wellness goals are, too, and talk about how the company can provide support. You may even find that many employees have the same goals (for example, weight loss or stress management), which may make it easier to choose wellness initiatives that speak to your team.

4. Eliminate Stress. The Wellness Weave: Make that stress-elimination wellness-focused. Can you add a ping pong , Foosball or pool table in an unused room? Cornhole or horseshoes on the lawn? An on-site yoga or meditation class? Give employees outlets for stress (ideally, active or creative ones) and a space in which they can give themselves a mental break.

5. Invest in Education. The Wellness Weave: Invest in wellness education. Many of us make unhealthy choices without realizing it, or don’t understand the healing power of proper nutrition, or don’t know the negative effects of sitting all day.

Education is the impetus for change. So whether it’s holding classes on-site, subsidizing employees’ enrollment in wellness-focused classes or seminars, sharing educational articles, implementing LifeBalance’s educational wellness challenges, or inviting health experts to speak to your team, prioritize wellness education just as you would continuing education.

6. Show Appreciation. The Wellness Weave: Show appreciation with wellness rewards, and show appreciation for wellness accomplishments!

If you’re going to reward your employees for a job well done, consider a reward that can be used on a wellness-focused activity or expense. How about a gift certificate to their yoga studio or gym, or for a massage, or to REI or Sports Authority? (LifeBalance Rewards, for example, will let employees redeem prizes at sporting goods stores, health clubs, yoga studios, spas and more.)

And praise wellness accomplishments! Openly congratulate employees who, say, complete their first 5K or climb a mountain. Share pictures of their hikes or kayak trips or race finishes in your company newsletter. Give shout-outs to those who take regular lunch break walks together or meet up for Zumba each week. Show them you respect and value their dedication to their own well-being.

As you can see, employee engagement and well-being go together quite naturally! And it doesn’t have to stop there; when you weave elements of well-being into other employee programs and initiatives, you’ll create a wellness-focused culture that feels natural, genuine and rewarding.

Want a Healthy Workplace in 2015? 4 Steps to Get Your Plan in Place.

calendarWe know you’ve been lining up benefits and policies for 2015. But give wellness the planning attention it deserves and you might just facilitate your company’s healthiest year yet! Here are just a few tips:

1. Ask Your Employees Now!

You’ve probably been measuring the effectiveness of your wellness initiatives. But going to the source to get feedback on why certain initiatives were successful, why some weren’t, and how some initiatives can be improved can help you hone in on what your employees respond to, saving you a lot of time and money in the long run! You can also survey staff to find out more about their current health habits so that you can address concerns with upcoming initiatives. Check out the CDC’s Worksite Health Promotion site for tips about surveying your team. Then poll them asap so that you can plan effective measures for 2015.

2. Outline your wellness calendar. 

Before you panic about one more calendar or outline for 2015, know that this one doesn’t have to be a ton of work, or complicated, or expensive. It’s simply an outline of how you will address employee well-being throughout the year.

Make a goal to address a wellness-related benefit, event, challenge, discount, goal, or initiative each month. Perhaps there are certain wellness initiatives that take place each year; say, biometric screenings in the fall or a walking challenge each spring. Add those to your calendar, and look for ways to fill the other months! It could be with lunch-and-learns, weekly lunchtime walks, educational emails, speakers, contests, highlighting local walks and runs or setting up and promoting fitness discounts. How you fill the months is up to you, and your calendar can be flexible! But planning is the first step of doing; let your wellness calendar help you consistently promote well-being all year.

3. Plan to implement wellness challenges. Multiple wellness challenges.

We love wellness challenges (we offer six of them, after all). We know they’re highly effective. We also know that two challenges are better than one.

Implementing multiple challenges will give you a chance to engage and educate employees multiple times throughout the year. It will provide your colleagues with fresh motivation to maintain the healthy habits and routines that they picked up in the first challenge (or motivation to get back on track, if they’ve started to slip). Everyone has different interests, abilities and motivational triggers, so the more ways you can motivate your diverse team, the better! And, in our experience, if employees decide to take the plunge and do one challenge, they usually participate in others.

Not sure what kind of challenges to implement or when to start? Contact us for a solution based on your population, your budget and your schedule.

4. Plan a wellness fair!

If you really want to get your team focused on wellness, try a wellness fair (separate from your usual benefits fair). From inviting speakers to bringing local health club reps on-site, there are a lot of things you can do to educate your employees on their wellness resources. Check out our tips for hosting a successful wellness event here.

Bonus points: Hold your wellness fair during the registration period for a wellness challenge. Doing so really helps generate buzz surrounding a challenge, and if employees can sign up at the event and get questions answered on the spot, you’ll greatly increase participation and motivation!

4. Plan to strategically promote your LifeBalance discounts.

Your office probably goes through the post-holiday fitness craze just like, well, pretty much every office in America. How about highlighting your LifeBalance health club, yoga and weight management discounts in January? Promote running/walking gear or cycling savings as the weather warms up; whitewater rafting, camping gear and amusement park discounts for spring break and summer; skiing/snowboarding discounts in the winter and massage/spa discounts during your company’s most stressful months. Be sure to share information about a mix of wellness and recreational discounts, as after all, healthy recreation is an important part of well-being.

Don’t have LifeBalance discounts for your staff?  Contact us to learn about implementing this affordable, turn-key and valued employee benefit.

A Vegan’s Experience

Carrots

The Everybody Eats Nutrition Challenge helped one participant revive her backyard garden.

Implementing our Everybody Eats Nutrition Challenge for Clackamas County employees was exciting. Getting great feedback from participants who hardly ate fruits and veggies prior to the challenge was rewarding. But hearing from a long-time vegan that Everybody Eats even showed her a thing or two? To us, that’s priceless.

“I’ve been a vegan for over fifteen years, so I didn’t think I’d get much out a challenge focused on increasing fruits and vegetables. Boy, was I wrong! I learned a lot about my eating habits and found it fairly easy to increase my veggie intake (by decreasing my junk intake). I was surprised that people found adding veggies to be the most challenging. I was also surprised by my lack of fruit intake. Fruit can be very difficult to digest, especially to those with fructose sensitivities. There are safe ways to incorporate fruits into the diet, however, and I thought I’d been doing that fairly well. Nope. Not at all. The challenge helped shine a light on the fact that I was barely eating any fruit at all. It also helped me focus more on my families’ fruit and veggie intake and make use of our backyard garden. Thank you!!” – A Clackamas County Everbody Eats Participant

Getting your Team to Walk the Walk

Do you find yourself sitting a lot at work? How about your colleagues? We’re all becoming more familiar with the risks of sedentary lifestyles. But combating those risks is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.

The question, then, is how do you help get your colleagues to take more steps? Here are a few ideas:

1. Implement a company-wide walking challenge! Employer-sponsored walking challenges are super hot right now, and for good reasons! They’re fun. They’re effective. They encourage employees to interact and motivate each other. And they foster the supportive, health-focused workplace that employees dream of.

Walking is easy enough that almost all staff members can participate, whether fitness novices or fitness buffs. Try a challenge and be amazed at how much your colleagues embrace the new-found motivation! You’ll love how much fun they have together, and seeing that many will continue to step it up long after the challenge ends.

Oh, did we mention LifeBalance offers amazing, customizable walking challenges? Just sayin’.

2. Get pedometers for your team. A study from Stanford Medical School showed that people who use pedometers walk about 2000 steps (or about a mile) more per day than those who don’t. Whether you run a walking challenge or not, simply putting a number on activity levels intrigues and motivates people. Just look at the rapidly growing success of FitBit, MyFitnessPal, BodyBugg, Nike’s Fuelband, and other products and devices that track physical activity.

Can’t afford pedometers for everybody? Making them available for employees to buy at work is often enough, and it’s appreciated. Just ask Providence Health & Services, who in the last few years have sold more than 14,000 partially-subsidized LifeBalance pedometers to their employees! Employees are more likely to buy a pedometer if it’s conveniently on sale in the cafeteria (and if their colleagues are buying them) than they are to seek one out on their own.

3. We know we say this all the time, but that’s because it’s fun and effective: organize voluntary group walks near the office. Schedule them before work, after work or on employee breaks; the last option will be appreciated by employees who have trouble finding time to exercise. Inform everyone by sending out email reminders or invites, leaving flyers in break rooms or posting on the company intranet.

These walks don’t have to be long treks! Breaking walks up into smaller segments (even just 10 minutes here or there) throughout the day is just as effective as doing it all at once. Getting up and moving is all that matters. Bonus: those little breaks of fresh air and movement can boost mental focus and productivity, so your boss may thank you!

4 Tips for Encouraging Employee Work-Life Balance

Want to encourage your employees to lead balanced, healthy and fulfilling lifestyles? Here are a few ideas:

1. Get flexible! Can you offer flexible schedules? If so, think about giving it a try! Everyone’s schedules are different, and being locked in to an inflexible schedule can be a huge source of stress.

Think of things from your employees’ perspectives. Perhaps some employees wish they could take a 7am zumba class, but couldn’t get to work on time if they did. Others may need to be home with their young children before or after school. Some might value being able to get to work a little early and hit the gym on a slightly longer lunch break, freeing up their evenings to be with family.

According to US News & World Report, flexible scheduling is among the most longed-for benefits among employees today. If you want to improve employee satisfaction and build loyalty, offering flexibility in the workday might be one of the best ways you can do it.

2. Encourage employees to disconnect. Employees are more connected to the workplace than ever before. Remote desktop access and cell phones pinging with emails keep many employees working long after the office has closed.

fishing duo

Helping employees disconnect — good for your employees, and good for your business.

The Associated Press claims that all of this connectivity is bad for employees and bad for business. Not only are employees overwhelmed, burnt out and less productive, but many companies see their best talent leave to work for employers who can offer a better work-life balance.

So set boundaries. It may be as simple as clearly explaining to your staff that you don’t expect them to answer their work phone or email after hours or, especially, on vacation. Maybe it means coming to an agreement about not checking emails after work (a la French labor unions and employer groups). It might involve locking the office doors (without giving out the keys) on the weekends.

Yes, business is important. But the work will get done, probably more efficiently, if you can let your employees give it a rest.

3. Encourage employees to use their vacation. CNBC.com reports that 75% of Americans do not use all of their paid vacation (and half work while on vacation). For shame, America! Don’t you know that you only live once? And that you might not live as long without that vacation? Multiple studies, including the infamous Framingham study, have shown that passing up vacation time is detrimental to our health.

So banish burn-out and the physical ailments that come with it. Make it clear that you want employees to take their vacation. Highlight the option in company newsletters. Share in employees’ excitement when they talk about upcoming or recent trips. Set a use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy. Lastly, practice what you preach and take that vacation yourself; nobody likes a hypocrite!

Yes, you’ll want employees to coordinate time off with colleagues. Yes, you’ll expect them to get some work done in advance, and to delegate tasks so that their absence isn’t a nightmare. But, after those expectations have been met, tell them to get the heck out of dodge and to enjoy every minute of it.

Your employees will be happier, and your business will be stronger, because of it.

4. Offer LifeBalance Program services to your employees! Shameless plug time! But with a name like The LifeBalance Program, and a discount network chock-full of savings on healthy, fun and stress-relieving activities, how can we not hype our services? Balancing lives is what we do! Learn more by contacting us for a FREE demo account so that you can check out discount offers in your area.

2014 Guardian Workplace Benefits Study

Boiling Over?

“[Employers] have a workforce…trying to be productive and engaged [but] who is overwhelmed. To have more than two-thirds of their workforce say that work is a major source of stress for them, it’s clearly something that employers and employees alike need to deal with.” says Dr. David Ballard of American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, in an excellent article by Employee Benefits News that addresses stress levels among America’s workforce.

Stress Management

Does your company provide stress-management options?

How does your organization combat stress in the workplace? Is it, as Ballard addresses, a matter of encouraging employees to talk with health care providers about stress management? Does your company provide on-site yoga classes, massage or stress-management training?

Or, is it a matter of tackling organizational procedures and addressing over-stretched resources? Will relieving some of those concerns make for a happier, healthier workforce?

For example, overburdened employees will frequently feel stressed. Inefficient channels of communication, or lack of communication, can lead to stress. Issues like these keep employees from performing optimally. They suffer, and, consequently, the company suffers. In these instances, providing outlets for stress may help, but that won’t address some of the roots of the problem – stress will continue to rear its frustrated head, to the detriment of all.

At the same time, work stress will always be there. Yes, it can be mitigated. But do we really expect to float through our jobs with ease; no pressure, no deadlines, no mishaps?

To retain talent, to keep employees excited and engaged, and, ultimately, to thrive, a business must address stress at both individual and organizational levels. Employees can take walking breaks, try yoga or get massages, but if the same overwhelming organizational issues persist each time they walk back through the door, that frustration will be difficult to mitigate. But, even if organizational issues are resolved, the inherent pressures of work and life still remain. Giving employees options to release stress and gain perspective (it’s all relative, after all) will always be in an employer’s best interest.

We’d love to hear from you – how does your company address employee stress and anxiety? Has it implemented policies or practices that you think are effective at addressing individual or organizational stressors? If not, what are your ideas regarding how things could be improved?

The Big Picture

Happy Employees

“Employees become much more motivated and productive when they know that their employer cares about their total quality of life, which goes beyond traditional wellness and includes physical, emotional, financial and social health.” – Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles

As an athlete can have a major impact on a game without filling the stat sheet, the positive impact of wellness programs isn’t always seen in hard numbers. Boyce’s quote above comes from a fantastic article on employee wellness, morale and engagement on Forbes.com called “Challenge 2013: Linking Employee Wellness, Morale And The Bottom-Line”. A great read for any organization exploring the world of employee or member wellness.