Weave Health and Welness Into Your Company’s Culture

3 min read · 7 years ago


With New Year’s passed, let’s make a resolution: no more resolutions – at least ones that cannot or will not be kept. Often, my resolutions revolved around wellness.

When it came to my company, Jetco Delivery, I was behind the curve on corporate wellness and I am changing that. Although I did not focus aggressively on corporate wellness in the past, it wasn’t because I failed to care about my employees.

The opposite was true. I care deeply. My thinking was (and still is) that employees are all adults. Each person makes choices about what to eat and drink and whether to smoke or exercise. As a business leader, I do not believe it is my role to judge or lecture my employees about how they should live their lives. I am not an expert in these areas, and I follow the rule to not throw stones at glass houses.   

Even though I strongly believe adults should be free to make their own decisions and that it is not my role to judge, I could no longer stand by and watch people make terrible choices. I could not simultaneously witness absenteeism and skyrocketing health care premiums. It is difficult to sit back and observe people whom I care about smoke themselves into an early grave.

Yet, it is easier to talk about wellness than it is to actually operationalize it. Putting posters on the wall, sending a payroll memo or having a onetime meeting is easy, but the program won’t gain any traction. Having a biggest-loser competition may be fun, but it is more of an event than a long-term plan to truly build wellness into a company’s culture.    

So, my dilemma became how to weave wellness principles into the company’s DNA without gimmicks and, more important, judgment of others. Here is my action plan to operationalize wellness.  

My employees’ share of health insurance costs now contains a discount for nonsmokers. Recognizing that smoking is a wickedly addictive, the discount will also apply to employees who enter a smoking- cessation program.

The discount rewards the behavior of those who do not smoke and those who are making a good faith effort to quit. When smokers add the cost of cigarettes plus the loss of the discount, the numbers add up quickly. Instead of casting judgment about smoking, I have simply raised the stakes so that smokers have greater economic incentive to quit. 

When my company has lunch meetings, I now insist on healthy options. Fast and greasy is no longer an option. That doesn’t mean that the company has eliminated all less than healthy treats. It means that the organization is offering choices to employees. By midyear, the company’s vending options will be revamped so that the majority of the items for sale are comparatively healthy. 

The company is building a new office with a workout area. If your office can not accommodate a workout area, consider paying for a gym membership (or part of one). You can’t necessarily lead your employees to a workout, but you can provide them with the support and tools. Encourage people to work out together: There is nothing like letting the team know that everyone is in this together. 

Look for insurance premium discounts if you actively support a wellness program. Above all, create an environment that lets people to measure success against their own personal goals and not some manufactured standard.   

Have you ever heard this comment from an employee: “Maybe I should start smoking. The smokers around here get so many more breaks.” While comments like this scream sarcasm, they are also true. 

So, I am taking great strides to ensure that breaks are applied evenly. I am also moving the outdoor smoking area farther away from the office to be less convenient and so nonsmokers do not have to walk through a cloud of smoke on the way in.  

The company has employees who are particularly committed to their own wellness and quite knowledgeable and has harnessed their power. They are now an in-house resource for other employees. Whether the topic is diet, exercise or yoga and balance, these employees can serve as an internal and nonthreatening resource for team members.   

Invest in ergonomics. Get rid of poorly made chairs. Put as much thought into an ergonomically efficient office as you do into buying the next major piece of equipment for your facility. Most office employees are in sedentary jobs for the better part of a workday. Investing in ergonomics is the same as investing in employees’ health, and that is the ultimate respect that you can offer. 

You can implement simple changes to promote wellness and at the same time stay clear of judging others and respect the decisions that each person makes as an adult. As you weave wellness into your organization, have a plan to operationalize your objectives. What is your action plan to weave wellness into your company’s DNA?

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