I haven’t always been a good example of healthful living. It wasn’t until my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001 that the candy-eating, soda-drinking creative I had been until that point decided to turn over a new leaf.
It is one thing to fight cancer; it’s another to be beaten down by it because you don’t have good health to begin with. While I can’t fight the unknown, I can do my best to keep myself and those close to me in the best health possible. That’s why, after my father's diagnosis, I decided it was time to get off the sugar, get off the couch, start exercising and create a healthy environment for myself and my team.
Lead by example
I recently came across a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services that surveyed the key facilitators of successful wellness programs. I wasn’t surprised to see the study's conclusion that in order for these programs to succeed, senior management needed to be directly involved. Management also needed to consider wellness an organizational priority, in order to shift the company culture.
I believe that a long-term change can take place only when business leaders are truly invested in their employees’ health, make wellness easily accessible for all employees and lead by example.
Let’s face it, as much as we love our careers, the advertising and digital marketing industry is a desk-driven job. We’re building websites, creating graphics and designing, all while sitting in front of a computer all hours of the day.
That’s why, three years ago at my company, we purchased a walking desk for our office in Orlando. I had never tried one, but my restlessness got the best of me. It was possibly the best purchase we ever made for our office. I incorporated the walking desk into my own daily routine, and quickly got used to walking and working.
Today, I may walk slowly -- 1.5 mph. But that pace allows me to keep my focus. And it all adds up. I walk about 10 miles a day while writing emails, talking to clients and strategizing concepts.
Getting my employees to try the desk was a different story. “I can’t possibly create a new web design and focus on not breaking my legs at the same time!” was just one reaction I got. My own example and success at suffering no broken bones or spills, however, encouraged curiosity. That was followed by my co-workers' eventual realization that it is actually easy to walk and work.
One of our designers, Jenny, put her creative talents to work while logging more than four million steps in 2015, according to her Fitbit Today, we can’t imagine an office without the walking desk.
A study by the University of Minnesota showed treadmill desks boost job performance, and we who work and walk are a testament to that fact. We not only feel great, we’re knocking it out of the park, with creative and innovative design ideas that come to us while walking/working. Leading by example is important for every business owner looking to improve his or her team’s health. Being fit and happy is contagious.
The power of the team
Our treadmill desks eventually led to still more healthy initiatives in the office. Every Wednesday, now, we have team lunches and usually pick a restaurant with healthy options. While I don’t believe in forcing a healthy lifestyle on my employees, I’ve watched many of them change their habits since they started working here.
Our senior digital director, Charles, recently told me that working with such a close-knit group of health-minded individuals has made maintaining a healthy mindset almost second nature for him, and has influenced his decision-making for himself and his family. Our senior art director, Thuan, completely changed his diet by cutting out sodas and eating more nutritious foods; and he says he's stopped overeating. He hasn’t given up on doughnuts, but now treats himself much less frequently.
We also cover registration fees for employees to participate in an annual corporate 5k; most participants had never run a 5k before joining our team. Nor are these races just a health benefit; in fact they're a fun team-bonding activity. Again, we offer this activity to everyone. We would never make it mandatory, of course: That would mean making it feel like an obligation rather than a fun activity. But, all the time we see employees making long-term lifestyle changes once they understand how a healthy diet and daily exercise affect their colleagues and leaders in such a positive way.
Now, not every office talks about nutrition and fitness every day. Nor do most workplaces have the motivating hum of those treadmills as a daily reminder to stay healthy But every business owner should take a moment to sit back and think about how to motivate employees and invest in their health.
My advice? If you own a business, get up, start walking and lead by example; your employees will follow and your business -- and health -- will thrive.