Workplace Wellness: Jobs Jeopardizing Health?

Workplace wellness has been a topic of discussion for many years. It may have started by switching out the vending machine options to include more “heart-healthy” snacks, then adding the calorie count right on the front of the candy wrapper. Next, we may have added a workout room in the office for employees to access before or after working hours. Ab crunches or Bowflex, anyone? But did it really make a difference? The discussion of wellness has evolved out of necessity. With stress and obesity levels on a consistent rise, we need to find a way to integrate workplace wellness into everyday life. The goal is that our team feels and acts refreshed, happy, and productive in the workplace.

Before we go any further, let’s define the modern workplace, not just in the context of workplace wellness. This could be in a traditional office setting (cubicle or open concept), a company HQ or satellite office, a co-working space, coffee shop, or simply working from home. As the line has blurred between working and not working, at any moment, the need for wellness has become even more paramount. While tackling a specific company task, you could easily be distracted or hop on social media, yet the inverse is also true while sitting at home with the family after-hours or while out for dinner with your significant other, you could read or respond to a work text or email in a matter of seconds. This can often be referred to as the ‘noise’ in your brain, and make it difficult to remain present in the moment.

One method frequently used to “turn down the volume” in your head is mindful meditation. The Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard, and MIT all got together and deemed that, “mindful meditators [could] more quickly adjust the brain wave that screens out distraction… [and] rapidly remember and incorporate new facts”. Among US adults, the use of meditation rose more than 3X between the years 2012 and 2017 (CDC Study). That rise has meditation almost matching the use of yoga among US adults. Furthermore, now more American adults meditate than the number of those who use a chiropractor in a 12-month period.

During the last decade, companies in the on-demand medication and fitness space have experienced explosive growth through their innovations. Apps for meditation such as Headspace or Calm, Apple and Fitbit devices for fitness tracking, or popular at-home equipment such as the Peloton bike or treadmill have made meditating and working out more approachable, sexy, and comfortable in almost any environment.

Based upon American health statistics, the percentage of US adults that meet or exceed the physical activity guideline (as of late 2018) is 54.0%, up from 42.3% in late 2006. However, the percentage of US adults that are considered obese (as of late 2018) is 31.7%, up from 26.4% in 2006. Sadly, that obesity number has increased year-over-year, and not once in those dozen years has the percentage of obese US adults dropped. By these two data sets alone, one could suggest that there is a group of American adults getting healthier, and then another set of American adults getting more obese. Where does your team stack up?

Workplace wellness has been very effective when utilized. Meditation and fitness in the workplace can certainly play a role in increasing your employees’ long-term health, happiness, productivity, and stress management. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the reasoning behind dedicating a portion of your day to your mental and physical health. As the only constant in life is change, don’t be afraid to adapt your current wellness regime in the office. Piggy-back on the success and popularity of apps like Headspace and Calm for meditation, and Peloton when it comes to trendy new equipment ideas. Make it fun, make it personal, and make it welcoming for your team to participate at their own will. Instead of a 2,000 square foot room of confusing weight lifting machines, maybe it is a smaller studio room with 5-10 spin bikes or a meditation room with comfortable seating, and equipping each team member with a premium account to a meditation app? Enlist the support of an employee that can act as a team leader when it comes to office health! Having someone that can serve as your “accountability partner” for a physical workout, or a mindfulness break, can mean all the difference and positively permeate the entire company culture!

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