How Far is Too Far When Enforcing Company Culture?

Running a wellness company, I spend a significant amount of time explaining to others why it is important to live a healthy life and how to do so. So you can image the challenges I face at work when some my employees don’t practice these healthy living techniques themselves. This isn’t to say my employees are unhealthy and against healthy living, but it does show me first hand that the time, money, and motivation required to live a healthy lifestyle doesn’t come easy for all.

I have been dealing with this challenge lately, battling over the fact that I do not endorse an unhealthy lifestyle, i.e. fast food and soda for lunch. At the same time, I need to be respectful and appreciate everyone’s freedom to choose how they live, and what they eat. How as the CEO of a wellness company can I respectfully provide my employees with a healthy workplace? We preach health and wellness and do hundreds of trainings every week to teach people about nutrition, exercise, preventative lifestyles, etc. – and my employees are eating Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and McDonald’s for lunch? Not only to I want to promote health wellness internally so my employees live that way too, but I know all about the long term health risks they are increasing by eating unhealthy.

Of course, I take health very seriously, probably more so than the average boss. However, I do think that bosses and decision makers in general feel some sort of responsibility to make their employees’ health and well-being a priority. So I came up with a few simple changes that would significantly impact my employee’s health in a positive way, and I plan to promote this in all work environments.

First, the most important thing I knew going into this, is that I needed to be patient and nonjudgmental. It is important to understand the different lifestyles people choose to live, and their reasons for doing so, i.e. financial, emotional, cultural, etc. So I took it one step at a time and gradually provided means for my employees to gain exposure to healthy living. The first thing I did, was start a corporate yoga initiative. Now, my company is small, and this was an exercise that we all agreed on, there may need to be more options or alternatives in a larger environment. As soon as the new yoga studio down the street opened, I knew it was perfect. Once a week, on my dime, I bring all the employees to the yoga studio for a fun, healthy, and relaxing yoga session. Not only is it one of the best exercises there is, but it is introducing some members of my staff to the idea of regular exercise, while at the same time allowing them to do so freely and with the company and support of their co-workers. It took a few weeks to catch on, but after a few classes weekly corporate yoga has become something we look forward to doing together – while promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Next on my list, I bought a seltzer maker. I understand water may be boring, but the majority of people do like seltzer, and it provides the carbonation they seek in soda. It is a fabulous replacement for soda and sugary juice drinks. I do not force them to drink from the seltzer maker; however, if they forget a soda it is much more convenient to make something to drink at the office then to go get a sugar drink elsewhere. This idea has also caught on fabulously. ANY opportunity to limit exposure to soda will increase workplace health. Since I know all too well the effects that soda can have on your body and weight, this was one of the first changes I needed to make in the office.

I also do fun exercises that promote health education while making things fun in the office. For example, I had a nutritionist come in and demonstrate how to make a green smoothie, and various other kinds of healthy smoothies and snacks. Some people don’t realize how easy it is to make a healthy snack, so actually seeing it be done allows it to seem more reasonable and easier to fit in to a tight schedule. Even though we are very familiar with nutrition, we still all learned a lot of new suggestions and ways to eat healthy. Again, this was a fun break from work that promoting health and workplace bonding.

What I have learned from this is that while I can’t force my employees to eat healthy and exercise daily. I can promote a healthy lifestyle the same way I do with clients and training. I realized the promoting health internally is just as important as to the rest of the world. It is important to understand you can’t change someone’s lifestyle overnight, but taking things step by step and making exercising and healthy living a fun thing can really change the entire culture and environment at work. It also helps to have a support system, when you see your co-workers changing habits and cheering you on, it’s hard not to want to join in! I strongly suggest making changes in the workplace to promote and educate on healthy – after all, we do spend the majority of our day in the office, let’s make it fun!