I’d love to infuse some healthy work practices into my company’s culture. What’s the best way to bring up my ideas?

Elaine Varelas guides on how to introduce health and wellness initiatives to your workplace.

Q:  I’ve always been inspired by LinkedIn’s culture of having walking meetings on their campus. How can I recommend walking meetings and other wellness initiatives at my workplace? I have so many ideas, including having virtual healthy cooking classes, fitness challenges, etc.

A: Employees look at the culture of other companies to see how they can have a positive impact on their own culture, and to see how their company stack against others. Walking meetings can be very beneficial for everyone involved, whether or not it’s two people who are walking side by side or two people who are walking with their phones having a work conversation.  Not every meeting can be a walking meeting as you may need to be online.  And reality says performance comes first – so ensure you are exceeding performance expectations when you initiate an idea to improve the organization and get ready to volunteer for the work to make it happen.

What you’re talking about is introducing change to your organization. To do that you need to come up with good reasons that it will enhance your organization’s culture, your organization’s productivity, employee satisfaction, and make other positive impact.. It also can’t detract from employee productivity, it can’t increase costs dramatically, and it can’t decrease employee satisfaction. Companies that invest in health and wellness initiatives for their employees pay a small price and can reap the benefits of a healthier, more engaged workforce. Some workplaces even have their own gyms while other companies/health insurance providers subsidize gym memberships for employees.

Many organizations have employee special interest groups and this might be one of the best ways that you can introduce some of the ideas that you have. Once a wellness committee or special interest group has been formed, you may want to develop and distribute an employee interest survey.  Feedback from the survey can help guide your offerings.  Be sure to communicate with employees and market any upcoming webinars or events. Make it clear to employees that participation in any of the activities or initiatives is completely voluntary and will not negatively impact job performance.

Some low-cost ideas might include: starting a walking or stair-climbing club that meets once a week, having a lunch-time Airbnb virtual Greek cooking class, participating in a fitness challenge using a Fit Bit or the Nike Run Club app (with gift cards for top performers), having an after-work yoga class in the office (conference rooms work best for this), having a Slack channel or Microsoft Team focused on sharing articles and videos related to wellness and fitness, having a webinar hosted by a nutritionist, hosting virtual meditation sessions, or distributing small plants to everyone’s desk or home office. You might also consider organizing an onsite blood drive for your organization. Not only will this help with the nationwide blood shortage and your community, but individuals get a mini physical as both blood pressure and cholesterol are checked when donating blood. Some workplaces even have softball or other athletic teams during warmer months. What a great way to get to know people at work while staying active.

Health and wellness have become a significant driver in the selection criteria that employees look at when they are choosing a company they want to work for. Prospective employees look at whether or not a company has a culture that prioritizes employee well-being. Your company, whether it’s through your manager or through your HR department, should welcome the ideas that you have to improve your workplace. Every idea has to be balanced with performance – that of the organization and yours as an employee.  You can’t run a wellness committee if you are an employee not meeting performance expectations, and company leaders won’t really want to hear from you until you are.