When running a company, you want to make sure the employees feel like they are a part of a team; fostering a sense of fellowship and cooperation is vital to employee satisfaction. For offices where team members see each other every day of the week, this task of uniting employees, while not always easy, is still a very doable task.
But what happens when you have employees working from home? How do you foster that same sense of fellowship and teamwork? That was one of the challenges Actualize Consulting, a financial consulting firm with offices in New York and Virginia, faced. The answer they came up with was a wellness challenge focused on a theme of collaboration.
The employees kept a blog with their findings and accomplishments as they went through the challenge - noting how they were feeling, what they were thinking - which allowed them to increase awareness of their body and sense of self. The challenge was broken up into four, one-week stages:
First Week: Incorporating More Movement
Employees were encouraged to become more aware of what they did with their bodies.
- How were they integrating movement in their lives already?
- What were they doing to get moving both outside and indoors?
- Where did they find opportunities to bend, stretch, and exercise?
By increasing their awareness of how their bodies moved, they could more easily set realistic goals for themselves, including how they wished to improve their mindset on exercise.Toward the end of the first week, employees began to share on the blog how they got moving and what encouraged them to do so.
One employee shared, "My Fitbit reminds me to move throughout the day. I find it helps to stop and get some walk/movement to clear my head and allow me to get focused when I return to my desk." Other examples included getting extra exercise by parking farther away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and spending time outside with pets.
Second Week: Sticking to the American Heart Association's Guidelines on Sugar Intake
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 3 teaspoons of added sugar a day for children, 5 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women, and 9 teaspoons of added a day for men. (Note: Because they're only talking about added sugar, natural sugar -- like that found in fruits -- is okay!) The goal for this week was to use these guidelines to increase awareness of how much sugar is in certain foods, and then use this new awareness to make smarter choices and encourage their family members to do so as well.
In general, employees were surprised to discover how much sugar was in certain foods. One participant shared that she wasn't aware how much sugar was in her Coke until she looked at the label and jokingly stated that because it had 3x the recommended amount, she wasn't allowed to have any more sugar for the rest of the day. She soon cut Coke completely out of her diet - these are the small wins that add up!
Third Week: Planning and Monitoring Meals
The goal for week three was to be prepared when hunger arises. By preparing meals, you can combat those cravings for convenient foods with high sugar content, and feel good about your choices. People were quick to collaborate with different meal prepping ideas from different websites and links, and some shared that their families had started preparing quick meals like Bento boxes on the weekends to store during the week and eat when in a pinch for time.
One employee shared a list of healthy options available in his refrigerator at the beginning of a week (slow-cooked chicken breasts, soups, coconut milk, etc), because "it keeps the kids off the hot dog/chicken nuggets/mac-n-cheese diet." Another helpful resource noted was Sunbasket (https://sunbasket.com/), a company that delivers fresh ingredients and healthy recipes to your door.
The convenience of having that extra help allowed participants to spend more time with their families, enjoying cooking together and eating stress-free. Overall, people were finding that it was the meal planning part of the challenge that made the weeks less stressful and easier on the whole family.
Fourth Week: Motivation to Move and Tying Everything together
This fourth week was about culminating everything in the first three weeks of the challenge, and using this newfound awareness to make healthier living a habit. Some people shared that they were finishing other wellness challenges in addition to Actualize's, and were encouraging others to constantly try to make better choices in every aspect of health.
When team members began to reflect on this challenge, they noticed that they had reset their cravings for sugar, and started to really enjoy foods and flavors in their natural states - they even began to choose nut butters and avocados for an indulgence! In fact, not only did everyone see a change in their own health journeys, they were also excited to see that when they took charge of their own wellness, their children benefitted too: everyone was on a better diet.
People shared that they felt less sluggish and had more energy - meaning everyone was livelier and more present throughout the day. The challenge was clearly a success, and not just because the team managed to create healthier habits.; In challenging each other to make these healthy choices and in raising awareness of the body and the mind, Actualize motivated employees to work together.
Although this was a challenge and there were "winners," everyone actually wanted to see each other succeed. It sounds cliche, but the teamwork and encouragement seen on their blog showed that everyone was a winner. Not only did the participants see this challenge as a chance to better themselves and set healthy examples for their families, they also knew the results of this challenge would have a lasting positive mark on their lives.
About the Author
Madeline Yaskowski is a junior at Virginia Tech studying public relations and German with a minor in psychology. Madeline is working for the Director of Human Resources Kerry Alison Wekelo at Actualize Consulting this summer. Kerry can be reached at email@example.com