“Today is going to be a great day!” Beth gets ready for work, grabs a banana on her way out the door and she arrives at work 15 minutes early. She checks her calendar, makes a to-do list and she’s ready to take on the day’s challenges with enthusiasm and confidence.
At 8:00, Tom, a sales rep brings a gift of a dozen bagels. They are so fresh, they are still a bit warm. Since Beth really didn’t have breakfast she indulges and has one, with just a schmear of cream cheese.
She gets back to her office and with a dozen internal emails already accumulating she starts to sort through them. She finally gets busy with the first item on her list when Beth’s assistant leans into her office and says, “Hey, it’s Karen’s birthday today. We’re meeting in the lunchroom!” Beth saves her work, even though she was on a creative roll and rushes in to find her co-workers singing happy birthday to Karen, and there, in the middle of the table is a beautiful cake. Oh, no! Beth thinks. Before she knows it, a slab of cake is handed to her even though she has said “no thank you” and a few minutes later all that’s left on the plate are a few crumbs.
On her way back to her office, she mindlessly picks up a handful of candies on a co-workers desk and methodically munches away. She looks at her calendar again. “Oh, great. A work lunch with the team. Probably pizza again and I won’t have time for a walk. Beth can’t seem to focus on her work anymore and feels a bit deflated.
She decides to get a fresh cup of coffee to help snap her out of it and…there it is. That cake again. Beth looks away, but it’s calling her. To make matters worse, the icing laced knife is laying right next to it, goading her. “Just a little slice, at this point I’ve already blown my day.” She quickly shoves a sliver into her mouth, then another (under the pretense that the cake needed to be evened out). Back to reality, she realizes what she has done and cries out “WHAT am I doing!” Beth marches back to her office notices the healthy breakfast and lunch she had packed for herself and thinks, “well I guess today is NOT going to be a great day!” and she slams the door and looks at her watch. It’s 10:30am and she only has an hour to work on her “to do” list until it’s time for the mandatory “sit on your butt pizza lunch.”
Organizations invest in improving the health and productivity of their workforce to control employee costs yet, many fail to see the importance of providing a healthy work environment. Not only do they not support it, they often sabotage it. Food is still being used as a primary reward in many offices and by not participating in the “foodivities” an employee is considered to not be a team player. People who struggle with saying "no" to food (which is a big part of the population) can feel isolated as they politely turn down office commoradary to save themselves. . This type of culture most often occurs in offices where many employees are already suffering from “the sitting disease” where the forced sitting in the workplace slows down blood circulation which impacts every vital organ in the body and brain.
Your employees spend half of their waking hours in the workplace and the environment they must reside in is going to drive their behavior. Yet, even with all the emphasis on wellness in the workplace many employers choose to ignore or simply don’t notice the negative impact these seemingly simple things have on productivity and morale. Believe it or not, even though your employees may seem to rally to the opportunities, it is not what they want. Most wake up like Beth, wanting something better for themselves, but fall victim to the environment and culture they are exposed to all day. Fixing the negative affects of an unhealthy work culture is simple. It doesn’t require rules or limitations on what employees can or cannot do. It only takes offering choices and encouraging opportunities to take time out to improve their day, not sabotage it. Lead by example and your people will follow.