Before getting into our main questions, what is this Friendly Friday Fun activity we hear about?
It’s a weekly workout we have in the office on Friday mornings that involves people participating together through various workout routines. Our most recent one was side-by-side high planks. Once we were all in plank position we would then pass a weight through the plank line. If someone dropped out, they had to go do wall sits.
How long do these usually last?
I honestly didn’t expect it to last as long as it did, but we went for 7 minutes.
Oh my goodness, what? Seven minutes of planks?
Yep. At that point there were somehow still three of us there, and we had to call it. I can say we ended that routine a little sweatier than expected.
What was the motivation for starting these?
We kind of wanted to do something that would get people talking around the office. It’s worked well. We had about 70% turnout on that last one. We’re a small company but we still filled up the whole conference room for it.
So tell me, how did you come into the role as the wellness leader at your company?
I’d already worked at a company that had a wellness program with weekly competitions and that sort of thing. When I came here, there really wasn’t anything in place and so I tried to get a few things started with the other engineers. One year we did a “Biggest Loser” kind of challenge, but participation was a bit on the low side.
I started other initiatives but those fizzled too, but one thing that stuck was I did get a standing desk. I invited others to use it any time I wasn’t in the office and a lot of people took me up on and it and then requested their own standing desks too. Now, almost the entire office has them!
After that seed was planted, I got approval to keep pushing and see what other wellness initiatives I could start. I soon found your Challenge and got us signed up for our first round in the spring. I was hoping to get 4 people for a team, but we ended up getting enough people for two teams. It worked really well for our group!
That’s a really great way to get your company interested in wellness! How does your team prepare for the Challenges?
At our first event, those who participated were already doing some kind of workout outside of the office. Crossfit, regular gym routines, that sort of thing. We honestly didn’t do a lot of prep. We kinda quickly looked at the PDF and assumed it would be easy. For some of us, it wasn’t so bad, but those a little less fit kind of wished they knew more in advance. With that in mind, we put together an extensive training program for our next one and really closely reviewed what we should be preparing for.
Did you incentivize people to show up for the training sessions?
When we were rolling those out, we got people to participate using a digital sign-in sheet. The president of the company offered to reward everyone who attended at least 50% of the sessions with a free lunch. We got that idea from the tips you sent out and it worked really well. By the end of that round, we had one person with perfect attendance and most at around 80% attendance. The nice thing is that even people who couldn’t make it to the challenge came to the office workouts because they were a lot of fun.
Does your company incentivize participation in the Challenge as well?
Just for the daily office workouts. We don’t directly incentivize for the challenge. Instead, the company will pay for the registration fee and make custom t-shirts that the teams will get to wear and keep.
How have the office workouts compared to other types of team-building at your company?
Well, I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me that doing just five minutes of workouts a day with the co-workers has done almost as much for team-building as a big event. Of course big events are very important, but adding these office workouts have been a great way to add team building into our weekly schedules.
What other fitness type wellness events does your office do apart from our Challenge?
That’s it – we don’t have all the departments you might have at a larger company. We started small but we’re building.
One activity on our radar is getting performance blood tests for those interested. The ones you can get done by your doctor usually just look for things that might be wrong with you, but it would be nice to be able to monitor performance markers other than just general health. I mean, we’re engineers – we love data.
What’s the mix of your group looking like right now?
Looking at the roster for our spring participants and it’s pretty varied. Age-wise, we have 20-year-old recent hires to participants in their 60s. For fitness levels, they range from recent mothers looking for something that gets them moving, all the way up to myself and others who go to the gym regularly.
There’s also a couple of people who have gone through significant weight losses working with trainers and nutritionists who joined in the last challenge and are now looking forward to the next one. It was really great to see the look of shock on their faces when they came up to me after completing their first challenge and said, “I actually really enjoyed this.”
Will you say that the wellness culture of your company has changed?
Definitely changed. Early on, when I asked permission to push this and be the annoying guy who begs people to sign up for things they never heard of, I was told okay but be warned – things like this haven’t worked in the past.
That in mind, I went about it differently. I sent out a survey at the beginning of this to get a litmus test of where people felt like they stood and where would they like to be. The majority of respondents said they were not happy with where they were at health-wise. Most wanted to improve. So when I went around asking if they wanted to sign up for something like the Challenge, there was already seeds planted in their minds that made it easier.
Since then, part of our staff meetings have been moving away from BBQ and pizza parties to more deli options where people can build their own salad or put together things that give more options than “here’s something you probably want to eat but maybe shouldn’t.”
Have you guys set any goals about wellness in general?
Well, my goal would be that if I sent out the survey again, that everyone (or at least more employees then last time) would respond that they are happy with their current wellness level and that they believe their company is supportive of them improving their wellness.
That’s amazing. Thank you Art and looking forward to catching your team on the field again in the spring!