17 Mar 3 Tips for A Healthier, More Productive Organization
The weather was gorgeous this past Friday, so I decided to call my friends and see if they wanted to grill some burgers. We often get together on Friday evenings for good food conversation. We tend to start by discuss things like business ideas, personal challenges or accomplishments but the conversations inevitably turn into debating the world’s problems and potential solutions. On this occasion, our conversation quickly turned to the recent raids on grocery stores due to the COVD-19 reactions.
This topic came about because I needed a few items for the cookout and stopped at the grocery store. To my surprise, the shelves in the store looked premonitiant (yes that is a made-up word but it seemed appropriate) of a zombie apocalypse. My friends had warned that grocery stores were a madhouse due to the school closures and varying levels of fears about the Coronavirus.
What surprised me is which shelves were empty and which were still full. Schools are closing here and when that happens, the bread aisle gets cleaned out, so empty bread shelves seemed fairly predictable. The chicken or burger supply had also been exhausted which was also somewhat expected since they are perishable and are inexpensive ways to feed a family. The surprising bit was that the pasta aisle was also pretty much wiped out while the fruit and vegetable sections looked very similar to any other day. This leads us to our first tip for staying healthy and productive.
Tip 1: Eat Healthy
About 6 months ago, I made the decision to get healthy. To help keep myself on track, I hired a personal trainer who signed me up for a nutrition coaching program. I also began reading and listening to books on healthy eating habits. (Audible is amazing, by the way. I have replaced most of my TV time with audible and I find myself with much more energy and motivation.)
One of the books that I am listening to is called How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger. The book goes into the research and statistics on various types of diets and touts the medical benefits of plants, nuts and grains in preventing disease. The book also discusses the detrimental effects of meat, dairy and processed foods in our modern food systems. The basic gist is that eating whole plant-based foods in their least processed and raw forms can reduce the risk of a vast array of diseases from factors of tens to hundred or reverse diseases and conditions that have already been contracted. On the flip side, meat, dairy and especially highly processed foods increase our risk factors for many diseases and conditions and should be minimized.
I am not a doctor and this is simply my opinion, but going back to the grocery store, it would seem that the highly processed pastas and breads that were wiped off the shelves would not be the first choice if someone was trying to minimize their risks of contracting COVID-19 or any other disease. Nor would many of the meat products. I understand the idea of wanting to stock up on non-perishable foods but I would guess that much of the pasta will be eaten sooner rather than later and vegetables can be frozen as well. In fact, while I was at the store to buy some meat to grill that evening, I had already purchased a large supply of vegetables that morning (apparently before the zombie apocalypse was announced) including a giant bag of kale for $3.99 that I was able to split into 4 gallon-sized portions and freeze for later use.
In today’s competitive world, it is important for people to be at their best. For the individual, people being at their best means a happier life, for an organization it means higher performance and for society it means a more engaged citizen. In order for people to be at their best, they must have high levels of emotional, mental and physical wellbeing and that includes putting the right things in our bodies.
At the organization level, there are numerous ways you can help your people eat healthier diets and become their best selves. Here are a few:
a) Start a nutrition education program with a qualified nutritionist. There are a number of online programs like the ones offered by Laurel Otey at Layered Living or Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach Nutrition Program that I am enrolled in through my personal trainer, Tove Wainwright.
b) Take a look at your cafeteria menu (if you have one) and ask your team some difficult questions such as how the food options are impacting the wellbeing of your people and the performance of your organization.
c) Create incentives to be healthy. You can try a short-term experiment such as a competition or you could tie healthy food to compensation by reimbursing grocery store bills if they include a certain percentage of health-conscious food.
As added benefits, you can expect to see things like fewer sick days, higher energy and potentially lower costs on insurance if you negotiate with your provider.
Tip 2: Exercise
Before I started eating healthy, I started exercising. In previous years, I had multiple sinus infections or other illnesses, each lasting 1-3 weeks. I would also spend multiple days in bed recovering each year. This winter, I had a single day that I was out of commission and that day was not completely necessary. I felt some minor congestion here or there suggesting that something was trying to take hold but it went away quickly and my energy never dropped. In one instance, just a couple weeks after I started exercising, I flew to Belgium for a business trip. Just about everyone else on the trip came down with a cold after returning but I never even had a sniffle.
Days that I exercise, my energy is higher and I am able to stay motivated. If I exercise every day, the effect seems to be compounded and lasts longer. There have even been days where I had to go out for a walk or run in the middle of the day because I was almost tingling with energy that needed to be released. Today was actually one of those days. As a contrast, days where I sleep in or turn on the TV early in the day, I often struggle to get things done.
Here are a few things organizations can do to encourage people to exercise:
a) Implement 15-minute exercise sessions in the morning or during the day. These simple sessions will get the energy flowing and go a long way in building morale.
b) Offer to pay for a personal trainer for a month or two to get people started, or on a continuous basis if your company can afford it. Trainers make it far easier to stay on track and they can help you maximize your results and prevent injury.
c) Start a competition. Competitions are free aside from any prizes you want to give out and can be implemented in any organization. If you work solo, you can even have a competition with yourself from week to week or month to month and give yourself a reward if you beat your previous record. They can also encourage bonding, especially if you make them team competitions.
d) Start a lunchtime walking program. I have been at numerous organizations that have implemented walking programs and people love them. People often talk about work-related topics and become closer during these activities as well.
Tip 3: Essential Oils
If you are not familiar with them, essential oils are plant extracts and there are hundreds of different varieties available. Essential oils have a wide range of uses from stress reduction to healing properties to speeding recovery from an illness. Most of the time, the only side effects are positive though with certain oils there can be an occasional allergy or contraindication (reason to avoid using specific oils) such as pregnancy or cancer. A good essential oil site like Rocky Mountain Oils (not the cheapest but a good place to start if you don’t know how to assess quality and purity) will list any contraindications and with a touch of caution, you can use them safely and effectively.
A wellness committee at Vanderbilt Hospital experimented with diffusing essential oils. 84% of employees reported that they “strongly agreed” that diffusing oils “contributed to a more positive work environment” and another 10% said they “agree”. That’s a 94% positive response which is nearly unheard of for anything these days. Only 2% said that they “disagree” and 4% were “neutral”.
I have also diffused essential oils at multiple organizations. When I stopped diffusing them at one organization, one of the teams questioned why I stopped and asked me to bring the diffuser back.
Essential oils are a staple in my personal life as well. On one occasion, I helped a friend who had an issue with her thyroid. She said that the drugs the doctors were giving her were not working, so she was looking for anything to help. I sent her some oils and she reported back that she felt better than she had in years. If I feel I am getting sick, I diffuse Eucalyptus, Thyme and Rosemary and can often stop the illness in its tracks. (I do this less since I started exercising regularly and eating healthy as it does not seem as necessary)
A few ways to introduce essential oils to your organization include:
a) Pick up a couple of diffusers to run an experiment. There are many options out there but look for ultrasonic diffusers that have a setting to run until they are out of water. I would personally avoid the inexpensive sets of oils and diffusers. I don’t know that they are bad but I wouldn’t trust the oils without testing them.
b) Host an educational event on essential oils. People like Laurel Otey at Layered Living can host an online or in-person event if you are interested.
c) Pick up a supply of essential oils for your first-aid kit at work. Lavender is fantastic for burns, something with which I have a little experience from blacksmithing and making knives.
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By: Jeremy Webb – Founder – Organizational Engineernig