Making Time for Corporate Wellness

Yoga Get Fit Don't Sit 5_6_2015 For Get Fit Don’t Sit Day, our company scheduled a special yoga class, right smack in the middle of the afternoon. The thought, of course, was that we would have full participation this way. After all, as much as anyone loves his or her job, yoga is better, right?

The invitation was sent, the “thank yous” flooded my inbox. “This is a great idea!” “Thanks so much!” “Of course, I will be there!” Approximately 60% of employees said they would participate and approximately 20% said they would “tentatively” participate. The remaining 20% had time conflicts, and they could not come.

The big day arrived. The yoga teacher  and I enthusiastically distributed mats, started the music, and got ready to be invigorated and relieved of stress. Employees trickled…slowly…in.

By the time we were downward dogging, we had a total of 20% participation. What? Were the no-shows slackers?

No. Quite the opposite–all the employees are high achieving, hard workers who have pride in their work. The no-shows found it difficult to get up from their desk and do something so “self-indulgent.”

Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and repeatedly I have heard comments about how badly the no-shows wish they would have participated. They expressed how yoga would have invigorated them and made them more productive for the rest of their day. The no-shows needed that yoga class even more than those who participated.

The 20% who participated were astounded with how the class relieved stress and energized them for the rest of their work day and their evening. I even received reports of better sleep that night, as well as being “inspired” to exercise.

It’s easy to believe, “if you build it, they will come.” But frequently employees need, and want, added incentives. They are often committed and loyal employees who find it difficult to shift their attention from their work to themselves, even briefly. And, of course, time spent keeping employees healthy and happy is time well-spent for employee, and corporate, wellness.

While the word carrot has been overused (including by me), it is a critical piece of a corporate wellness program–or even just a one-time yoga class. Monetary rewards, contests, achievement awards, public recognition, food, and time off are some examples of possible incentives. What is most effective depends on the employee population. There is no one single answer that would work for every employer.

What would have worked the best to drive participation by our hard-working group of no-shows? I plan to take a survey–and really listen to the feedback!