How to Make Workplace Wellness a Priority in Your Business

I grew up obsessed with my grandma’s garden. She was a medical doctor by trade. Learning from her about the power of healthy food by exploring the various fruits, vegetables, and plants had a profound effect on me.

She would remind me the best medicine is prevention. And to her, that meant eating nourishing foods like those in her garden, in combination with good lifestyle habits. It seemed simple enough. And I always wanted to do something meaningful with that knowledge when I grew up.

But the real world got the best of me. I joined one of the biggest investment and hedge fund management firms in the world, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle was extremely difficult, to say the least. Long hours, subpar food, and stress, not to mention lack of sleep, did a number on my health and productivity.

I was tired, unmotivated, and uninspired. My anxiety levels were at an all-time high.

I had really painful recurring headaches and physical decline on multiple fronts. I was burnt out. But in that environment, rest was for the weary. And while my high-stress finance job was what I signed up for, it wasn’t just me or that job that led to my physical and mental unfitness.

It’s reported more than 50 percent of employees are not engaged at work as a result of stress. That’s almost 80 million Americans! So, I had to make a change—and fast. I needed to go back to my roots—to that garden mentality.

Why Workplace Wellness?

I founded garten (formerly Oh My Green) to make wellbeing more accessible for anyone spending time at work, and to make it easier to consume healthy, nutritious foods on a regular basis. After all, we average 70 percent of our daily caloric intake while working.

But in 2020, garten made a pandemic-driven pivot to become a data-driven workplace wellness platform. We realized in order to meet our customers’ needs, we had to meet them where they were, literally everywhere. As it exists today, we help companies in various sectors, including tech, finance, entertainment, media, manufacturing, medical, consumer products, retail, and biotechnology, that understand how the link between wellbeing and performance shapes their wellbeing culture to better all aspects of their employees’ health.

As you might have guessed, I believe wellbeing programming should not just be a luxury but a vital business strategy for gaining a sustainable competitive advantage on multiple levels. And the data backs it up.

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It’s been estimated the average person will spend one-third of their life at work. That’s roughly 90,000 hours. And while employers are said to play a greater role in our health than a family physician, wellness at work is lagging way behind. No wonder we’re so stressed.

Corporate wellness is one of the top trends for 2023, but in the completely altered world of work (from where to how to when), the term has shifted meaning. Yet too many companies are just checking the box on wellness rather than implementing programs, protocols, and policies that will actually move the needle on their employees’ health in the right direction. But why is this truly important? Because the health of the company, literally and physically, depends on it.

Sure, promoting good health in the workplace starts with access to better-for-you food. However, having moved from a service that primarily focused on that to a company that promotes holistic corporate wellbeing, from healthy local snacks to scratch-prepared catering to virtual meditation and yoga, I realized food or the garden is only the tip of the iceberg.

Companies need to show it in a way that is authentic in order for their employees to truly believe it. That’s where the magic happens.

It’s been proven that workers who feel valued, safe and healthy are more likely to be productive and committed to their work. And employers who provide healthier options at the workplace have witnessed myriad benefits, such as reduced insurance costs and absenteeism.

So it should go without saying that if employers truly care about their bottom line–the health of their company–they should do everything in their power to nurture the health and wellbeing of their employees by creating a healthy workplace that promotes wellness in and out of the office. In doing so, they will also see increased employee job satisfaction, morale, and productivity. And, trust me, the bottom line will follow.

4 Ways to Make Workplace Wellness a Priority

How do I know? It’s been proven. Companies that promote a culture of health, safety, and wellbeing outperform in the marketplace, with a weighted return on equity of 264% compared with the S&P 500 return of 243% over a 10-year period (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine).

But it was recently found by Deloitte that only 56% of employees think their company’s executives care about their well-being, whereas 91% of C-suite think their employees believe their leaders care about them, and it is up to an organization’s leaders to bridge that gap by taking action. Here’s how:

1. The Roots-First approach

I like to say that, as a company, you are what you water. The health of the roots, more commonly known as the executives or C-Suite, is paramount to the success and survival of the collective whole or the garden.

As an example, we listened to one of the top American cloud-based software companies headquartered in San Francisco, asking them what their dream wellbeing solution would be. They wanted to be able to understand how high-quality, nutritious food impacts the budget while supporting those in their office with specific health concerns.

They also wanted to better explain and promote awareness in offices of the impact the foods we eat have on our mental wellbeing and physical health. So we helped them with that (it’s what we love to do!). What they found most valuable was the autonomy and choice offered by garten to monitor their own supply and demand, with immediate awareness on nutrition balanced within budget.

Being able to target nutrition goals and provide support to meet those goals was an added big win.

When we showed them what the innovative, smart technology of our Nutritional Dashboard could do for them, they were thrilled about being able to offer employees healthy snacking options, putting action to their promise to support their employee’s individual desires to be healthy. They were watering the roots and the plants simultaneously.

2. Southwest, but Make It Wellness

I’m inspired by how Southwest Airlines has been profitable for 44 years straight. I don’t think it’s by chance. Their focus is on their employees, who in turn are devoted to their customers, who in turn are devoted to their shareholders. The model has proven profitable for 44 consecutive years, with the lowest customer complaint rate in the industry.

We apply those principles to wellbeing at garten. Our mission is always at the forefront of our lives, implementing multiple programs such as “garten time,” twice-a-day mandatory breaks where employees can choose an activity that best nourishes them, including meditation, exercise, and even naps.

A four-day workweek is also implemented to provide one day of rest and no meetings. We use this approach to ensure our team members are nourished first before they are able to help grow our business.

Read more: Types of Leadership Styles: A Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

3. Give it a Rest C-suite

Rest is the basis of productivity, and wellness HAS to start with the C-suite. To me, the secret is meditation. Specifically, transcendental meditation. This may sound “out there,” but it’s transformed my life, and I’ve seen it do the same for others tenfold.

At garten this training is offered, and meditation is a mandatory policy for all employees.

In order to accommodate different time zones, roles, and responsibilities, we offer guided meditations four times a day.

Why? Because 20 minutes of meditation is equivalent to 4-5 hours of deep sleep, we aim to ensure each employee has maximum time every day to practice meditation, nourish their minds, and reenergize for maximum productivity.

4. Put Food at the Center

We take a holistic approach to overall wellbeing with high-quality food at the center. We use this as a guide for our own company and also for our clients. Food is a critical ingredient in driving employee engagement and creating a team of happy, thriving employees.

Developed by David L. Katz, MD, a specialist in preventive medicine and lifestyle medicine who is also an expert in nutrition, we take a unique food point of view based on science.

Our Nutrition Guide categorizes foods for optimal nutrition and sustainability to create menus suitable for all diets, palates, and preferences. We call it the “garten nutrition guide” where every item in our product portfolio is assessed through our proprietary system and ranked into one of 5 tiers based on nutrition and sustainability.

Workplace Wellness Practices

Our ultimate mission at Garten is to empower people to live healthier, more blissful lives in and out of the workplace. Rest is the basis of productivity and wellness HAS to start with the C-suite. As mentioned, flexibility with maximum rest equals maximum productivity. It’s what I call a “Garden-first” approach:

  • My automated OOO email sums it up relatively well: Vacation is key to a balanced life.
  • Everyone gets garten Time Friday to pursue a day of wellbeing. It’s time to debunk the myth that more hours equals better performance.
  • We also give two garten Time breaks during the day for ~30 minutes to pursue a wellbeing activity personal and fulfilling to each individual.
  • Flexibility combined with maximum rest equals maximum productivity, which is the key to gaining a competitive edge in business.

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