Getting Started with Workplace Wellness
We established “Healthy Viget” to provide a consistent nudge towards making healthy choices. You can do it, too!
First, let me start with three gratitudes (a daily habit that’s shown to decrease stress!):
- I’m grateful for the healthy development of my kids’ brains, bodies, and social selves.
- I’m grateful for simple pleasures like coffee in my favorite mug.
- I am grateful for the chance to spend part of my work day reflecting on a recent internal initiative and writing up a summary for others.
On that third point, let’s get to the purpose of this article: we know it’s in employers’ interests to invest in the health of employees, but it’s not always obvious how to execute wellness initiatives that work. Six months ago we launched “Healthy Viget” and it’s working well, so I want to share. Read on for details!
Our health – including physical, mental, emotional, and social – is at the foundation of everything we do. As individuals, it’s in our best interest to prioritize our wellness, and employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of wellness programs as well. Wellness programs can be anything from fitness challenges to incentives for flu shots to mental health counseling. Some employers leverage programs provided by insurance companies, others may hire an outside expert to come in to meet with employees.
At Viget, the biggest way we support employee health is through our generous health insurance package. We pay 100% of the monthly insurance premiums for employees, spouses, and children (we currently have 40 “Vigekids” across our offices!). Our benefits include coverage for everything from a broken finger to a burst appendix to childbirth to hospice care and more – including hormone therapy, surgery, and counseling for those seeking transgender services. Coverage of mental illness, emotional disorders, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse is also included.
In addition to the insurance coverage, we wanted to start a wellness initiative that could spark healthy behavior and be consistent with our company culture. Viget is a practical place where autonomy and self-reliance are the norm: people manage their time and tasks with a high degree of independence. We also operate with a fundamental frugality, which means expensive wellness programs aren’t our go-to strategy. In the end, we launched an internal campaign called “Healthy Viget.” It’s simple, free, easy to manage, and still evolving as we go.
“Healthy Viget” is a twice-weekly dose of health-oriented content. Each month there is a different theme. We share the content through two main avenues: 1) Slack, where we post a message on Monday morning in the #healthyviget channel; and 2) our weekly company-wide newsletter, The Lab Report, a Google doc that gets shared on Friday afternoons.
In June, when we first launched this effort, we established that the goal of “Healthy Viget” would be to provide a consistent nudge towards making healthy choices. We also outlined some guiding principles for the tone and type of content. We’re aiming for:
- A light touch - nothing too heavy-handed.
- A shared focus - we want to foster connections via shared health priorities.
- A spirit of experimentation and innovation - small changes can make big differences in our wellness (and small internal initiatives are valuable experiments).
- Clarity on our purpose at Viget: to do great work for clients. A lot of health management is related to time management – a high-value skill for any professional person. The “Healthy Viget” initiative should not be too distracting or time-consuming for anyone.
“Healthy Viget” was created by the People Team at Viget. Our roles span recruiting, operations, professional development, event planning, and employee engagement. We came up with the initial idea, generated the themes, and wrote the content each week. The best part of the initiative so far, though, is how engaged the rest of the company has been. We share the little “dose” of content, but everyone’s reactions and perspectives have been essential to its success.
Here is how we manage this initiative:
- Healthy Viget planning sheet - this is a People Team shared document where we brainstorm our monthly theme ideas and draft the content. Everything is proofread by at least one teammate before it goes out to the company
- #healthyviget Slack channel - right now, 65% of our staff choose to be in this channel. Each Monday morning, we post brief content. The People Team starts the conversation but, often, the rest of the staff will continue it by sharing their personal experiences, tips, or concerns.
- “Healthy Viget” section in the Lab Report - on Fridays, a round-up of everything happening at Viget is shared with all staff. The “Healthy Viget” section is a place to recap what we heard in Slack that week, or to point folks towards outside resources. This helps people who aren’t in the Slack channel keep a pulse on the themes.
We’ve brainstormed a long list of possible themes. So far, we’ve tackled the first 6 on this list:
- Fresh Air - a mix of getting outside and being physically active
- Hydration - focus on drinking water or other healthy beverages
- Finances / Budget - tips and tricks for saving money and finding deals
- Decluttering - simplifying your calendar, commitments, and home environment
- Preventative Care - medical, dental, and vision check-ups and healthy routines
- Gratitude - health benefits of expressing gratitude
- Morning routines - ideas for bringing healthy rituals to each day
- Environmental Mindfulness - small ways to love and protect the Earth
- Sleep - focus on evening routines, sleep environments, and sleep quality
- Creativity - how to boost wellness through creative outlets
- Walking - increasing movement in day-to-day routines
- Healthy Meal planning - tips for simple, healthy meals; shortcuts for shopping/planning
Sample Slack content
- [Fresh Air theme] Here’s something to try this week: Look at your calendar for *walking meeting* opportunities. :moonwalk: Mornings might work best to avoid max heat. Treat it as an experiment! Find out if a walking 1:1 or brainstorm session is effective for you. Consider saving 5 minutes of your meeting time to jot down action items upon return to the office.
- [Hydration theme] We know water is a healthy choice, but what else do you drink for health? Let’s hear about your healthy beverage selections!
- [Finances theme] As
threatenedpromised, we’re focusing on finances this month. Do you keep a monthly budget? Have a favorite budgeting philosophy? What are some good resources to help with budgeting?
- [Gratitude theme] Join me in writing down the things that inspire you during the work day and the moments you're grateful for. I'm challenging myself to write something down each day for the rest of the month.
Sample Lab Report Content
- [Hydration theme] We’re wrapping up our month-long focus on hydration. Check out #healthyviget for ideas on healthy alternatives to water, ranging from electrolyte restoration products to various fermented drinks. Also, this article highlights some surprising physiological aspects of quenching thirst -- turns out gulping (not sipping) water when you’re thirsty makes a difference. Let’s keep up the healthy drinking, even as we move on to new topics next month.
- [Finances theme] This month we’re talking about finances and the ways we can save and stretch our dollars. We started the discussion on Monday in #healthyviget which led to multiple people recommending youneedabudget.com. On August 19, Laura, and other YNAB users, will discuss challenges, share tips, and cover categories. More details in the calendar invite if you’re interested in joining the discussion.
- [Declutter theme] Today we wrap our month-long discussion about decluttering. We discussed organizing our computers, our calendars and purging unused items from our homes. Throughout the month I learned that Facebook Marketplace gets way more traffic than Craigslist when you’re trying to sell stuff online, and we may one day pressure Laura to teach a microclass on the Full Focus Planner.
Employee Responses & Results
Some content gets more engagement than others. We don’t expect everything to spark conversation, but it’s interesting to note what gets a response. So far, the trends we noticed are:
- The responses are sometimes delayed. When we nudged people to get flu shots and make annual check-up appointments, the responses trickled in over weeks. Having someone post to #healthyviget a month after the initial prompt that they got their flu shot was actually great – it kept the topic top of mind longer.
- When prompted to engage, people are more likely to share a favorite product or app than a personal anecdote.
- Humor is appreciated. I’m not sure anyone made a dentist appointment, but we all laughed together about the trash necklace.
- People want recommendations about local providers.
In terms of results, we’ve seen some encouraging things:
- When coworkers shared their experience of getting a flu shot (some had flu-like symptoms after, some did not), it seemed to help motivate others who were initially reluctant.
- When people who historically have dragged their feet on health efforts (like scheduling an annual physical) finally made the effort and announced it in the #healthyviget Slack channel, it was inspiring to see coworkers rally around them to celebrate.
- A number of people have found the shared accountability of one-month themes motivating – it’s fun to attempt small changes when you know others are on board, too.
- Having a shared vocabulary seems to grease the wheels as people make healthy choices. We heard people say, “Healthy Viget!” as they ordered salad, went for walking meetings, or chose water over soda.
Have you noticed that the traditional approach to HR is on its way out, and that People Operations teams are the new norm? Have you noticed that there’s more emphasis than ever before on employees as people – authentic, complex, whole humans – with needs, wants, insecurities, and ambitions? We have. Our People Team is growing, evolving, and bringing innovation to our employee engagement efforts. As we look to support holistic health efforts, we hope to engage with the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of employees.
“Healthy Viget” is an example of how we’re working to make a place where everyone can connect to the idea that, “together we flourish.” It’s a modest initiative that we think can have a big effect. We hope to increase its impact over time without it becoming incongruent with our practical, down-to-earth culture. We’ll continue to share what we learn as we go!