By Colleen McTiernan | Photo courtesy of Infinite Energy

For those of us working full-time desk jobs, we end up spending 40 hours or more sitting down each week, staring at computer screens and pining for the weekend. And even if you are active outside of work, it is hard to combat the negative effects of 40 hours of inactivity. Designed to not only improve physical well-being, but also mental health, wellness programs benefit both employees and employers, according to the World Health Organization. Increased productivity, reduced staff turnover and decreased health care/insurance costs are all hallmarks of a healthy workplace. That is one reason why some companies, including a few right here in Gainesville, are now putting their own health initiatives in place.

Infinite Energy

Infinite Energy, a natural gas marketer, is focused on providing a 360-degree coverage of wellness for their close to 350 employees. They have a whole host of health initiatives in place, but they all focus on the pathways to wellness: fitness, wellness and nutrition.

Infinite Energy has a gym on campus, at which Jason D. Lewis, the Wellness and Fitness Coordinator, trains employees and gives individual assessments. The company also hosts CrossFit classes taught by the head coach of CrossFit 352 twice a week and yoga once a week, which employees can attend for a small payroll deduction that ends up costing them much less than taking class outside of the office. “We want to make it as easy as possible … and also as discounted as possible with the highest quality as possible,” said Lewis. To further the fitness path, Infinite Energy has also held a company-wide Olympic Games day for the past five years. Each department gets different colored T-shirts and they compete against each other in field day-related activities, like tug-of-war, relay races, volleyball, corn hole and even a talent show.

As for their focus on overall wellness, the company offers a Wellness Fair. On this day employees can have their metrics (blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, etc.) checked for free, and it also gives them an opportunity to see what services they can utilize with their 100 percent medical coverage. The company also hosts a Biggest Loser weight loss competition over the course of six to nine months. Whoever loses the highest percentage of body fat at the end of the competition wins $3,000, with $1,500 and $500 awarded to second and third place, respectively.

For nutrition, the final pathway, Infinite Energy hosts a Healthy Food Fest, holds “Lunch and Learns” related to nutrition and offers grocery store tours so their employees know what to look for when shopping. The company has even had the farmers market come on Thursdays so that employees can buy fresh produce at work.

From health fairs to allowing pets in the office, there are so many ways that companies can foster an atmosphere of wellness for their employees. If your company is looking to expand its wellness program, remember to take things slow. “It takes a long time to set up a wellness initiative, but if they just change one thing at a time, years down the road they’ll realize they changed five significant things and they had very, very big impacts on their employees’ lives and they changed everything for the better,” said Lewis.

Parisleaf

Parisleaf, a local branding, web and print design agency that has been open for seven years, has several initiatives in place to help the physical, mental and financial well-being of their employees. From offering catered local, organic lunches for the past two and a half years, to more recently participating in 10-minute guided meditation sessions, the company has taken many steps to make their office an overall healthier place. “The advertising, PR, marketing industry is traditionally, I think, one of the most unhealthy white collar industries to be in,” Chad Paris, CEO of Parisleaf, said. “We actually set the initiative of becoming one of the healthiest agencies in the industry.”

The company also gave Fitbits to their staff of about 10 people at the end of 2016 to motivate everyone to get more steps in during the day. Walks throughout the day, both to break up sitting sessions and refresh the mind between projects, are also encouraged, and small internal meetings will often be turned into walking meetings. “We encourage them to take at least two walks a day to really kind of re-center themselves,” said Paris.

Beyond creating an active environment, Parisleaf has also taken steps to make their office a wellspring of collaboration. “On a professional and mental level, we found that collaboration is just really positive,” said Paris. “We designed our entire office based around engagement and collaboration and positive energy.”

Parisleaf is also very selective with their clients, and has been since they opened their doors seven years ago. In order to maintain a positive atmosphere in the office, they choose to work only with positive clients and companies that are working to make the world a better place, so that their employees can feel proud of the work they do every day.

“Over time the science is coming out that’s proving that the things that we’re doing are incredibly effective,” he said. “That’s always a nice affirmation, but we do it because we think it is the right thing to do.”