Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Yogurt and Apples, or Lasagna and a Nap?

I received a call yesterday from a writer in Chicago. She's doing a story about practical ways companies can help their employees get healthier in tough times.

She said, “I’m looking for examples like putting yogurt and apples in the vending machines instead of candy, or opening the doors to the stairwells so people can walk or have contests to see who can run the stairs fastest.”

As my wife might say, “If I go missing, don’t look for me racing people up the stairs in my office building.”

Let me give you a contrarian take on the workplace health issue: For the next 24-36 months organizations of all types and sizes need to focus less on yogurt and running than they do on lasagna and catching people doing things right.

In great times when things are running wide open and everyone is striving to get ahead we can focus on getting leaner, meaner and faster. Workplace diets, running up the stairs, and peak efficiency are in style.

But, right now people are anxious. They need some comfort food and support. I’m not saying that being efficient isn’t important. In fact, in tight times the two things that will get us through it are increased productivity and creativity. And you don’t get that by telling the galley crew to “row faster!” and feeding them starvation rations.

Getting together for comfort food once a week tells people you care about them and gives them a chance to pull together. Catching people doing things right supports them and gives them confidence.

If I go missing, look for me kicking any vending machine with yogurt and apples.

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