By Julian J. Varela, CEO and Founder of MVME Wellness

When I consider many of the perks that large companies offer their employees I naturally start to add up the associated expenses in my head (a curse of the business mind). Some of our local companies in SLO offer healthy meals for the employees, exercise balls instead of chairs and stand-up desks if requested, onsite fitness classes, cash incentives for participation in the company wellness program yadda, yadda, yadda, you get my point. I’m all for spending money on cool programs and gadgets but when it comes down to it – should the health and wellness of employees fall on the shoulders of the employer or is individual health a personal responsibility?

Want to learn more about the tips, tricks, and tools to launch a wellness program at your worksite? Check out our upcoming event: “The Healthy Company Seminar” in San Luis Obispo on June 9th!

Offices make us Fat

Well maybe not directly but the offices of today are a lot unhealthier than the offices of 30 years ago. If you weren’t around 30 years ago just watch an episode of Mad Men and you’ll see 20-pound typewriters in place of Macs, if you wanted a file you had to walk down the hall to get it, mail had to actually be mailed and not emailed, and if you wanted to talk to your co-worker down the hall you couldn’t Facetime her, you actually had to get up out of your chair and walk to her office. The level of physical activity derived from simply moving around the office 30 years ago is about four-times what it is today, meaning each of us is burning significantly fewer calories in today’s modern offices compared to yesteryear.

The bottom line is that the way we physically move and operate within our offices has a direct impact on the metabolism of our employees. The more active the set up (think exercise ball chairs and adjustable standing workstations) the easier it is for them to fend off weight gain. Interested in starting to create a healthier organization? Read on.

Help Create Balance

rocks balancingLet me ask you a question. When was the last time you either woke up at 5:30 AM to exercise before work or waited until 6:30 PM after work and said to yourself, “Wow! I have so much energy and excited about killing it at the gym right now!” Perhaps those that consume 5-6 Americanos per day have that kind of energy but let’s be honest, most families are working two jobs, have 2.5 kids involved in 3.8 sports and have very little time to dedicate to themselves let alone find time to grocery shop.

The reality is that most people are overworked, overstressed, overtired, under-active and unbalanced. If you’re the CEO can you honestly say that your team will perform well with that kind of lifestyle? Nope. Great leaders challenge the status quo and are always looking for ways to create a competitive edge. One of the greatest “edges” one can create is to sharpen the efficiency, energy, and productivity of their team. With that in mind, it makes complete sense to invest in helping employees create balance where they can – which happens to be where they spend most of their time, at work.

Integrate Wellness into your Mission

Unfortunately, cultural shifts don’t magically happen overnight so some strategic planning needs to be considered. The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) suggests instituting a top-down and bottom-up approach. Here are five steps to make that happen.

Develop Wellness Policies

If developing a healthy company and employees isn’t in your mission or vision statement then it’s probably not going to happen, or at least no one is going to take it seriously. Take time to review your core company values and if wellness isn’t one of them discuss how you can start laying the foundation for them. Consider policies such as:

  • A smoke-free workplace
  • Healthy options in vending machines
  • Flex time for exercise
  • Walking meetings
  • Outline your company wellness program and how one can participate

Place these in your new-hire paperwork and have existing employees sign-off on anything new. Make sure to talk to your HR legal team to ensure you’re following compliance laws.

Get Buy-In

If you’re not the CEO or a shareholder it’s important that he or she has buy-in. If you want your employees to improve their health they will expect the same from leadership. Additionally look for other team members or supervisors who are already walking the walk and ask for their help and leadership.

Be Persistent

Host health and wellness in-service meetings or include related materials within your existing meeting structure. Create a wellness bulletin board and change it quarterly with interesting, relevant and local materials. Include similar information in your company newsletter. Don’t have a company newsletter? At least make an electronic one and keep your employees abreast of local health happenings and wellness trends.


Be Patient

As mentioned earlier, cultural shifts don’t happen overnight. Organizations can expect a shift towards a culture of wellness after the second year with constant communication and reinforcement. Once its part of the mission, new-hires should jump onboard understanding fully what your new health-focused organization is all about.


sparklerOur world has changed and while much of it has changed for the better, we now live in a sedentary and obesogenic environment with our very own workplaces as the primary culprit. Although individual health does require personal responsibility, as leaders of our own companies we do have the ability to make a significant impact on our employees’ health. Coincidentally, this will only help our bottom line. Win-win.

With attention to health and slight tweaks to how we operate our companies, we will improve our efficiency, productivity, improve culture, save money and also help to rebuild healthier families and communities. How’s that for a company mission statement?

Want to learn more about the tips, tricks, and tools to launch a wellness program at your worksite? Check out our upcoming event: “The Healthy Company Seminar” in San Luis Obispo on June 9th!

Julian J. Varela helps individuals and organizations create healthier lives and employees. He holds an M.S. degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy. He is the CEO and founder of MVME Wellness and can be contacted at

Is Employee Health an Organizational Responsibility?
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