How to encourage a fit and healthy startup culture
Kitty Harris
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
5 min read

How to encourage a fit and healthy startup culture

When you sit at that desk all day your body begins to decline. Even if you aren’t actually feeling it, you can be sure that it’s happening. More than your body though, your productivity and mental health are also spiralling downwards. Concerned? You should be. Throw in some office doughnuts, a couple of stressful meetings and it’s no wonder you are constantly gasping for a holiday. The good news is that if you are starting a company from scratch, then you have it within your power to create a workplace culture that thrives on a fit and healthy lifestyle, rather than the old-school type. As the world becomes aware of the increasing dangers of traditional corporate office culture you might want to think of ways to set the benchmark for your startup that goes above and beyond in encouraging healthy employees. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Swap the snacks

Office culture is traditionally coated in a layer of sugar courtesy of constant birthdays and that vague feeling that hard work ought to be rewarded with treats. While it’s nice to have a snack-cupboard stocked or vending machines dotted around, be mindful of what you are putting in there. Keep the chocolate and crisps for more occasional purchases and fill the gaps with fruit, nuts and naturally flavoured drinks.
2. Stand up more
Desk chairs these days are increasingly comfortable. You can lean back and be cushioned by ergonomic technology that takes all the stress and muscle tone right out of you. Often people will barely get up the entire day, even having lunch at the same desk. Get into the habit of taking meetings standing up or even walking outside. Standing desks are becoming more the norm nowadays and they don’t have to cost the Earth – a box just the right height will do the trick and is easily moved aside if the user gets tired. Be an example to your employees and endeavour to get up and walk around the office a few times a day to stretch your legs whilst being vocal about why it’s important.


3. Include fitness perks
 It’s well known that startups often offer competitive perks to combat being unable to give employees the same salaries at corporates. These perks might be share options, team lunches, unlimited holidays etc., but what about incorporating some fitness-related activities in there? Discounted local gym memberships are a great incentive, as are swapping a few team nights out for team HIIT classes. If you have the space you could even invite a yoga teacher in to give a class every so often or set challenges to complete (planking/squat contests can get competitive). Getting everyone involved with a half marathon or a Tough Mudder is ideal as a collaborative team exercise and the training leading up to it could be weekly.


4. Keep up with mental health
It’s not always about being fit and eating good food (although those are definitely a priority), you also need to keep an eye on mental wellbeing. Some companies have implemented meditation into their company culture, either by providing group meditation sessions, or by subscribing to apps such as Headspace. Creating an environment where the stress levels never go over a certain point might be a big ask at a startup, but there are certainly ways to mitigate it.
5. Make sure everyone is sleeping properly
This can be a tough one to implement because, after all, how are you supposed to make sure your team is going to bed on time? One way that you can work with your employees is to offer flexible working times. If someone is a morning go-getter, then they might want to come in early and leave a bit earlier, however if someone prefers a lie-in because they work better later in the day, then they could come in a few hours later. As long as core hours are worked, this could ensure that everyone gets their preferred sleeping schedule and hopefully result in increased efficiency during the day.
6. Get people cycling
 Cycling to work is an ideal way to fit in exercise without taking time out of the day. There are various schemes, such as the cycle-to-work scheme, that employers can opt into to motivate employees to use their bike to commute. Installing a shower or two at your office is another way to show that cycling (and a clean team) is encouraged. Don’t forget bike racks outside or inside the office (particularly if you are situated in a slightly dodgy area).
7. Redecorate the office

There are some significant changes that you can make to the office environment to encourage a healthier workforce. The first is the inclusion of plants. Studies have shown that plant life in an office can reduce stress levels and negativity anywhere between 30% and 60% - not bad for such a small change! Why not also have a look at the feng shui in your office? You might not believe in it, but some principles of feng shui do hold some sense – for example, decluttering your space to promote clarity, as well as improving the lighting and air quality in the whole office. Small changes like these will go a long way to promoting a sense of calm and wellbeing without redoing your whole building.


Encouraging your employees to live according to a fit and healthy lifestyle should be high on your priorities as an employer. A better sense of mental and physical wellbeing could mean the difference between an engaged, productive team and a sluggish, stressed-out one. Set the tone at the very beginning of you startup and you will reap the benefits further down the line. 

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