How to encourage a fit and healthy startup culture
When you sit at a desk all day, mental aches and physical pains can creep in. Even if you aren’t consciously feeling it, you can be sure that it’s happening. The good news is that if you're starting a company from scratch, it's within your power to create a workplace culture that thrives on openness and a healthy lifestyle rather than the old-school mentality of suffering in silence. As the world becomes aware of the dangers of traditional corporate office culture, you might want to think of ways your startup can encourage and support employees' health journeys to positively impact their wellbeing and work. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Stand up and move around
Office desk chairs these days are surprisingly comfortable - you can lean back and be cushioned by ergonomic technology that takes all the stress and muscle tone right out of you. On the other end of the spectrum, makeshift substitutes used when working from home can take their toll on your body by contributing to back and neck pain. Whichever chair you have, it's going to work in you and your employees' favour to get into the habit of stretching, walking around, and even taking meetings standing up. If you have the budget, you could even invest in standing desks for your workers which have become quite popular and don’t have to cost the Earth. Or simply be an example to your employees by getting up and walking around the office a few times a day and encouraging them to block off half an hour in their workday to stretch their legs.
2. Include health and fitness perks
It’s well known that startups often offer competitive perks to compensate for salaries that can't match potential corporate earnings. When designing and choosing your perks, keep in mind what your employees will enjoy and what will benefit their well-being. Discounted or free local gym memberships are becoming the standard making this perk a must-have. On top of this, you can subscribe to mental health services, such as Spill, Sanctus, and Mind Gym, that specialise in supporting employees. If you also want more collaborative perks, get everyone involved by funding activities like yoga, meditation, a half marathon, or a Tough Mudder.
3. Keep up with mental health
It’s not always about being fit and eating well, you also need to keep an eye on employees' mental wellbeing. Using mental health services like the ones listed above is a great start, however, you still need to make sure you're fostering an open and trusting environment in the office. Check in with your employees, offer mental health days off, and be there as a supporter for anyone to reach out to. Creating a caring work culture is vital in ensuring employees feel supported and can help mitigate other life stressors.
4. 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 is by offering flexible working times. If someone is a morning go-getter, they might want to come in early and leave a bit earlier, and if someone prefers a lie-in because they work better later in the day, then they can come in a few hours later. As long as core hours are worked, this can ensure that everyone gets their preferred sleeping schedule which hopefully results in increased efficiency during the day.
5. 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 bikes to commute. Installing a shower or two at your office is another way to show that cycling to work is doable and encouraged. Don’t forget bike racks outside or inside the office!
6. 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 increase comfort and cheerfulness - not bad for such a small change! Also have a look at the feng shui in your office – 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 an open and healthy culture should be high on your priority list 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 your startup journey and you'll reap the benefits further down the line.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated.