Taking a break is not giving up – it gives back!

We all need to rest at some point. Taking a break from your work, walking competition or committed hobby will help you feel more relaxed, refreshed and healthy. An Oxford Economics (2014) study showed that only 58% of U.S. employees take full advantage of the paid time off they earn during the year. So if you’re in the other 42%, it is time for some fun.

Too much work and not enough play can result in chronic stress. Ongoing stress can negatively impact your thinking, attitudes, health, and relationships. Sometimes it can be challenging to get away, yet a break has tremendous value. You’ll improve our health, sleep better, focus on your creative ideas and be more engaged when you get back to work. Most importantly, you’ll have time to spend with friends and family, isn’t that what life is about?

Continue reading for some tips on different breaks you can take:

For a vacation – Plan ahead for even less stress. Adding your away time to a shared work calendar lets others prepare for your absence and step in for you on the must-do tasks. You don’t have to drive or fly hundreds of miles to take your break; it can be as simple as taking a dog for a walk, meditating, or taking a few days off to just relax at home.

For your walking challenges – Short 6-8 week challenges are ideal. Then let participants take a break for a few weeks. They deserve the rest and you can expect them to return ready for the next challenge. Bonus: you also get extra time to promote your next event!

For your committed hobby – My partner is a musician and has several band ‘projects’. Coordinating groups of people, playing shows and pressure to come up with new material can be stressful.  Take a break from your hobby for a week or two and try something new. You’ll return to your passion with gusto, because you missed it!

Why do we feel so strongly about you taking a break? A 2011 Intuit study reports that women who don’t take vacations are more likely to suffer from heart disease than women who take a couple vacations a year. The same study shows that men who vacation are 32% less likely to die of a heart attack. The cherry on top? Vacationers report that they experience an 82% increase in job performance post-trip!

So, take a break!

Get Moving at Work – for employees & benefits managers

It is estimated that only one in five Americans achieves a relatively high level of physical activity at work1. Many of us are aware that it would be beneficial to incorporate more fitness into our work day, yet, where to start? A knowledgeable benefits or human resources manager can provide employees with options on how to make room for fitness in their work day.

The good news: Your benefits manager already knows that healthy employees are more productive, miss work less often and are overall happier and healthier people.  This means insurance costs are lowered. How great is that! You’re asking them for advice on something they already want you to do!

Here are some suggestions for both program admins and participants on how to incorporate wellness in the workplace:

Provide places to walk. If there is no place to walk at work it will be hard to encourage employees to do it. Management can be pro-active – build sidewalks and trails or investigate options for nearby sites where employees can walk. If there is really nowhere else to go, get creative – try measuring and marking the distance around the perimeter of a parking lot or set up a treadmill in an empty office space. One of our clients (a large hospital in Washington D.C.) set up a path inside the building using footprint stickers!

Track it. One of our favorite quotes is: “That which is measured, improves” – Pearson’s Law. We’re seeing more and more programs rewarding employees with wireless trackers so they can keep a record of their activities. If your team already has devices, set a goal that participants need to reach in order to be eligible to upgrade their device to something spiffier. If they do not have devices yet, you might want to create a mini challenge – those who complete it will be eligible to receive a new device. Get everyone on board with this one, wireless devices make it easy and fun for your employees to track their progress.

Get Paid to NOT Park it. A little extra cash at the end of the month can be a powerful motivator. Employees can be given the cash equivalent of the cost of parking if they refrain from driving to work. If parking is free at your workplace, an employer could give you extra benefits at work for not using a parking space. The other option is charging a hefty premium for the privilege of parking at work.

Build in “Walking Breaks”. In some workplace settings you’re sticking to a schedule and breaks are assigned. These companies are the perfect place to schedule “walking breaks” into the day. Your schedule may already include a lunch break and a morning and afternoon break, but let’s beef that up. Suggest that your employer schedule an additional 10 or 15 minute break for those who will walk during that time. Sure, a few minutes will be lost, but you will gain a much more attentive and effective employee.  It’s hard for upper management to miss this increase in productivity and quality.

Encourage walking, mass transit and carpools. Ask if your company will give employees a break on your health care premium if you walk to work, use public transportation, or carpool. For the folks who are carpooling, suggest they alternate days walking to one another’s house for the ride.

How’d you like to earn a day off with every 100 miles you log? At some workplaces you already can. Our admins can use the Walker Tracker program statistics to calculate when you deserve PTO or a paid lunch. Studies show that active employees get lots more done even with some extra days off.

Create friendly competitions. There’s no doubt that grouping co-workers into teams and recording steps can really get people involved. Yet, when setting up a competition it is important to be encouraging to everyone. Your ‘fit’ people will exercise with or without the program, focus on creating a competition that challenges them further. Offer a program that encourages and inspires beginners. Our points competitions are a great way to reward diligence and stick-to-it behaviors over high step counts. Want more ideas for competitions? Admins can ask their Walker Tracker program manager for ideas of how to build competitions that are inclusive to all fitness levels.



1 Church TS, Thomas DM, Tudor-Locke C, Katzmarzyk PT, Earnest CP, Rodarte RQ, et al. (2011) Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity. PLoS ONE 6(5): e19657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019657

A Wellness Champion at 72!

Watch out everyone, Lola might just lap you.  Averaging 9,000 steps/day and motivating her colleagues along the way, she is a force to be reckoned with!

Let me take a step back and introduce you all to the Para La Naturaleza Walker Tracker Program. Located in Puerto Rico, this group is a blast to work with and is always looking to the positive side of things. Perhaps all those good vibes add to Lola’s energy and stamina.

I encourage you to read her story below and let it inspire you in your own quest to a healthier life. Lola picture 1

“Lola, you’re a champ.” That’s what co-workers say to María Dolores Méndez, who manages the greenhouse on the Nature Reserve of Las Cabezas de San Juan.

In the mornings María moves from one part to another of the reserve looking for seedlings to transplant. Afterwards, “Lola”, as her endearing coworkers call her, walks from her house to the community track in Fajardo. There she walks 17 laps, which add up to her 9,000 steps per day that she records on Walker Tracker.

Since Lola was a small girl she’s gone everywhere by foot. Because she didn’t have another way of getting around, walking was an integral part of her life, so when the opportunity to participate in the Para la Naturaleza Wellness Program came along, she was all in. This was a chance to go back to being what she used to be, a person who walked everywhere. She chose the 10,000 steps-per-day level challenge and has not stopped since she started. Lola has noted improvements in her health, she feels more upbeat and is more active. Lola says: “Everything is better” since she’s increased her activity level and made some adjustments to her diet. During her last visit to the cardiologist the doctor said: “Lola, your blood pressure is like that of a kid. What have you been doing?”. Lola explained all the changes she had made as a result of the Wellness Program and the doctor asked her to continue these activities as they were benefiting her health. In addition, the program nutritionist proposed she lose 4 pounds, Lola lost 5.

Not everyone has the energy and strength that the 72 year old María has. Her enthusiasm is so great that she invited a friend to walk with her on the track, but a few days later, her friend lost interest and stopped coming.

Whether or not she has company, “Lola” makes an effort to be in one of the top places in the competition. Lola is focused on winning. Her pedometer only tracks walking steps and she insists that to make it to the finish line “what you have to do is walk”. In addition, she tells her fellow participants that if they put some effort into it “you can all be winners”.

The relationship with her colleagues has greatly improved since the program started. “We’ve grown closer because we have more in common to talk about”, Lola states.

Lola urges everyone else to accept the challenge, because it is very good for their health. During the first few days they may be tired and might feel some achy muscles, but they’ll see the benefits will start adding up quickly. Lola shares this bit of advice with enthusiasm: “don’t give up, move forward and you won’t regret it”.

Click here to view the full version in Spanish

Nice vs Mean: Managerial styles and employee health

There’s a fascinating article at the Harvard Business Review that ties together a number of studies on the efficacy of being a nice boss versus a stern, removed one. Despite many changes in how businesses are run in the 21st century, the long-lasting stereotype for how to be a boss remains: It’s better to be respected than liked.

Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.

The study goes on to list the incredible number of benefits that warm, self-sacrificing bosses can expect from their employees, including:

– A lower stress workplace (Consider the effect of the whole plethora of symptoms related to high-stress on the productivity of a workplace, including “Trouble learning new information”, “Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion”, and “Difficulty in making decisions”, absenteeism and finally, employee loss)

– Higher effectivity — employees trust a kinder boss

– Higher levels of citizenship and productivity

– Better client outcomes

Read the article at Harvard Business Review: The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss