Curvy Jaleasa was surprised when her new manager described his leadership style as, “Healthy.” She envisioned the team holding hands around the conference table humming and opening up about their feelings. Or, worse, could it be jumping rope every morning in the office? Jaleasa had no interest in changing her lifestyle. Sure, diabetes was on her radar, friends had been talking about it lately. But she generally made good food choices, she walked to work on nice days, and she was happy with her full figure. No changes needed, and certainly no changes driven by a new, granola peddling manager.But she did not want to change jobs, either. She decided to wait and see. The team overall was diverse in age and in fitness level, but they didn’t need to worry. Far from calisthenics or kumbaya, what the manager had in mind was incorporating simple, healthy moments into business as usual.
The first week, he added lowfat yogurt, apple slices and bottled water to the vending machines. He picked up bran muffins, clementines and, again, water, instead of pastries for the regular morning meeting. Noting the slim selection, someone ran out for donuts, but the manager said nothing, and the donuts went mostly untouched.
The manager introduced stand up meetings, bringing in a stool for someone who was unable to stand comfortably. Standing through a meeting meant the discussion went quickly and people returned to their desks invigorated.
Quick laps were another new idea for this team. When anyone stopped by his office with a question or for a chat, the manager stood up, and together they headed down the hall and out the front door of the building. A five minute trek was usually enough to help a team member think through an issue, and both went back to their desks refreshed. Initially, frequent walks seemed impractical, but the team got used to it. Two things happened as a result of quick laps. The manager knew that if someone stopped in, they truly needed his attention, because they knew they were going to get it in full. Also, nonsmokers on the team appreciated the opportunity to slip out of the office for five minutes on a pleasant afternoon.
Occasionally, the manager called a quick lap for no special reason. Team members could go or stay, but Jaleasa welcomed the five minute break and usually chose to join in.
The healthy manager did not introduce fitness goals, weight discrimination or mandatory blood pressure checks. He did not invite massage therapists into the office. He did not bring in a treadmill desk. What he did do was simply introduce opportunities for team members to refresh and recharge throughout the day. He modeled healthy choices himself, but did not comment either way when cookies appeared in the break room.
Approximately 12% of our population has been diagnosed with diabetes, and according to the American Diabetes Association, every 17 seconds, another new case is diagnosed. Five minute walks and a bottle of water instead of a soda… these do not seem like much, but they can be excellent first steps toward keeping a team healthy, refreshed and attentive.
Julie Desmond is a Certified Staffing Professional and Talent Manager for Express Employment Professionals. Send your career planning questions to