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Opinion: Take these steps to healthier, happier workplaces

Bare Bones Business

Posted online

Are we helping the people who work with us by bringing doughnuts to work?

I love doughnuts. And I am always excited to see them in the break room.

However, are we throwing fuel on the flames of poor health when we make crappy food so available? Additionally, I understand that overtime work is sometimes inevitable, but is it becoming the norm rather than the exception?

I have a few ideas of what we could do instead to promote health and happiness in our workplaces:

• “Stack the deck” and start taking small steps toward a better work environment. Survey your team for things they are interested in and ways they would be willing to help. Put the most enthusiastic respondent in charge.

• Check out the Blue Zones lessons and projects at Consider championing a Blue Zone initiative in your town.

• Lobby local officials and associations to prioritize bike lanes, sidewalks and open spaces.

• Include local fitness and family events in your company newsletter or team meeting announcements.

• Improve the indoor air quality of your building. Mold, allergens, sewer gas and other smelly stuff can literally make you sick. Update and upgrade your HVAC and hydronic systems for better air and comfort.

• Consider activities that promote good mental health. Demonstrate and reinforce good manners. Be generous with praise. Are you open to conversations about parenting or juggling work and family? Are there team members in recovery? You could start a book club. Post a list of local support groups.

• Host team meals. Invite the whole team and their family members. Serve a vegan meal, just to prove that it won’t kill anyone. Have other team members take turns cooking.

• You might offer free gym memberships to team members. Don’t be discouraged if only a few people take you up on it.

• Put a basketball hoop in the parking lot and provide a few good basketballs. They’ll play.

• Instead of bringing doughnuts, bring apples, oranges and other fresh snacks. Hummus, raw vegetables and organic energy bars are good choices.

• Are there people on your team who are super fit or into meditation or yoga? Visit with them about hosting an optional class on their routines and influences.

• Standing desks? Treadmill desks? Yes, please. Outside work options, like taking your laptop to the park? Why not? Sure, it could get out of hand, but it may be worth a shot.

• Consider installing a real-deal, heavy-metal gym at your shop. Weight lifting is positively addictive.

• Once or twice a day, enlist a co-worker to walk around the building with you, and pick up trash or pull a few weeds. During the winter, embrace snow shoveling and tree branch pickup.

• One of my teams has decided to plant vegetable gardens this spring. They’ll start with a few containers for tomatoes, herbs, lettuce and squash. I’m really excited about it, and I’ll update you this summer in one of my columns.

When the weather is nasty, it’s even easier to slide into bad habits.

Note that shaming, lecturing, scolding and teasing do not help. At all.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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