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How I Got My Office to Lose Weight

Let's face it: A healthy company is a productive company. And mine needed a boost. Here's how I created a friendly competition to get everyone thinking about fitness.
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I'm one of those entrepreneurs who subscribes to a work-hard-play-hard ethos.

I push myself, and my firm, to relentlessly pursue strategy, creativity and innovation. But, I also know how critical it is to maintain a balanced life.

So, in addition to the usual sorts of physical fitness pursuits such as running and cycling, I do Kangoo, practice boxing, and climb mountains.

Each of these physical activities challenges me in new and unique ways, and leaves me refreshed, recharged, and reinvigorated. I think achieving that clear-headed state leaves me in a better, healthier place. And that helps me accomplish all I need to in running my company.

I must admit, though, that I'd become increasingly worried by the unbalanced lives among many of my 100-or-so co-workers. Sure, there were a few who made my fitness regimen seem like a stroll in the park, but there were many more whose dietary habits and sedentary ways looked like they could use some, well...help.

Knowing how important corporate wellness is to productivity and bottom-line success, I'd suggested several options over the years, but none took hold.

That was, until I began boxing with Eric Daniels. 

The Inspiration Behind a Wellness Program

Eric told me about his six-week wellness program for companies like mine. It combines nutritional counseling, personal exercise instruction, and group workouts. It was the latter feature that got my attention.

Peppercomm employees are incredibly team-focused and do a lot of bonding outside the confines of the office (so, I knew they were already hard-wired to do things in packs). Secondly, I'd just read an article in everydayhealth.com about the benefits of group exercise. In the piece, Lynne Vaughn, chief innovation officer of the national YMCA, said, "Working out in a group provides support, accountability and structure. People don't want to let their buddy or group down, which is terrific in terms of adherence to an exercise routine."

I felt she was describing my firm's work culture. And, that's when I decided to introduce Peppercomm to Eric Daniels.

Creating a Tailored Plan

I spoke to Eric, and arranged for him to meet with Elysa Torres, our human resources manager and Sara Jane Whitman Ramos, our chief culture czar. Together, they formulated a six-week program specifically tailored to our business (i.e. our people don't work a traditional 9-to-5 workday and they travel a great deal).

Now all we needed were the participants.

I sent an agency-wide e-mail telling our troops I'd cover 50 percent of the $200 per-person program cost for the first four people to volunteer. That did the trick. Soon enough, we had eight employees enrolled in the program.

Their competitive juices immediately kicked in and the "great eight" formed two teams of four employees each. The goal: to see which team could adhere to a new diet and exercise regimen that Eric would design for them, shed the most combined weight, and trim the most inches off their bodies by the end of the six-week period.

The Real Results

I'll let our employees tell you about the results:

Nicole Hall said that she is now "…more aware of the need to increase my activity level and watch what I eat."

Maggie O'Neill said the group dynamic was key to her success. "The group workouts were a great motivator," she said. "They got me out of the office and into the gym on days I ordinarily wouldn't have. Plus, I think the eight of us really bonded over our common goal."

Mari Abe said she was excited to have the opportunity to learn from a personal trainer. "I'd never even considered a personal trainer before because it's so expensive. So, the opportunity to have both individual attention and workout with my peers was huge. I've learned so much about my diet and exercise needs as a result."

The initial group has become our best brand ambassadors for a fitter and healthier Peppercomm. We've already announced a second, six-week program with Eric and are setting up the teams.

Wellness & Your Bottom Line

The bottom line here is the bottom line. As a result of what Daniels calls The Corporate Wellness Challenge, employees can afford a personal trainer and learn how to begin living a healthier life. At the same time, the organization's health improves thanks to reduced stress, increased productivity, and better morale. We're the better for it, and we're not going back!

IMAGE: Courtesy company
Last updated: Nov 16, 2012

STEVE CODY | Columnist

I'm a climber, comedian and dog lover. But not necessarily in that order. I also happen to be co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, and with offices in San Francisco and London. I publish RepMan, a daily blog, and have had the opportunity to appear on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and a host of other top tier media over the years. scody@peppercomm.com

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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