What CEOs Can Do to Shore Up Workplace Health Literacy

Ten years ago, I was running a 10K and started experiencing chest pains. I landed in the hospital at 37 years old. I had sold my company to Google just days earlier. It was a wake-up call. What should’ve been one of the happiest, most successful times of my life was anything but. The experience forced me to confront a scary reality: I wasn’t taking care of myself.

 

My father had his first heart attack at age 45. It became increasingly clear that I needed to change. So I did. Over the next few years, I lost 40 pounds, transformed my diet and ran three marathons. It was the beginning of a transformative personal journey, but it was also the beginning of a radical transformation in the way I approached workplace leadership.

 

I’m not the best father, husband or boss I can be when I’m not taking care of myself. The members of my team can’t be the best versions of themselves or the best employees when they’re not healthy either. Because of my own personal health journey, it became my mission to never turn a blind eye to my employees’ health.

 

If you’re ready to build a culture that gives workplace health a fighting chance, here’s how to do it:

 

1. Celebrate health diversity. Appreciate the healthy lifestyle diversity of your team. Some of mine used to be athletes. Some still are. Some are cancer survivors. Some are veterans. Some have transformative weight loss stories. Others have food sensitivities or autoimmune issues. Some just want to learn how to live healthier lives so they can be around longer for their kids and grandchildren.

 

Whatever the lifestyle, whatever the story, mindfully support your team members in their unique health journeys in every way you can. Ensure your office snack options can be consumed by all; organic, non-flavored almonds, for example, work for everyone, whereas trail mix might not. Make your workplace wellness options flexible and adaptable.

 

2. Those who learn together stay together. In a world full of competing messages from so-called health influencers and clickbait fringe studies, there’s always a punchy headline or new health craze that needs to be dissected. At our company, we’ve created internal Slack channels for health news and research. Allowing team members to share their knowledge and discuss the “latest research” is how we all learn, grow and live healthier lives.

 

Plus, the conversations about whether eggs are good or bad, what “keto” actually means or which approach to fitness will help you live to 100 never disappoint.

 

3. Commit to culture. Create opportunities for employees to be their healthiest selves at the office, not just at home. We allow our team to use work hours to practice yoga, go for walks, ride spin bikes, deadlift, do team eight-minute ab sessions and so on. Support and encourage what employees do daily to live healthy lifestyles.

 

When it comes down to it, a person’s health is an incredibly personal journey. It can be tricky to navigate making it part of a professional setting, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. To become a healthier company, talk to your team. Gather consistent feedback to adjust your wellness offerings based on the team’s needs, requests and budgets, and be flexible on the definition of what it means to be healthy.

 

Creating a healthy workplace culture is worth it — for you and everyone on your team. When you empower your team members to be healthy versions of themselves for their families, everyone wins.

 

Read more: Former Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini on the CVS Deal, Yoga and Employee Wellness

Munjal Shah: Munjal Shah is the co-founder and CEO of Health IQ, a life insurance agency that rewards people with healthy lifestyles, like runners, cyclists, weightlifters, and vegetarians. After working as a technology entrepreneur for the first part of his career, he started Health IQ to improve the health of the world by celebrating those who practice healthy lifestyles.