How To Ask Your Boss For A Healthier Workplace

The “Yada Yada” Seinfeld episode is one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t seen it before, the phrase “yada yada” is used to gloss over significant details in a story: the specifics you want to know about, whether they’re work or personal. For example, you’re applying for a new job and one of the questions you ask at the end of the interview is, “Can you share with me why the previous person left the position?” Their reply, “The last person left unexpectedly, yada, yada, yada…when can you start?” Clearly an important piece of information was left out.

A healthier workplace is possible, and asking your boss is doable. Here's how to approach the topic in your workplace!

Another instance: your new boss requests that the team meet during lunch (you all planned to attend the Lunch and Learn Workshop on Effective Communication Skills). Your manager speaks to the group – “Thank you all for putting in those long hours the past few weeks, eating lunch at your desk and yada, yada, yada, see you on Saturday. The team will now be working weekends for the next six weeks to finish up a proposal for a big potential client.”

You mutter to yourself that you left your last job because of the work demands, long hours, and feeling that your leader really doesn’t have your back. This company was supposed to be different. They were touted on Glassdoor – a job and recruiting site – for their amazing perks and benefits such as having health-conscious, in-house chefs, an onsite wellness center, paid health insurance, paid time to volunteer, flexible work schedule, and team outings.

These were the reasons why you wanted to work there. You gained 25 pounds at your last job, your partner complained that they never saw you enough. You were miserable. Your advisor/coach/trainer said that it’s essential for our wellbeing to take a few minutes each day to cultivate mental spaciousness and achieve a positive mind-body balance. How can you possibly do that at your new job?

After the meeting, you approach one of your colleagues – the one that you know will keep things in the vault – and confide in them that you feel you might not be a good fit. But you keep telling yourself you can push through; that it’s temporary. You can do this because you’ve run a half marathon in the cold rain five years ago. You can do it, you just don’t want to. You want to live a healthier lifestyle in and outside the office. They have lots of great suggestions, but you need to be the one to address it. Not them. You wake up early the next morning and go for a run to clear your mind.

You ask your boss for a one-on-meeting, preferably during a walk. For you, walking has always been an easier way to talk through things rather than the hierarchy feeling sitting in someone else’s office or over a meal.

You express that you are up for the challenge but will need to set boundaries. You will need to explain in terms they will understand: that it’s unrealistic for you to ask us to spend seven days in the office without complementing it with activities for our mental and physical health. It’s just not sustainable. Financially it costs more to hire new staff then retain the staff you already have. Health care and missing work days will eat up the profits.

  • Did you know that the average office worker spends on average 9.3 hours per day sitting and 11.5 hours on an electronic device?
  • Have you heard sitting is the new smoking?
  • Did you know that the money you spend on late night dinners and lunches could be better put to use on providing us with money to be spent on a new workout wardrobe or group classes?
  • Helpful to start meetings with mindfulness and breathing exercises like alternate nostril breathing or 4-Part Breathing Technique to help us better focus and be in the present moment
  • It is essential for our wellbeing to take a few minutes each day to cultivate mental spaciousness and achieve a positive mind-body balance.
  • How being a good leader means ?
  • Benefits of walking meetings
  • Know how much you have been spending on Friday happy hours that $1000 could be spent at a group activity class or half us go here and the other half go

A healthier workplace is possible, and asking your boss is doable. Here's how to approach the topic in your workplace!

If that isn’t enough, I have found data signifying why it’s not only good for us but, a healthier workplace also good for the bottom line.

By doing just some of what I have mentioned and by making the healthy choice the easy choice, you will find us to be more engaged, empowered, requesting less sick days/mental health days, boosting our productivity, and our creative thinking. It might even help us shed some of the extra weight we have gained in the last few months. The bottom line is that you will benefit in many ways from us stepping away from our desk.

This is how you will do it – you will share with all levels of management (C suites, middle and lower management) what I listed above and include more financial data to back it up (what they spend on happy hours, etc.). You need to give the team permission for movement pauses throughout the day.

Sometimes it could be a one-minute breathing exercise, a five minute walk around the building, as aprt of the mentor-mentee program, or a Netwalk pause for a brainstorming session. When we are on a tight deadline, it could be a 60-90-minute pause for a physical activity we enjoy or heard good things about. You will also walk the talk with us.  Since we are piloting this in our group. You will look to be an innovator, someone that truly cares and sees us as an asset to the company rather than a liability.

How do we realistically get there?

You will need to allow us to block off time on our calendar to do that. You will probably need to hire outside help to prepare the team (proper footwear, clothing, collaboration online tools, route mapping and lunch and learns to help keep us on track). It would be nice to buy local from the local small businesses in the neighborhood. How does that sound?

You don’t want to come back to the C suite for the Monday meeting following the day we hear if we got the contract: “Hey, I have some unfortunate news. We didn’t get the contract and…yada, yada, yada, the team quit.”

Jessica Tunon is the founder and CEO of Netwalking® LLC and business coach. For the past 20+ years, she has helped companies budget, spot inefficiencies and find opportunities for operations to be streamlined and improved for organizations such as Franklin Templeton Investments, Whole Foods, Office Depot, and MITRE. She has presented at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive and V2V, The Walking Summit, and other events focused on workplace productivity, entrepreneurship, and green solutions. Prior to Netwalking, Jessica co-founded Beyond2ndNature in Austin, Texas organizing an America Walks Walkability Workshop in which led to the creation of the first standing Pedestrian Advisory Council in Austin, the coalition WalkAustin and co-organized Austin’s first World Car Free


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