Throughout much of the country, this winter’s extreme weather has created difficult working conditions for our technicians. Howling winds and low temperatures add a level of frustration to the work day. Cold fingers, as well as frozen equipment, can turn a simple job into a survival adventure.
You need extra calories to stay warm and get through the days, which involve lots of overtime in sub-zero weather. Unfortunately, so many technicians turn to sugary snacks, caffeine-laced drinks and all around poor food choices. It’s easier to skip after-work trips to the gym or an early morning run. Chances are good that business owners and service managers are begging for even more tech hours on the clock.
This is not a recipe for health and well-being.
When I visit our ZOOM DRAIN shops and other contracting businesses, I’m noticing that our young people are exhibiting health challenges of much older people. Too many pounds around the middle can stress knees and backs. Even worse, poor diet and a lack of exercise can cause high blood pressure and diabetes.
Are we helping the people who work with us by bringing donuts to work? I love donuts, 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? I understand that overtime is sometimes inevitable, but is it becoming the norm rather than the exception?
What could we do instead?
I recently listened to an interview of Dan Buettner (http://bit.ly/2CGRZYT). Dan is an endurance athlete, a world traveler – the off the beaten path kind – and a National Geographic Fellow. He embarked on an assignment to investigate communities around the globe which have the most people who live to be 100-years-old or older. He identified five “Blue Zone” cities: Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardina, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.
Dan says: “When you look around these Blue Zones, the people who live there aren’t trying to live to 100. Longevity happens to them. It’s a residue. They’re part of a culture that makes right decisions for them, and that’s the big secret: how you set up your life so that longevity ensues rather than being something you’re always trying to chase.”
Dan partnered with other wellness experts and insurance companies to develop Blue Zone communities throughout the U.S.
The Blue Zone team works with community leaders – business owners, government officials, school principals, local associations – to review and revise the town structure. Interestingly, Dan found that the program works in communities that are generally conservative, like South Bend, Indiana as well as more liberal areas, like Redondo Beach, California. On a personal, local level, people prioritize their kids’ safety and health. In spite of political differences, they work together to construct sidewalks and bike lanes, grow communal gardens, institute “walking school buses” and impose “no junk food” areas.
The idea is to “stack the deck” and create better choices for food, lifestyle and environment. Dan says his ultimate goal isn’t so much to improve health, or live to be 100, but to be happy and to help others find true, lasting happiness, too. So many of our current default lifestyle choices are not only making us sick, they are making us miserable.
What we can do to promote health and happiness:
“Stack the deck” and start taking small steps towards 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, and give the project Top Project status.
Check out Blue Zones at https://bluezones.com. 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. Robert Bean is an expert in the field. Here’s a terrific link to learn more, http://bit.ly/2CTFRr4
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.
Invite the whole team and their family members over for a hot meal. 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 donuts, bring apples, oranges and other fresh snacks. Hummus, raw vegetables and organic energy bars are good choices. I brought in some edamame the other day. It was a frozen package — not the very best way to get introduced to edamame. However, lots of the techs had never tasted a steamed, salty soybean, and I was stoked to introduce them to something new.
Are there people on your team who are super fit, or into meditation, or yoga? Visit with them about hosting a non-mandatory, introductory 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.
Campbell Comfort Systems Inc. in West Deptford, New Jersey, installed a serious, heavy iron gym. I’ve met Bill Campbell, his son Brad, and Operations Manager Ramon. Uh, they are fit, great examples for their team.
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 pick-up.
The team at ZOOM DRAIN has decided to plant vegetable gardens this spring. They’ll start with a few containers for tomatoes, herbs, lettuces and squash. I’m really excited about it! 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. Good manners are important. Make it easier to make healthier choices. What other people choose to eat and do is outside of your hula hoop. Just offer, without judgement. Adopt some healthy choices yourself, and let your example be a beacon.
Got a different opinion, or an idea you’d like to share? Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s the Blue Zone book: http://amzn.to/2FifER4.