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One of my favourite features on my Fitbit is that it enables me to track my sleep. Though sometimes a daunting figure to check, every morning I look at how well I slept the night before and, not surprisingly, the less I slept the less productive I end up being that day. Sleep is a hugely important factor of overall well-being. Think about it for a moment, if you’re tired are you as likely to hit the gym or make a healthy homemade meal? Personally, if my Fitbit registers anything under 6 hours of sleep, I know I’ll be seeing more of Raul, my pizza delivery boy, that day than my sneakers, Hal and JoAnne (yes, I named my sneakers after the Body Break duo).
When thinking about how well you sleep and how it affects your day-to-day life, we may not immediately realize how significant a good sleep is to our level of productivity. We think: “give me a coffee and I’ll power through”, but this is rarely the case. As sleepless nights turn into unproductive days, the workload you may have had no trouble handling under normal circumstances builds up and creates an added level of workplace stress. Next thing you know, this stress turns into one of the demons that keep you up at night.
It’s a seemingly vicious circle and low levels of sleep not only affect your productivity, but also affect your focus, behaviour, job satisfaction and level of innovation.  If employers want to improve the health of their employees (and in turn, their fiscal bottom line) making sure they get their 7-9 hours of rest each night could be crucial. Short of instigating a company-wide naptime, here are some ways employees and employers alike can ensure a good night’s sleep.
1. Encourage employees to keep the office out of the bedroom.
Employers: Some companies are taking this one to the extreme, blocking employee work e-mails after a certain hour of the evening. Less drastically, just encourage company leaders to insist that employees put down their phones and turn off their computers after a certain time (and have them lead by example!).
Employee: Studies show that exposure to the type of light emitted by cellphones and computers impact how quickly you fall asleep, so back away from your devices at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep.  Try filling that hour with a warm bath, some deep breathing, or curl up with a good book.
2. Incorporate sleep into your existing wellness program or incentives.
Employers: Provide employees with a company-wide sleep clinic that will educate them on optimal sleep practices and help them manage the full spectrum of sleep disorders they may be facing.
Employees: If you have a workplace wellness program, request that this service be provided!
3.    Provide non-caffeinated options.
Employers: Deadlines and crunch times are inevitable for any business from time to time so, if your employees have to stay at work past their regular hours, try providing them with some herbal teas – peppermint, ginger and cinnamon teas have all been shown to aid in alertness.
Employees: Most people metabolize caffeine fully within 5 hours, but it may take up to a day to eliminate it from your body entirely. Try to curb your caffeine intake in the late afternoon and consume herbal teas or decaf coffee in the evening to stop your nighttime tossing and turning.
 4.    Create work schedules that fits with individual Circadian rhythms
This last one should be a collaborative effort between employer and employee and may not be possible for everyone. Circadian rhythms are different in every individual and they change throughout a lifetime. If possible, arrange a work schedule that works with your personal circadian rhythm. Find that you can’t fall asleep before midnight? See if your employer will let you work 10 AM – 6 PM. Enjoy going to bed early? Maybe 7 AM to 3PM is the best shift for you. Try experimenting with shift start times until employer and employee find a time frame that works best for both parties.
Remember, you’re not alone! The National Sleep Foundation reports that more than half of the working population experiences one or more symptom of insomnia at least a few nights per week – that’s huge! Recent data also shows that the annual employer costs for sleep related problems tops $60 billion – $16 billion in health care expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity.  Hopefully with these tips you’ll be so good at sleeping you could do it with your eyes closed.  However, if you’d like some extra help tracking your sleep Request a Demo with Sprout today
Brea Giffin is Sprout’s Placement student.  She hails from the Centennial College Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion graduate program and has a Bachelor of Science and a diploma in holistic nutrition.  As a life long “fish” (competitive swimmer) she has always been active and enjoys outdoor activities and team sports. She’ll split a salad with you anytime.

Sprout Citrus Snack

If you haven’t heard yet, March is nutrition month! We’re kicking it off here at Sprout by filling our kitchen with lots of healthy, energy-boosting foods that help us power through our workday.  Take a peek into our cupboards to see the 6 foods we’re eating and why!

Almonds - First, make sure they’re raw and unsalted and then help yourself to a handful when you hit your mid-afternoon slump.  They’re an excellent source of healthy fats and the mineral Magnesium, which is one of the key ingredients your cells use to produce energy.

Healthy Energy Boost Snack

Dark Chocolate - Before you use this post to go on a full on chocolate bar binge, make sure you’re eating at least 70% dark chocolate.  It’s a great source of iron and magnesium and can perk you up more than a cup of coffee!

IMG_3869

Bananas - Bananas are chock full of potassium and B vitamins. Additionally, they slow down digestion and release their energy slowly so they keep you full for longer & stabilize your blood sugar levels. “Why?” you ask? Because they have a perfect balance of three kinds of sugar: fructose, glucose and sucrose so they give you a fast energy boost that lasts.  In fact, a recent study showed that bananas aided athletic performance just as well, if not better, than a sports drink.

Greek Yogurt - The perfect storm of protein, carbs and fat in Greek yogurt will give you a slow burn of energy to start (or finish) your day out strong.  Plus the probiotics in the yogurt will help with digestion & boost your immune system, which improves energy levels!

Greek Yogurt Sprout

Citrus Fruit - Another friend of your immune system! Chock full of vitamin C, these delicious fruits are not only zingy and delicious but contain natural, slow burning sugars to keep you alert. Bonus: they’re in season during the winter!

Sprout Citrus

Water - Ok, you got us.  Water is not a food, but dehydration is probably the main reason you’re feeling sluggish during your workday. Water is the most vital source of energy your body has and when you don’t get enough of it the enzymatic activity in your body slows down, resulting in fatigue.  Not sure how much to drink?  Suggested amounts can vary depending on exercise, environment, biology and a whole slew of other things but shoot for around 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 for men.

Brea Giffin is Sprout’s Placement student.  She hails from the Centennial College Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion graduate program and has a Bachelor of Science and a diploma in holistic nutrition.  As a life long “fish” (competitive swimmer) she has always been active and enjoys outdoor activities and team sports. She’ll split a salad with you anytime.

Love is in the air this week with Valentine’s Day wrapping up the workweek and the Family Day long weekend (in some Canadian provinces) upon us. We write a lot in this blog about ways to engage employees around wellness in the workplace, but what about being healthy at home?

Corporate wellness was born out of the fact that we spend the majority of our days at work with our colleagues. Sprout helps companies build a culture of health and wellness that encourages healthy choices in the context of the work day (and beyond): walking meetings, stand up desks, healthy food options in the lunch room, activity breaks, for example. This week, we wanted to share our personal tips and tricks to staying healthy with our loved ones and families. Here’s what some members of the Sprout team had to say about their healthy habits at home:

Matt and I are trying to eat vegetarian during the week, which means lots of good veggies, lentils, quinoa, etc. – Martha Switzer, CEO & Co-founder

Hiking. We strap on our crampons and walk up the ski hill, sharing the activity with our Samoyed. It’s beautiful in the mornings and great bonding time…and each time it really does get easier!  – Christina Winkels, COO & Co-founder

We try to create a nice dining experience each night; we take the time to ensure the setting is peaceful and inviting and that the meal is delicious. Plus, we love our daily walks and hikes when we’ve got more time!  – Tracy Cameron, Champions Coach and Business Development

Amanda and I hold each other accountable for missed gym sessions. If we talk at night and haven’t gone to the gym, we have to do a 50-rep combination of sit-ups, push-ups, and squats while on the phone with each other. – Ronak Ahluwalia, Account Manager

We make smoothies every morning and change it up with different fruits and ingredients to be creative and fun. We often surprise each other and do taste testing to guess what’s in it! We also play the food group game and food group counting to talk about and try to represent all the food groups. We make it a goal to see who had the most fruits and veg each day. Lastly, we do Wii dance contests until we are sweaty! Lots of laughs over mom’s ‘moves’….need I say more!!  – Colleen Dalos, Business Development 

Mark and I have a 5-minute stretching period together every night before bed!  – Brea Giffin, Wellness Placement Student

Tennis is my stress buster and keeps me fit at the same time – nothing like pounding a ball to feel refreshed and strong.  When I can’t get out to the courts it’s yoga and staying on top of personal development through courses, books and connecting with like-minded friends.  – Lauren Jawno, Health and Wellness Expert

I love to swim during the summer and do not let the winter get me down! During the winter, I go to the local community centre, recruit a friend to commit and we do 20-30 minutes of lengths at least once a week. If I’m not swimming, you can find me at the Moksha Yoga studio on Alma & 4th!   – Yas Yeganegi, Business Development

I like to use the TRX as I find it builds useful functional, balanced strength. I do this as I want to be lean, not bulky, avoid injuries, stay nimble and push my skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing. When I have time I like to swim and do yoga to relax.  – Will Melbourne, Product Developer

My boyfriend and I schedule our workouts primarily together to keep each other accountable, plus there’s the saying that couples that workout together, stay together! We plan trips to the gym, active dates of going for runs or walks (although I’m not sure the run counts when we follow it up with Burrito Boys?), snowshoeing in the woods at my parent’s house, or dancing around the condo to hit our NikeFuel goal (actually it’s only me that does that). We do have matching Nike+ FuelBands, and will compare our points daily.  – Laura Jackman, Account Manager 

Request a demo today and share the love of corporate wellness with your organization! 

Laura Jackman is a long-time Account Manager with Sprout. She finds chopping vegetables and cooking to be therapeutic. Quinoa, cilantro and avocado are a few of her go-to ingredients. She likes to walk, run, and is a master at synchronized swimming.

Despite overwhelming evidence and information available regarding what we can do to reduce both risk factors and the incidence of heart disease, statistics across the board remain high.  For example:

The good news is that lifestyle is the best defense against heart disease.  It’s the way we eat, how much alcohol we consume, how much we exercise, how we deal with stress and the effects of environmental toxins that are the primary, underlying causes of heart disease.

More good news is that the workplace can play a significant role in regard to its impact on motivating and supporting employees to adopt healthier habits.

What can you do?

1. Encourage employees to:

2. Provide an online platform such as Sprout where employees can:

3. Organize company Competitions/Challenges:

In addition to Sprout providing an employee wellness solution to implement all of the above suggestions and more; it is also simple, scalable and time-efficient to manage, making it a highly sought after wellness solution for corporations world-wide.

February is Heart Health Month.  Request a demo today and get to the heart of your employee’s wellness!

Lauren Jawno is a Health and Wellness Expert for Sprout, as well as an Account Manager.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in  Education, is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, Published Author and Speaker with over 15 years of professional experience. Lauren enjoys traveling, reading and power-walking, but being an avid tennis player she is most in the zone when “crushing” tennis balls, winter and summer!

It’s the end of January, and the Winter Olympians are in their final push in training, leading into the games.  It’s an exciting time for all!  January is also a time when we all are thinking about the year ahead and setting our goals to try to be the best that we can be!

In February, the Olympics will be top of mind for millions of sport fans and non-sport fans alike.  Have you ever wondered what the athletes are really going through in their final preparation phase?  Well, wonder no more!  I’d like to share with you the inside scoop.  I dusted off my old journal to see just what I was experiencing weeks before we headed to the summer games in Beijing.  It was fun to travel down memory lane, but, more importantly, I think the information that I’d written may be useful in helping you to set your goals and to reach your targets (both personally and at work).

What you are about to read is a direct excerpt from my training journal.  Please don’t be afraid of the rowing jargon; it’s not meant to scare you and you really don’t even need to understand it.  My hope is that you can see my “task oriented approach” and perhaps it might be something that you can adopt in your life as well.  Now, the drum roll please…and the unveiling of what was going through my head three weeks out from the biggest competition of my life (the 2008 Olympic Games)….

Olympian Tracy Cameron

Weight Management & Nutrition

General Comments – I will be under target so that there is no stress about making weight, and especially no stress when it comes to afternoon weigh-in’s.  We are three weeks and four days out from heats.  This is the time to fuel my body with the BEST nutrition; no junk to clog the system.  I want to eat only healthy and energy supportive food.

Tasks – Write a menu and meal plan for the remainder of our time in Canada. Buy and pack food for China.

Target -Weigh in at 57 kgs spot on!

Physiology Maintenance

General Comments – During this final push the workouts are meant to stress the system.  I use my physiology to push my personal limits.  Remember this stress is necessary to ensure a proper taper!

Task- Every workout needs to be attacked!  No complacency!

Target- Reach a state of super-compensation and see improvement in speed during the taper phase.

Health Maintenance

General Comments- I am healthy; I maintain and fortify all systems. 

Tasks – Top up immune system and cardiovascular system functioning with regular supplements (iron, calcium, B12). Take care of muscular system with regular massage (1x per week) and Pilates sessions (3x per week).

Target- Maximize a healthy, efficient body

Mental Preparation

General Comments- Remember, “What the mind believes, the body can achieve”.

Tasks – Stay focused and energized. Keep positive in practice. Be prepared for any situation by imagining different race scenarios daily. Gather as much information from teammates who have been there before.  Take notes from them.

Every time we are in the water, put ourselves into scenarios, simulations using our teammates (i.e. start behind on a piece to feel what it’s like to race from behind).  Review and revise our race plan. Work with sport psychologist on our visualization.

Target – Be more mentally tough than any other team on the line.  Hold a firm belief that we will win gold.

Relationships

General Comments – It takes more than the two people in the boat to win an Olympic medal. 

Tasks – Maintain healthy, positive relationships with all those involved. Cut Al and Mel some slack as we are going through this final push. Remember the importance of supporters (i.e. family, medical team, equipment team, media personnel, and my sponsors.)  Give credit to these unsung heroes every chance I can. 

Target- Walk away from the games having had a really positive attitude; embrace those who have shared the journey.

So there you have it, a glimpse of the mind of an Olympic Medalist!  You can see from my journal the five pillars that I found important to achieving my ultimate target.  You may use these pillars (or some variation) as cornerstones in helping you lay out your daily tasks.  Always keep in mind that your tasks should be moving you toward your target; it’s a recipe that I’m convinced will help you achieve success personally and professionally.

Tracy Cameron is a two-time world champion and Olympic medalist in rowing. She holds an MSc (Sport Medicine) and BPE(H) Exercise Science. Tracy is on a mission to make a positive impact on the health and performance of Canadians. Tracy is the Champions Coach for the network of Wellness Champions across the organizations Sprout works with. Beyond rowing and workplace wellness, Tracy is passionate about cooking good food, walking with her grandmother, and spending time with her family.

 

With 10 days to go until the opening ceremonies 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, we’ve been thinking about ways to bring Olympic fever into the office. We’re passing the torch and sharing these ideas for you to bring to your office.

1. Host an Opening Ceremonies (healthy) potluck lunch on Friday, February 7. Encourage your colleagues to represent a country of their choice and share a traditional dish from that country. In true Olympic spirit, your potluck can be a culinary celebration from around the world! And if your office is extra competitive, add in a voting element and a prize for the top dish! Invite members of the leadership team to be your panel of judges.

2. The Short and the Long Track - Celebrate speed skating with an office-friendly alternative by looking around for your own oval track. It could be within your floor plan or outside around the perimeter of your office building. Measure and map out your short and long track distances and get your coworkers moving! How many laps can the Marketing department do this week? Can Sales beat the record? Leverage the natural rivalries within your organization for the purposes of fun and fitness.  This is where the challenges feature and activity tracker on Sprout come in handy to set the challenge parameters and track the results! No judging scandals guaranteed!

Bundle up and head outside for a winter walk at lunch! #workplacewellness

Don’t let the cold weather keep you indoors. Bundle up and enjoy the fresh air, some natural vitamin D and rosy cheeks!

3. Let your true colours shine! Organize a wear-your-favourite-sports-jersey-to-work-day. For maximum participation, consider opening it up to jerseys of any sport, and let the football, baseball and soccer fans show their true colours, even though hockey is the only game that counts right now. Or for a simpler option, go for with a red and white day in support of Team Canada (or the colours of your country’s flag for our international readers!)

4. To the top!  Take inspiration from the ski jumpers and organize a stair climbing competition (how do you think the jumpers get to the top before their jump?) Create a healthy competition between departments or teams and award bronze, silver and gold “medals” to the top 3 teams. A stair climbing challenge is a great opportunity to highlight the health benefits of taking the stairs and provide the extra motivation for people to break their elevator habit.

SkiJumpStairs300

(Photo credit: www.ruralintelligence.com)

Our clients are getting excited for their customized Sprout to Sochi Olympics challenges to start in a couple of weeks. Our Wellness Champions Coach, and in-house Olympic bronze medalist, Tracy Cameron sent out this call to action to take the challenge and channel your inner Olympian.

Leveraging the Sprout platform, our clients have the ability to create challenges between teams, post inspiring messages, keep an eye on the competition with Leaderboards and celebrate the results. Team building, engagement, and workplace fun rolled into one great challenge. Talk about a gold medal in workplace wellness!

Request a demo today and take your organization to the top of their game! 

Laura Jackman is a long-time Account Manager with Sprout. She finds chopping vegetables and cooking to be therapeutic. Quinoa, cilantro and avocado are a few of her go-to ingredients. She likes to walk, run, and is a master at synchronized swimming. 

We are almost reaching the end of January.  A month that notoriously starts out with most people setting above all else, wellness related goals. Ironically, this commitment is already reaching rocky ground for many and for some, they have already dropped the ball on the great intentions they had just a few weeks ago.

How can you avoid this? 

I can answer this with one word: PRIORITY.  If you want to be healthier, happier, more creative and productive; if you want to achieve a corporate culture of health and wellness – then you absolutely have to make it a priority on all fronts.

Becoming healthier on a personal level is challenging, there is no debating that. If it is not a priority, results will be less than encouraging, no doubt about that either.  Every possible distraction will serve as the perfect excuse as to why you could not bring a healthy lunch to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, get up and move regularly during the day, drink more water etc.  As many options as there are to create wellness, so too are the excuses why we don’t.

How do you make wellness at work a priority?

Consider anything within the context of your workday and organization that is non-negotiable.  Maybe it is a weekly report to senior management, a daily inventory review, or monthly sales projections.  Now adopt the same approach and mindset towards wellness initiatives. If you would absolutely, never, under any circumstance fail to deliver the weekly report to senior management then have that same attitude towards bringing a healthy lunch to work or taking the stairs, have that same discipline towards providing opportunities for and ensuring employees feel comfortable taking stretch breaks during the day and have that same commitment to identifying and acknowledging those that are engaging in health promoting activities and indirectly serving as role models for others

Corporate wellness initiatives typically compete against other priorities within an organization.  Creating a culture with health and wellness embedded into the workday is the key to ensuring “wellness” isn’t just a project or annual program, but rather a way of doing business.   This is easier than most think: provide water at all meetings, encourage walking meetings where possible, initiate stretch breaks during long meetings, set up a junk-food-free-zone, take time at lunch to go for a walk with colleagues, take the stairs instead of the elevator.  This list is really only limited by priorities and creativity.

How can you ensure employee wellness is a priority within your organization?

Involve senior leadership, recruit like-minded colleagues and use an online wellness solution like Sprout to ensure engagement.  It offers a complete, interactive, customizable, social, mobile solution that allows you to seamlessly manage and track all your wellness initiatives and communications.  Employees can set goals, track activities, create events, join specific groups for support and encouragement, participate in and create challenges – all of which help to ensure wellness remains a priority in their lives and within your company.

Make employee wellness a priority for your organization and request a demo today!

Lauren Jawno is a Health and Wellness Expert for Sprout, as well as an Account Manager.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in  Education, is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, Published Author and Speaker with over 15 years of professional experience. Lauren enjoys travelling reading and power-walking, but being an avid tennis player she is most in the zone  when “crushing” tennis balls, winter and summer!

Sprout is in the process of moving to a new office next month. We’re excited for the New Year and a new office. We’re in the business of corporate wellness, promoting healthier and happier workplaces and this is our chance to share what we’re doing to maximize the health of our culture and engagement of our team. (more…)

Premiums have been offered to good drivers in the car insurance industry for years, this system is now being recreated in the health insurance industry. With millions of consumers worldwide utilizing fitness bands and health-tracking apps, insurance companies are utilizing the vast amount of data to reward more physically active customers – changing the way health insurance will be offered in years to come.

Much like insurance companies, employers of private, public, and government organizations are trying to curb the financial and productivity toll of an unhealthy and inactive work force. Utilizing a specifically designed platform Sprout offers a solution to improve employee health and as a result boost morale within the workplace.

Read more about Sprout and the changing scene of health and wellness in the workplace, in the article “How insurers are turning to fitness apps to decide your health coverage” featured in The Globe and Mail.

Help make your workplace more active and healthy! Contact us today to request a demo and see why Sprout is the solution for your organization.

 

By: Lauren Jawno, Holistic Nutritionist and Wellness Coach

December is that time of year which for most, is associated with family, friends, holidays and good times.  The duality of this is however the preceding stress and anxiety related to first having to wrap things up at work (no pun intended) and get through a seemingly never-ending to do list. Employees are trying to balance end of year work responsibilities while at the same time manage the many personal and family obligations they have going on.  As a result, so many start their holidays stressed, exhausted and operating on a very short fuse.

Here are 6 tips to navigate this challenging period:

  1. Create a detailed to-do list and get started on it sooner than later – with so many commitments at this time of year it is just too easy to forget something, take on too much or run out of time.  Better to start early and do a few things each day over a longer period of time than be frantically trying to get everything done at the last minute.
  2. Stay well nourished and hydrated.  There will be tempting treats at every turn over the next few weeks.  This does not mean that you need to constantly indulge.  Rather focus on the joy of connecting with people and take the emphasis away from food.  Save your indulgences for a few special meals and treats, enjoy them and forgo the guilt.  Make sure you stay well hydrated and continue to drink plenty of water.  This will not only keep your energy levels up, but will also help curb your appetite.  Sprout is the perfect platform to help you do this, making it easy to set goals, track against them and see your progress.  This is a sure-fire way to keep yourself accountable and on track so you head into 2014 in good shape!
  3. Prioritize, delegate and if necessary say no.  Even with the best of intentions, there are just 24 hours in day so be realistic with what you expect of yourself (and others).  Take into account increased traffic, longer line-ups at stores, slower service, poor weather – all of which can derail the most strategic planning and timing. Prioritize around not only what needs immediate attention but what specifically needs to be done by you.  Get comfortable with delegating and being able to say “no”.  Spreading yourself too thin will ultimately serve no one.
  4. Have a Plan-B.  Life seldom goes exactly according to our agenda and it usually unravels at the worst possible moment.  Take a pro-active approach and consider as best as possible, where possible, what could go off track and have an alternate option.  If my plan is to go gift buying after work and there is a huge snow-storm or I am delayed in a meeting, consider what shopping you could do online.  Not only would this save you time, it will most likely preserve your sanity as well.
  5. Maintain your workout routine.  If need be, modify or shorten it but definitely do it.  Less is better than none!  Exercise is the ultimate stress reliever and mood enhancer so don’t short change yourself out of these much needed benefits.  Tracking your activity on Sprout will help keep you in the habit and to make things more fun, invite some colleagues to join you – a win-win for everyone!
  6. Keep perspective on the big picture when things don’t go as expected.  How do you do this? Ask yourself the following: Will this apparent dilemma really matter later today, in a few days, or in a month? What is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Then put an appropriate amount of “anguish” or attention to it.  If by tomorrow this is not going to be of any significance, then neither is the stress you may be experiencing in the moment.  So breathe, regroup and do the best you can given the circumstances you are facing.

As you close out another year, have you thought ahead and considered what you will do to support the health and wellness of your colleagues and organization in 2014? Let Sprout help and request a demo today!