Why Companies Shouldn’t Limit Sick Days

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Here’s a simple idea from our CEO Tom Gardner: Stop providing limited sick days for your employees. It’s flu season, so Tom’s thoughts are all the more relevant – and urgent – now.

Match our yearlong approach at The Motley Fool: if an employee is feeling sick, tell them to please stay home. It seems like common sense, but Tom outlines four reasons why an unlimited sick policy is worth it in case you’re on the fence:

  1. Protect Your People.
  2. Extend Trust.
  3. Review Your Purpose.
  4. Manage to High Performance.

Instead of the flu, make freedom and trust contagious at your organization. To read more on Tom’s points, view his latest LinkedIn Influencer post here. And don’t be afraid to forward this information along to your CEO or Head of HR! Allowing employees to stay home when they’re ill will ultimately make your organization stronger – and much healthier.

Take Leave for Lunch!

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Is it lunchtime yet? Maybe the better question would be to ask if you even take a lunch break at all. Research reports that in North America, only one in five employees put time aside for meals, with nearly 40% of this population claiming to eat at their desks. We’re all busy, but let’s at least take a few to discuss why lunch breaks are worth it.

Experts claim that standing up for a quick food break can “increase your energy levels, stabilize your blood sugar, and enhance delivery of nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and fiber that help your systems run smoothly.” Pretty important benefits, no? Stopping your work flow to eat lunch isn’t rocket science, but it can be difficult to put a project on hold. If you need more convincing on the matter, desk lunches also increase the potential for mindless eating, defined as “enjoying food less, eating beyond full, and generally not feeling satisfied by it which often leads to snacking on non-nutritious foods later in the day.” I doubt that anyone wants to feel poorly when, in this situation, making a schedule change can be so easy.

If eating lunch at your desk is part of your company’s culture, it’s time for a change. You’re entitled to enjoy a midday break! Add a reminder to your calendar and find a lunch buddy. The lunch rush can be a great opportunity to meet other coworkers. Our café is always buzzing in the afternoons, acting as a communal space to not only eat but communicate. We also host a monthly pizza day where Fools can unwind and enjoy a slice or two, as well as weekly afternoon express fitness classes to get Fools up and moving.

Don’t worry, your work will always be waiting for you to return. Whether you leave the office or not, I bet you’ll notice a difference in how much better it feels to get away from your desk. Taking leave for lunch will provide a burst of energy so that you can bring your A game back to your desk for the afternoon.

Does Your Company Host Health Fairs? They Should.

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Over the past few years, the drive to improve Fools’ overall health has become a top priority. In fact, I’d argue that “Health” could rightfully be added to our list of core values. The benefits behind employees’ positive mental and physical well-being are endless, not just in the office but outside, too. We’ve been fortunate enough to employ a full-time “Wellness Fool” since 2010. These folks have inspired even the unhealthiest of our employees to make smarter, better choices, with several success stories to prove their impact.

One of our most-popular fitness-related benefits is our annual health fair…and it’s quickly approaching again. Health fairs have been described as effective ways “to provide valuable health information and screening services to large numbers of employees in a convenient ‘one-stop shop’ format.” This year, Wellness Fool Sam Whiteside hopes to take our wellness fair to a new level, incorporating not only flu shots and biometrics, but also massage therapy; athletic shoe fittings and running analyses; discounted gym memberships; healthy food samples; acupuncture; fitness demonstrations; and a blood donation van.

Though everything at our wellness fair will be optional, participation is always highly encouraged. It was reported in 2013 that only 43% of American organizations hold health fairs and 50% offer screenings. These statistics should be much higher, but it’s never too late to invest in your employees’ health. Whether you want a downsized wellness fair or a huge function, aim to begin the planning process at least four months in advance. These events usually happen during the fall when flu season begins to creep into the picture. Take the first step by talking to your Human Resources manager, and your organization’s health insurance providers, to locate vendor options. And if you choose to offer them, it’s necessary to reach out to the appropriate professionals while flu shots are still available. At a glance, 61% of companies in the US offer on-site flu shots.

Employer-sponsored health days can be life-changing. Just last year, Amy Robach of ABC News agreed to have the first ever live television mammogram for Good Morning America. Robach had delayed her annual mammogram for more than a year and, a week after the live event, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even her doctors admitted that the mammogram had saved her life.

If your company doesn’t put employee health on a pedestal, maybe they should. It’s definitely worth the research. A healthy employee is a happier one, and who knows – an event like a health fair could possibly even change a life.

Foolish or Not, Meditation Matters

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Though meditation is a respected and ancient practice, how frequently is it applied in the workplace? Chances are you’re likely taking part in it more than you think. Have you ever stopped to sit, breathe deeply, and quietly reflect on personal thoughts? If so, you’ve participated in a form of meditation. It’s true! Though personal experiences vary, credible research indicates the many positive benefits of hopping on the meditation bandwagon. 

Misconceptions and opinions are forever present, but insight into meditational practices can be pleasantly surprising. Meditation isn’t solely segregated to the spiritual, nor does it stimulate psychic abilities. And it’s not just about sitting in a quiet place solo, either. Meditation increases self-awareness and battles stress; one study found that its participants felt fewer effects of depression or emotional exhaustion. The practice also reduces anger through a variety of methods, some of which were recently shared at The Motley Fool by a local instructor.

Some will say that implementing meditation in the workplace is “too new age,” but let’s face it – we are in 2014. One executive remembered from years ago that, “If you talked about meditation then, they thought you were either captured by a cult or something was wrong with you.” However, with Gallup reporting last year that only 58% of employees are thriving, it’s worth considering if meditation could add to the happiness and satisfaction within America’s workforce. The idea of corporate culture is changing and, in a stressful world, we all need to take a moment for ourselves sometimes.

One of the best things about meditating in the workplace is that it’s relatively easy to do. Whether it’s closing your eyes and focusing on one issue or practicing a tranquil breathing cycle, meditation is possible even at your desk. Simple breathing techniques can save you from allowing anxiety to take over, or letting an interpersonal conflict further decline.

In addition to weekly yoga classes, The Motley Fool is beginning to offer monthly meditation and movement seminars. Our Employee Wellness Fool encourages meditation in empty conference rooms and quiet corners, boasting that it can improve work/life balance and foster proactive stress reduction. Numerous Fools, including our CEO, participate in mindfulness meditation and awareness retreats around the world. One Fool mentioned that meditation helps to sharpen his focus and improve his attitude, while another practices at night to help regulate his sleeping cycle.

The meditation movement is already popular in Asia, where the WSJ notes that “yoga, laughing exercises, meditation and ‘spiritual intelligence’ are rapidly gaining fans in boardrooms and corner offices.” Google has long offered a popular course called “Search Inside Yourself,” which typically holds a six-month waiting list. The class is branded as “a workout for your emotional intelligence,” with its ultimate goal being to help people relate better to others. Isn’t positive collaboration alone at least one key to success?

From Def Jam Founder Russell Simmons to Oprah Winfrey, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford, and CTO of Cisco Systems Padmasree Warrior, many successful businesspeople practice some type of meditation. Between research and personal confessions, it’s clear that this practice is beneficial. Take some quiet time and we think you’ll eventually reap its benefits. You may find yourself not only a better person, but also a more valuable – and happier – employee.

You Don’t Have to Hate Your Job (Really!)

Employee Engagement

Employee EngagementBy Laurie Street

The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.

Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.

In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.

We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.

However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.

Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.

Are You Our Future Wellness Coordinator? Apply Today!

Wellness

WellnessThe Motley Fool Wellness Program has been in place for about 2.5 years now and has created quite a culture shift within our organization. We have always been a “relaxed” atmosphere with amazing benefits (unlimited vacation, no dress code, mobile workstations, etc.) and the addition of our Wellness Program has been another staple to our fantastic environment. We have had tremendous support from our leadership team, specifically our CEO Tom Gardner. With his 100% backing, we’ve been able to grow this program.

However, our wellness program is measured to a different standard as it was not set in place to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism, encourage presenteeism, or any general wellness metric; our program was created as an additional benefit because it was intuitive to push for a healthier and happier workforce. All the aforementioned benefits will automatically occur, but none are our driving metric to promote a healthy and well workplace.

The Motley Fool encourages a well-rounded path toward wellness, offering physical, nutritional, and spiritual benefits. We offer weekly boot-camp, yoga, meditation, and Zumba classes, while also providing on-site massage and chiropractic care. We gather three times a week to play basketball, soccer, and floor hockey at a nearby gym and Fools can buy a heavily discounted membership to said gym. The Fool also has a free on-site gym, locker room, and showers for those that need a quick exercise break, and we recently added standing desks and a treadmill desk in the office to help combat sedentary lifestyles. We’ve removed soda from vending machines, replacing unhealthy items with healthier options, while also providing free fresh food from local vendors twice weekly. We also provide health seminars on topics like stress management, healthy smoothie workshops, and body inflammation.

At our annual health fair, we bring in a wide array of vendors, ranging from acupuncturists, to physical therapists, to local farmers’ market vendors selling their nutrient-dense food. At the fair, The Fool also provides free biometric screenings and immunizations to all employees and their spouses. Lastly, The Fool employs a personal trainer that helps create individualized plans for any employee that wants one. The goal of our wellness program is to provide a variety of activities to help suit our employees’ needs in the everlasting pursuit of wellness. It is NOT to enhance our bottom dollar or to “fit in” with other workplace wellness programs looking to cut health care costs.

Are you a fitness-minded person who wants to be a Fool? We’re looking for Wellness Coordinator to keep all of the above programs running. Check out the job description to find out more and apply!

 

Setting Goals for the New Year? Let Motivation Lead You to Success!

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GoalsHow do you measure success in exercise? Do you measure it by X amount of pounds or body fat percentage lost? Or by X inches gained/lost, depending on your goal? How do you measure success in business or your personal life? Do you measure it by how many promotions or personal triumphs you’ve achieved? Success is incredibly relative to an individual but one common denominator that (should) define success is your effort level.

I recently read a great article in a popular health magazine, discussing what it takes to reach your absolute max potential in exercise. There is only a fraction of a percentage of folks who tap into their reserve, and literally give everything they have to whatever race, event, max lift, etc., they are attempting to complete. The example they provided was a physical stress test on a treadmill: Imagine you have nodes and a breathing apparatus attached to your body and you’re walking on a treadmill and gradually the doc increases the incline and speed to the point where you’re sprinting “as hard as you can go.” Are you in fact sprinting all out? Most likely, since this is just a stress test, you’d eventually give up as any normal person would. The example continues by asking the client what they would do if they were offered a million dollars to continue for another minute. Everyone in their right mind would do everything in their power to stay running for that extra 60 seconds. My point is that most people find themselves quitting before they really need to; I’m not advocating you push until injury, but there are many levels one can push themselves to between when they’d actually quit and their literal max.

If you aim to reach any of those levels in any aspect of your life, not just exercise, you’ll probably find yourself accomplishing a lot more than you thought was possible. I’ve helped mentor a handful of coworkers who have reached their personal success in very different ways. One Fool had the right mindset and wanted to get super healthy due to a risk of inheriting some unfavorable health traits. We came up with a 6% body fat reduction goal and he surpassed it by providing maximum effort every week, while shifting priorities and changing his lifestyle. Another Fool had a goal of working his dream job at TMF and,since I had recently lived this fantasy a couple years ago, I helped him realize his goal by doing everything in his power to succeed (volunteering on projects, putting in side work to help his cause, etc.) while letting the decision makers do the rest. Both Fools gave their 100% effort without knowing what the results would be. Both Fools happened to succeed.

With 2013 looming, we all have a great chance to start fresh through some New Year’s resolutions. Set yourself a few attainable goals and if you are 100%, without a reasonable doubt, giving your everything, you can live with the results whether good/bad; there is literally nothing else you could have done. Even upon “failing,” you have gained much more through maximum effort in terms of discipline and development. So let’s take 2013 as a time to lose the extra 10 pounds, or foster a better relationship with your coworkers, or spend more quality time with your family. Because if you’re not trying as hard as you can, why waste your energy and try at all?