Leveraging Change in the Workplace
Gregory Florez discusses how, for many, the occupational environment is both the cause of and the solution to obesity.
Gregory Florez is the founder and CEO of V2 Performance, a premier vitality education and performance coaching firm for leaders. Through keynote speaking engagements, customized workshops and seminars, and one-on-one vitality coaching, Florez and his team have improved the health and well-being, work capacity and breakthrough performance of thousands of leaders worldwide. Florez, who is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a highly sought-after expert on vitality education, serving as a business performance consultant, personalized coach and leadership program speaker for a wide variety of companies. Prior to creating V2 Performance, Florez served as a member of the management team for United Airlines and performed as a college athlete and a Nike sponsored athlete. In addition to being an industry visionary, he is an ACE spokesperson and has served on the IDEA board of advisors.
ACE: In your work, either with employers or with the fitness industry, how do you personally see the obesity epidemic affecting our society?
Gregory Florez: I primarily see it in the workplace. People are sitting too often and too long, and relying solely on technology to communicate. It is not unusual for employees to send a text or email to an associate even a few cubicles away rather than get up and walk a few steps. Meetings are generally too long (going past scheduled time), and while they’re in session, emails and texts pile up for the individuals attending. I see most executives leaving a meeting and immediately answering requests on smartphones without taking any time to walk around the block, get hydrated or engage in any type of recovery.
Far too many workplaces offer high-calorie, low-quality foods for employees in on-site cafeterias. Workdays and workweeks are longer, and the
“always on” technology usage is in full swing. Employees can pretty much count on being available 24/7, especially those who work in consulting and technology firms.
All of this adds up to overwork, little recovery and, ultimately, no time or energy for exercise (or even minimal activity) or healthy food. As a result, we’re seeing even younger employees gain weight more quickly. By the time people reach the executive level, the pressure for work deliverables is even higher. Add in travel and lack of sleep, and we have a system rife with obesity.
ACE: How do you believe that helping workplaces institute wellness initiatives can help employees—especially those impacted by overweight or obesity—to achieve long-term, healthy change? How do you feel those initiatives can positively impact businesses?
Gregory Florez: The workplace, for many, is both the cause and the solution. It’s where many of us spend the bulk of our lives and where there is the biggest lever for change. Providing more realistic work boundaries and time for real breaks after intense periods of heavy concentration has already been shown in some studies to improve workplace safety and output, which often leads to higher profitability. It’s important to get obese and non-obese workers involved in programs. Having “employee champions” or enablers can be a cost-effective way to sustain long-term success for those struggling with obesity. Companies can start small with things like walking meetings or even outside meetings, whenever possible. There is no downside to involving everyone.
ACE: What do you think it would take to get more employers nationwide to explore workplace wellness solutions?
Gregory Florez: Mainly it’s education. And by that I mean education that speaks the language of employers provided by experienced health and fitness professionals. Every executive team member nationwide knows the term wellness, but executives need to be shown how successful companies are implementing programs. They also need information about the economic benefits of workplace wellness, with regard to both cost savings and output.
It’s critical that we as health and fitness professionals don’t address potential workplace wellness providers with a “weak” presentation. Our message must involve factors that CEOs care about: decreased costs, increased output and, hopefully, more engaged employees. It can be very helpful to show corporate executives examples in their area of business. To do that, however, health and fitness professionals must do their homework to find out the needs of employers before approaching them. How many employees in lifestyle-related disease categories does a specific company have? How many are pre-diabetic or obese? Recognize that many employers will not have all of these numbers, but they should have some. Start from what you know, and then try to dig deeper to uncover more populations that need proactive wellness.
ACE: In what ways do you feel the corporate world and fitness industries can work together more? Why do you feel these partnerships are important?
Gregory Florez: I think it’s great when an employer teams up with a health and fitness professional or a wellness company to launch a high-quality program with specific objectives. This can be done only if someone asks the company representative enough questions to be able to sculpt a program that meets that company’s goals. We can’t make assumptions. Here’s something else to consider: Many companies have had or do have some sort of wellness initiative. Examples range from simply offering discounted health club memberships to having on-site facilities and staff. You need to find out what’s working and what’s not, and then strive to offer solutions.
ACE: What misconceptions—if any— do you believe corporations hold about health and fitness professionals, and how do you believe our industry can overcome those misconceptions?
Gregory Florez: Typically, employers see us as one-dimensional members of a “fitness staff”—to them, we just provide personal training and exercise classes. Typical employers don’t believe we understand their business. Worse yet, they typically don’t know that our knowledge and skills go beyond exercise programs to include health risk assessments, meditation, sleep education and more. If you go in simply with a fitness solution, you probably won’t get the company’s attention. The future in corporate wellness belongs to those who offer end-to-end solutions. Aligning yourself with dietitians, sleep experts, health coaches and perhaps even yoga instructors will help you to deliver the more comprehensive solutions that employers want.