5 ways to create a health and wellness program at work, from Scout Books

Known for their beautiful and fun custom notebooks, our neighbors and fellow B Corp, Scout Books, boasts an intimate knowledge of great design. Last year they recognized that to better live their B Corp values, they needed to take a hard look at employee health and wellness. After engaging their teams in surveys and diving deeper into what makes a happy and safe workplace, they implemented the first wave of a program that has breathed new energy into their growing business.

It’s a trend we’re seeing emerge among mindful businesses across the nation, large and small: recognizing that happy, healthy employees make a business work—and be—that much better. For Design Week Portland, we even hosted a panel that explored how companies can design their workspaces with employee health and wellness as the starting place, from space design to furniture to benefits.

Chloë Miller, Partnerships and Engagement Coordinator for Scout Books, shared the five key elements they’ve used to create this first wave of their Team Wellness Program, with some great insights into how they’re learning and improving as they go.

Here’s what Chloë shared with us, in her own words:

Why Scout Books needed a team safety and wellness program

It’s simple: a business run by happy people is a better business. A smart, well-managed health and wellness initiative is a tide that lifts all boats from environmental responsibility to employee well-being to profits.

Here are the 5 key elements for our program:

1. Getting moving—and mindful—with company stretching sessions

All of our bindery equipment on the shop floor is on wheels so, before work, we push all the large machinery aside and gather twice a week for Qigong—which is like Chinese yoga—before the day begins. It takes about 30 minutes, is inexpensive, and works great in the space we have available.

Qigong is all about engagement and mindfulness, promoting a better understanding of how we should be using our bodies, especially if we’re standing at a desk or working at a printing press for long hours, turning, bending down and lifting paper. It’s been so helpful to get people connected to themselves (there’s many emails, and it’s difficult to turn away from the small tasks), and it’s done a lot to help prevent injuries.

"It’s been fun to see how many poses in Qigong transfer to standing at your desk! I’ve certainly noticed how my wrists are at the right height and I’m getting the most of my day from having proper posture."

2. Rewarding healthy behavior

Our employee surveys also revealed that many employees were keen to have preventative health and wellness activities paid for by the company. We are now in a testing phase of an initiative that provides some reimbursement for those activities, including gym memberships, yoga, massage, fitness classes and anything that improves health and well being. So far, thanks to our staff’s input, it’s going well.

Our quarterly staff lunches are also now healthier, per the team’s preferences. We love Soup Cycle, another local, B Corp. company that delivers healthy meals by bike.

3. Recognizing everyone’s workspace needs are different

We’ve implemented periodic self ergonomics assessments, taking a good look at the shop tools, the desks and chairs, even the keyboards and mice we use on a regular basis. These studies confirmed what we already knew about our staff—that everybody’s needs were different. As such, everyone's set up was slightly ill-fitting in one way or another, and we were trying to remedy this with insufficient workarounds. Since we come in all shapes and sizes, the flexibility of Fully’s furniture was an ideal fit. Some of us primarily stand throughout the day, while others definitely prefer to sit more.

I’m excited to finally have my keyboard at the right height. And having the ability to move between sitting to standing in my Capisco couldn’t have come at a better time since, either from biking or not stretching enough, I’ve had some back problems. Getting that support and variation in my day has been great!.

The desk shelves have done away with our staff’s various workarounds to get monitors to the right height. The chairs are much more adjustable than our old ones, so it's easier to sit at the correct height, not too high or low, which previously had caused a strain on the wrists. This is especially the case for my teammate, Rowan, who noted he’d previously been experiencing wrist soreness after standing.

4. Creating an inspiring place to work

Creativity is an anchor of our business. It’s been a part of our work and our culture since the beginning. There’s a quote by Charles Eames, “The details are not the details, they make the design.,” that really sums up our approach to manufacturing and design. We translate that into practice, not just in our books, but to the details throughout the shop that can then create an inspiring work environment.

Great things happen when you pay attention to the details of your work environment, with thoughtful touches that are otherwise easily overlooked. Sure, your business can have a break room, with a sink and a place to sit, and lights. But when you add color, interesting things to look at, and incorporate an abundance of natural elements (we like plants and lots of natural light), a break room becomes so much more! It’s a place where people can go not just to get away from work, but to rejuvenate and to be inspired, so that when they return to work, they come back energized and engaged.

Inspiration also comes into play when we’re trying to evolve our culture and address issues. We had a problem with meetings. It’s not an uncommon problem. Our employees like to talk and engage with one another, but just like at any other company, it can be hard to stay engaged, especially if the agenda is long."

I took a course called Design Thinking, a systematic approach to solving problems. Our course went over some useful practices of what you could do to keep the meeting going and engaged. Musical chairs, oddly enough, was one that helped a lot. Physically getting up and swapping spaces with one another to break things up. It might sound silly, but it’s incredibly energizing and really works to mix things up and stay focused and get the most out of our meetings.

Communication is a really big priority overall, which is why we’ve supported several employees with communications trainings at PSU, where they’re learning how to work better with one another.

5. Keeping safety at #1: Scout Books was born this way

We’ve always wanted to do business differently, perhaps the first indication of this was our commitment to safety and injury prevention. Our safety committee standards go beyond OSHA standards and included representatives from all areas of Scout Books.

Our commitment to safety and injury prevention wasn’t overkill. Without it, we might not have discovered how improper footwear, over time, was causing negative physical effects, especially for our shop floor employees. This informed our decision to offer an allowance for approved shoes and inserts. After people started using the program, there was such a positive response, one of the press operators even said the back pain they felt everyday was now gone thanks to their work shoes! It was cool to hear the immediate effect of a program that really works.

So what now? How we’re collecting feedback and building programs around it

If any of the changes we’re making are successful, that is largely because we are staying sharp with our employee feedback and engagement surveys. In addition to many aspects of our larger Wellness Program, smaller initiatives like our Production Footwear Program have come directly from being engaged with our teams from production to marketing.

As a B Corp we care about things besides profits, specifically people and the planet. It’s not just a talking point of the Portland B Corp community, but actually part of our quarterly reports we send to B Lab and regularly review to gauge the overall health of our business.

"Reporting helps keep us accountable and is motivating to get us thinking creatively for more useful ways to making people happy and healthy at work."

Our production staff was key in identifying many safety opportunities, and they directly helped to inform the decision making process to make things safer, making injury prevention a real priority.

How Scout Books is measuring success: Health and wellness and the bottom line

All this considered, any business operates with a very real bottom line. Many of these changes can be intangible and difficult to grasp when measuring the success of these initiatives. Regular employee surveys are money well spent. Employee feedback is perhaps the most valuable resource to prove the effectiveness of a health and wellness initiative.

In our case, as is the case with much of manufacturing, you can see a direct correlation between these initiatives and injury reduction. A reduction in injuries, whether those are stress related or incident related is, perhaps, the most helpful measurement.

Finally, maintaining a low turnover rate is another very effective indicator these programs are working. Not only does it demonstrate you’re doing well to maintain the overall health and wellness of your team, but there’s the saved costs of having to hire and train new employees, which can be incredibly expensive. A health and wellness program may cost some money upfront, but if you plan on your business being around for awhile and want to retain engaged employees, it’s definitely the way to go!

How we’ll continue to improve

What we’re doing might be considered creative solutions, but they aren’t all that revolutionary. We’re always tinkering with this plan, what seems like a great idea one day, may not stand the test of time (we’re looking at you, Donut Fridays). We’re in a constant state of trying to do better. With the help of our staff, our Sustainability Director and these guiding principles, we hope to continue uncovering new and unconventional ways to keep our staff engaged, healthy and happy throughout their workday.