Globe and Mail – June 6, 2014

Many workplaces have weekly birthday, baby, wedding and holiday celebrations offering lots of sugary treats. But, while celebrating these milestone events can be a meaningful team-building opportunity, the sluggish after effect of the sugar high can have repercussions on morale and productivity for the rest of the day.

With all the recent media hype around the negative health consequences of our national sugar consumption, we should be looking at ways to create traditions at work that honour these special occasions while fostering a culture of health and wellbeing.

The following are some fresh ideas that will still let you honour special occasions while toasting ‘to your health’ at the same time:

  1. Meet and Treat
    Celebrate the arrival of new hires by indoctrinating them from the start on your culture of health. Have them walk around the office with a trolley or tray handing out healthy treats such as trail mix or veggies and hummus to each colleague as they introduce themselves. This is a fun way to welcome new employees to the team.
  2. Organize a Taste of Culture Event
    Celebrate your company’s diversity by organizing a fair where employees of different ethnicities get together and bring healthy traditional dishes like tabouli or Indian lentil soup for employees to sample. Employees could pay a small admission fee to sample the dishes with money going towards charity. Consider preparing a ‘Taste of Culture’ cookbook with proceeds also going to charity.
  3. Get Smooth Day
    Start a tradition where every Monday is “Get Smooth” day which encourages employees to celebrate the start of the week on a healthy note. Departments could sign up in advance to be responsible for making the nutrition packed smoothies. This tradition is sure to make employees look forward to starting a new week!
  4. Fresh Fruit Fridays
    Instead of donuts, consider celebrating TGIF with a bowl of fresh fruit. Use this as an opportunity to invite employees to sample a wide variety of different and unusual fruits. If your workplace has vending machines see how usage drops when fresh fruit is available. Some companies have found this tradition so successful that every day is now a Fresh Fruit Day.
  5. Poppin’ Popcorn
    Celebrate a company milestone with popcorn! Instead of the usual butter and salt offer a variety of healthier toppings such as olive oil spray, parmesan cheese and herb mixes. Have draws for your employees to win a gift certificate to the movie theatre.
  6. Celebrate on the Move
    Another idea for celebrating a company achievement is a mid day Wellness Walk led by the CEO with everyone receiving a pedometer at the start of the walk and a fruit kebob at the end.
  7. Get Personal
    Tie a Healthy Habit theme into your employee recognition program. Celebrate individual work achievements with a spa day. A donation to the employee’s charity of choice is another good option if they have registered to participate in a charity event like the Ride to Conquer Cancer or the Weekend to End Breast Cancer.
  8. Giving Thanks the Healthy Way
    Pot lucks are a popular and great way to connect with fellow employees over lunch. A pot luck just before Thanksgiving weekend is a great way to ‘give thanks’ to each other. Encourage everyone to bring their healthiest dishes and to share recipes.
  9. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ Theme
    Instead of the time honoured tradition of candy hearts and chocolates think of other ways to show your co-workers that you care. Recent research reveals that daily expressions of gratitude can boost happiness by as much as 25 percent. How about creating a “Wall of Gratitude” where employees are encouraged to express their thanks to others in the organization. They will have  smiles on their faces for days to come!
  10. Healthy Gift Giving
    Think about all the different ways you can give healthy gifts that say ‘I care about you’. Honour a ‘mother to be’ with a spa day or a book on raising healthy kids. Consider a small cooking appliance such as a blender or electric wok and a recipe book as a shower gift.