amy-gillentineIt started with Google. Then Apple got on board. Locally, USAA’s Colorado Springs office is routinely recognized for its efforts. And now, Bryan Construction and Navakai are competing to see who’s the best.

All the cool companies now have workplace wellness programs. Do you? If you don’t, you certainly should.

Workplace wellness brings enormous benefits to business: It creates teamwork; it improves productivity; it lowers health care costs. More importantly, it’s fun. Employees are happier; they are more engaged.

So the Business Journal wants to help you set goals for the next few months by following a suggestion by Jennifer Taylor of Bryan Construction and Davin Neubacher of Navakai.

The two companies are competing in a series of workplace wellness challenges starting in April. The company that loses the competition — which they’re creating as they go along — has to pay $1,000 to a nonprofit. They’ll present the check at the CSBJ’s 6035 Healthy Lifestyle award ceremony on Sept. 21.

The two plan to start by tracking steps by each employee and then averaging the number of steps for each company. Employees can use phone apps or FitBits to track steps — and there are some applications that will convert other activities into steps. For employees who like to lift weights, the app will convert an hour of weightlifting to steps — the same with cycling or any other activity.

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From there, the two companies say they are unsure of what challenge they’ll prepare for in May. They have some ideas: yoga classes, biking miles, hiking trips. They even have simpler ideas: Who’s upping their water intake? Who is taking a bike or bus to work instead of driving?

“We wanted to start simply,” Taylor said. “And we want it to be something everyone can participate in — no matter what your fitness level.”

Neubacher, an avid cyclist, says he’d love to see more employees on bikes. But the important thing, he says, is for the challenge to benefit employees’ health.

“That’s just good for business,” he said. “Plus, it’s fun. It’s what Colorado Springs is all about — the outdoors.”

The idea DID sound like fun. Yoga, hiking, walking, biking — plus the challenge of winning a competition and helping out a nonprofit.

So, the CSBJ jumped on board. The Business Journal staff will go head-to-head with the staff of the Colorado Springs Independent, our sister paper. Like the Navakai-Bryan matchup, we’ll start with the average number of steps taken during the month of April. From there, we haven’t decided yet. We’re talking about having a Yoga in the Park day for the summer months or a competition to see how many can drink eight glasses of water a day — the recommended amount. Maybe we’ll have some nutrition classes and group meditation courses.

We’re already doing a “Health Hunger Games” at the office. People participate in a monthly healthy event — like hiking, yoga or learning more about nutrition— and get their names put in a drawing for a prize. The more events you attend, the more times your name gets put in for the drawing. The challenge just ups the stakes for participating.

Maybe we’ll create a month of healthy habit changes: Packing a healthy lunch instead of grabbing fast food; walking to an appointment instead of driving; moving around a couple times a day instead of staring at a computer screen for more than eight hours at a time. Maybe we’ll do a planking challenge for a month to see who can reach their goal in 30 days. The possibilities are endless — and they all seem like fun, doable challenges that could make a difference in health care costs, in company morale and in productivity.

We’re excited! We want to make the Colorado Publishing House a fun place to work — and we know that healthy employees are part of a productive staff.

The Navakai-Bryan challengers will provide monthly updates in the CSBJ. And Taylor and Neubacher are extending their challenge to other companies. Create your own challenge; pick a competitor and a nonprofit. Let’s create healthy workplaces in Colorado Springs, help nonprofits reach their goals and cut down on health care costs.

We’re Olympic City USA, after all. While we’re not all going to win a gold medal in the next Games, we can all benefit from a walk around the block, a hike in one of the city’s parks, a yoga class at the YMCA.

At the CSBJ, we’re ready to get moving. And we’re ready to see which nonprofit will get the Indy’s money!