Recovery is often associated with a post-workout stretch or healthy snack. But in today’s fast-moving, high-stress world, the concept has evolved into something far broader, with targeted strategies focused on the process of helping people return to a balanced state.
With this in mind, employee wellness programs have started to provide opportunities for employees to learn about and engage in recovery activities in the workplace.
“Proper recovery is essential for enhancing productivity, problem-solving, and creativity, which start suffering when employees aren’t taking the time to rejuvenate their bodies and minds,” says Tiffany Grimm, solutions manager for EXOS’ performance innovation team.
The main benefit of effective recovery is that it helps employees build resilience – the ability to manage stressors and keep them from affecting performance. A workplace wellness program that provides recovery tips and tools that anyone can use at work, like those outlined below, will elevate employee resilience, health, and performance – and your bottom line.
1. Offer fitness services that boost recovery.
Exercise and recovery are proactive techniques for building resilience. Regular exercise helps reduce workplace injuries and employee burnout. “Exercise is a physical outlet for the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response),” says Joel Sanders, director of adult training at EXOS. “For the average person, exercise gives them a physical outlet for mental stress. In high-stress environments, you need programming that’s completely parasympathetic (calming), such as outdoor walks, yoga, or Pilates.”
If you don’t have a corporate fitness center, consider bringing in outside instructors to teach these and other classes. Another option is to organize employee group outings to spin classes, races, or casual runs after work. And covering the cost of classes and sign-up for employees would be a nice added perk.
2. Stock stretching tools, release bands, balls, and straps.
At the end of a more intense exercise session — lifting, running, or high-intensity interval training — people need a chance to regenerate. “We want people to leave the gym feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally better than they did walking in,” says Sanders. Point employees in the right direction by leaving tennis balls, bands, and straps in stations around the office. Or give them directly to employees.
Even a few minutes of recovery can allow the metabolism to return to normal. Coaches tend to accomplish this in a few key ways:
Employees can stretch with a coach or use a band or strap, such as SKLZ Pro Bands, to stretch on their own. “In many cases, these bands can perform a function similar to that of a therapist, doing a lot of the work for the user,” says Sanders.
Employees can perform self-myofascial release using a tennis ball at their desks or at home. This helps releases tender spots in areas such as the trapezius muscle (top of the shoulders), the rhomboids (between the shoulder blades), and the bottoms of the feet.
Another type of myofascial release, foam rolling, helps employees flush blood and lingering byproducts of exercise from their muscles. “It’s kind of like having your own personal masseuse,” Sanders says. “Studies have shown that foam rolling after a workout session reduces soreness.”
3. Educate employees about posture tool benefits.
Many of today’s employees sit or stand in one position for nearly their entire workday. Taking time to break from that position, stand, and do some squats or stretches — or even use a massage ball — can help release the physical tension that develops when stress accumulates.
“Sometimes just rolling their feet on a ball can give employees a relaxing timeout at their desk,” Grimm says. Plus, providing massage balls with additional education on the benefits of using them and suggested movements works as a nice giveaway and promotional piece for your fitness center. “When people understand how these movements can help them, they’re more likely to use the tool provided, and also tell their friends about it,” she says.
4. Provide plenty of healthy snacks and water stations.
“Staying hydrated and having healthy snacks on hand to properly fuel the brain and body is key for resilience and burnout recovery,” says Grimm. Promoting healthy nutritional habits in the workplace encourages improved employee performance, both mental and physical.
When stress hits, people tend to skip meals or reach for comfort foods that may be lacking in nutrition. Stocking healthy options in the break room, cafeteria, and other areas makes it easy for employees to stay fueled without energy crashes.
Hydration stations are another popular and practical employee perk. But it’s not just about providing water, fitness center staff should also educate employees about why hydration is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. “Remind employees that water can help them stay alert and energized, cushion their joints, and keep hunger at bay,” says Grimm.
5. Promote meditation as a powerful recovery aid.
Meditation, one of the best reactive and proactive recovery tools, helps relieve stress and teaches people how to navigate challenging situations. It may sound like a simple solution, but the idea of meditation can be intimidating for some. “People can find it hard to drop into a meditative state without guidance or something specific to focus on, like their breath,” Grimm says. That’s why many companies have started offering group meditation programming.
But for those who don't offer group programming, providing staff with simple strategies they can provide in the fitness center can also be effective. “Doing a quick body scan from your head to toes, identifying any tension and trying to release it, is an easy way to keep the mind focused,” suggests Grimm. “So is simply practicing counting techniques with the breath.”
About the AuthorMore Content by Janet Lee