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Promoting Teamwork and Fitness at the same time

I don’t know about you and your company, but at Frieda’s we invited all our employees back into the office a couple of weeks ago. In early March, like the rest of America, we thought it was best to have employees work from home. As an essential business (the food business, supplying grocery stores), our employees in the warehouse still came in every day. Thankfully our business continued to be very busy, packing and receiving all of our specialty and exotic produce, like Dragon Fruit and Jackfruit. Of course, we made sure to establish many new protocols to ensure workers’ health and safety—spacing workers six feet apart, lots of hand sanitizer, no large meetings and we set up satellite break rooms so everyone had plenty of space when they took their lunch breaks.

During the last three months, our office team rotated into the office—one person per department each day. This ensured the essential duties that involve phone calls and paperwork were done in a timely fashion. Everyone else worked from home. Thankfully, we had purchased laptops for all employees a few years ago as part of our Emergency Plan, so the staff were all equipped to make that move with less than 24 hours’ notice.  Thank goodness for cell phones and Zoom.

Now that most everyone is back at work, the challenge became: how do we promote some fun, healthy activities plus get the team vibe back? When I received a LinkedIn comment from one of my produce industry friends suggesting we organize a team for a fitness walk/run/5K/30-mile online event sponsored by the Center For Growing Talent by the Produce Marketing Association—I jumped right on it.

What a great idea! Any company in the produce industry could put together a team, and each team member could choose the distance they wanted to do: 1 mile, 5K, or 30 miles in 30 days. Since I am newly into running, fast walking and half-marathons (daily fitness)—and being the competitive person that I am—I decided to invite everyone at our company to join me. I started with a personal email to all employees and then I asked our HR team to help me register employees who wanted to sign up. My goal was to get 25 employees to participate.

Man, was I surprised at how it turned out! At first the sign-ups were slow. But when we announced that if you signed up and completed your commitment, you would receive a $50 gift card … that seemed to get everyone’s attention!

This weekend marks the final day to record times and distances. We ended up having 48 of our employees sign up, and this Monday we had a spirit day and took some fun photos! (There is an award, of course, for the team who showed the most spirit and SWAG.) One group of employees from the warehouse even decided to get together on the weekend and hike 15-20 miles up Mount Wilson (the tallest peak in So Cal)!
Have you ever organized or participated in a team run with your coworkers? It’s a great way to promote teamwork and camaraderie—and break up the monotony of work. I remember years ago I worked with a woman who wanted to have a company softball league. She told me that when you play sports with your coworkers, you come back to the office more likely to work harder for and get along better with your coworkers—because you’re literally on the same team!

There are many silver linings to the coronavirus/shelter-at-home orders if we just look for them. For us, it seems like everyone was ready to get moving, exercise and spend time with their coworkers!


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