Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being
According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.
Many of us dash out of the house in the morning, coffee in hand, to the office, where we sit for the majority of the day—maybe even eating lunch in front of a screen. Then it’s back home to squeeze in some family and friends time, maybe go on a Netflix binge, get a few hours of sleep, then do it all again.
Where, in all of that, is the time for taking care of ourselves?
Elizabeth Borelli says that the problem is not that we don’t have enough time, but that we don’t prioritize well-being. The Santa Cruz-based workplace wellness expert, public speaker, and author of Sprout It! and Beanalicious Living says that it’s about building healthy habits around exercise and food into your routine.
“Obesity and diabetes are still on the rise,” she says, explaining that the largest-growing segment in the U.S. is the under-20 age group. “It all stems back to the fact that we’re so reliant on processed foods. The majority of people think they’re doing a good job with their diet because they’re buying the gluten-free Fruity Pebbles that are fortified with Vitamin D.”
Earlier this year, Borelli created Well Beyond, an app to enhance employee wellness at companies and organizations. By combining teamwork, gameplay and education, Well Beyond helps people build healthy habits into daily routine.
Featuring 50 activities that are all given a point value, Well Beyond relies on our innate desire for reward, and builds on the camaraderie that comes with teamwork. Employees compete as teams, which fosters mutual support. Activities range from the simple—don’t eat in your car (two points) and get 7-8 hours of sleep (two points)—to more challenging activities like making time to meditate (three points) and getting an hour of exercise (four points). There are also bonus activities, such as trying a new sport, that offer up to five points. The idea behind the platform is that bringing mindful awareness to everyday habits is the first step in creating healthy habits.
Where other programs focus primarily on exercise or diet, Borelli says Well Beyond takes a holistic approach.
“If you only focus on one component,” she says, “you’re leaving out a large part of the population who is not there yet. They’re the ones who are eating the Fruity Pebbles. They’re not ready to make those changes yet, but they can do something. Everyone can do something.”
Borelli observed that during the economic downturn, the work culture shifted to one where 50-hour work weeks are more common, and lunch breaks are less common. But big companies are setting a new example of workplace well-being with fitness centers, free access to healthy snacks, in-house activities such as ping-pong, and more.
Competing against perks like these, it’s challenging for smaller companies to attract talented workers who are looking for more than just a steady paycheck. Borelli thinks Well Beyond is a way for these smaller businesses to offer a competitive advantage against big companies. The team-building and engagement that come with using the app bring people of all fitness levels together with a shared purpose.
Borelli prioritized making Well Beyond fun and accessible, and it can be used by anyone. The maximum number of points for an activity is five, so those employees just starting on their well-being journey aren’t at a great disadvantage to the company triathlete or the employee who works out every lunch break. Participants get nearly as many points for meditating as they do working out for an hour.
Designed to be used by companies and organizations in 10-12 week cycles, Well Beyond was built by local web design and development company Launch Brigade, and had its beta launch at NextSpace. Borelli is currently looking for businesses to try the app for free to see if it works for them. Her hope is that Well Beyond contributes to a new culture of health and well-being in the workplace.
“Research unequivocally shows that those kind of changes result in increased productivity, focus, and happier employees,” she says. “It’s really a win-win. It can change the culture from one of work till you drop, to one where we encourage you to focus on well-being.”
More information about Well Beyond is at wellbeyond.net. Photo: Shutterstock