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Published on : January 15, 2014

Corporate Wellness Through a Shared Love of the Outdoors: Transforming an Annual Retreat into Recreational Fun

Corporate Wellness Through a Shared Love of the Outdoors: Transforming an Annual Retreat into Recreational Fun

Corporate wellness has many benefits and definitions, from promoting nutrition and exercise to creating an inviting workplace and innovative atmosphere of success. But corporate wellness also encompasses a much broader ideal, one involving an annual or quarterly retreat where employers and employees gather to relax, collaborate and derive inspiration from their mission as an organization with a specific goal or universal theme.

These events are important because everyone needs a break from the routine of an office and the daily schedule of meetings, memorandums and general monotony, which can undermine productivity and enthusiasm among workers.

So, rather than host these retreats at a hotel or some impersonal collection of guest residences, my advice - to companies of all sizes - is to embrace the outdoors: To expose workers to the majesty of the mountains, lakes, forests, canyons and camping grounds, where the natural environment is good for the spirit and invigorating for the body. Indeed, one of the nation's greatest gifts - her famed parks and woodlands, safeguarded for posterity and beautified with care - is available for everyone to enjoy.

A retreat of this kind strengthens character, builds camaraderie and is the ultimate introduction to establishing a lifelong bond with Mother Nature.

I write these words from personal and professional experience, where I serve as Product Manager at Enerco Group Inc., a leading manufacturer of consumer heating products (see the Mr. Heater® brand) and distinctive resources for the camping and sporting goods market (see the BaseCamp™ brand).

In this role, my job is an extension of my identity and family, rooted in cherished outings with my father. Those memories are a reminder, one I share with readers, in which wellness - of mind and body - can flourish by retreating from the typical corporate retreat.

My recommendation to companies is, therefore, simple: By retreating to rejuvenate - by embracing the outdoors - employees can witness a new world, gain valuable perspective and have a literal breath of fresh air. Those benefits are too great to ignore and too important to deny, because the environment teaches us about humility and respect.

Humility and Respect: The Eternal Lessons of the Outdoors

Having a sense of place is the essence of experiencing the outdoors, learning how to improvise amidst sometimes intimidating circumstances and developing the self-confidence to thrive against the elements: The weather, terrain, wildlife and ruggedness of "roughing it." In such a place, camping, hiking and fishing provide a sense of humility and universal lessons, which are as relevant to the workplace as they are to leadership in general.

Those values reinforce the necessity of teamwork and the responsibility to take charge of a situation, to earn the trust of colleagues and understand that the outdoors is wonderful, yes, but it is not a theme park or glorified playground for conceited behavior.

A person learns these facts quickly, making that individual more appreciative of various priorities and the worth of being part of something bigger than a single assignment or office-related task. Put another way, the outdoors is where we go to recharge our energy, restore our collective wellness and respect our humanity.

Applying The Essential Virtues of Wellness and Independence

Returning to this notion of respect for the outdoors - I remember learning, when I was 8-years-old, how to regain my bearings in the woods, by walking towards the sounds of traffic - these lessons influence how you carry yourself and work well with others. Those trips with my father are great moments from my childhood, but they also go well beyond weekends in the mountains or summers spent fishing.

Indeed, the respect I have, thanks to the education my father gave me, is about two key things: Recognition of the wonderful experiences you can derive from even a simple camping trip, and a snapshot of your character and the dignity you owe to others.

That rule has practical results because it influences the products we make for both Mr. Heater® and BaseCamp™, based on our own excitement about the outdoors and the dedication our customers have for the same interests. Simply stated, if you want to create and market to a specific group of consumers - people who can easily determine your knowledge and sincerity about this lifestyle - then respect is essential.

That respect is interchangeable with humility. Meaning: Enjoying the outdoors, in all its magnificence and grandeur, also reinforces personal modesty. An individual realizes, as I do (and as my father did), that arrogance and pride are no match for Mother Nature; she is powerful and sometimes unforgiving.

From that wisdom, for which I owe my father a tremendous debt of gratitude, you develop or uncover a wellspring of humbleness. Translation: No job title, salary or celebrity can be a substitute for basic decency.

I encourage executives and business owners to acknowledge and adopt these habits because, aside from their inherent justness, these traits boost morale, enhance productivity and create an environment of solidarity. No one is any better, because of rank or title, than his or her colleagues; everyone is on the same journey towards collective success.

Cast aside ego, awards and self-importance, and realize that your company is their company - our company - a place where teams assemble, friendships emerge and a culture takes hold, furthering the kind of wellness (in mind and body) we all seek to achieve.

Making This Culture of Wellness Permanent: Responsibility Is the Priority

Once this culture of shared responsibility and vested interest materializes, it becomes a metaphor for the outdoors as a whole: A gift, relished and protected by each generation, made stronger by respect for history and more solemn by the awesomeness we all encounter when hiking, climbing, fishing and camping in these beloved places.

Applied to the workplace, that culture is a gift for employees to safeguard and a tribute every employer should honor. The best proof will reveal itself in the best results, through the accomplishments of people who treat their company like their home.

And then, the responsibility - to lead and learn - will be a priority for all to see. Therein lies the foundation of corporate wellness.

About the Author

Corey Wilson, Product Manager at Enerco Group Inc., based in Cleveland, Ohio, makers of the Mr. Heater® and BaseCamp™ line of products for the outdoors.