We all know that healthy relationships need attention and nurturing, and professional relationships are no exception. Establishing a good rapport with colleagues not only makes the workday more enjoyable, but it can also improve job satisfaction and performance.
Unfortunately, the opportunities for us to bond with co-workers often present themselves as food-focused social events, such as pizza parties to celebrate quarterly earnings, lunches at fast food restaurants and happy hours. As a result, many people find themselves sabotaging their own healthy habits in an effort to fit in at work, build their network or advance their careers.
But why choose between career and health? It's time to stop feeling guilty about declining invitations that don't serve you in your journey to better health. While accepting an invitation to a birthday lunch or happy hour might be the easy way to build and maintain relationships with your co-workers, it is not the only way. The truth is, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with colleagues without having to ignore or adjust your health goals—you just have to get creative!
1. Suggest going for coffee, not lunch.
Planning a coffee date with your co-workers offers the chance to connect while enjoying a much-needed break from the office, all without having to commit to a to an oversized, carb-heavy (and possibly expensive) lunch.
2. Put an afternoon walk on the calendar.
Grab your officemate to go log some steps and enjoy the fresh air! As long as the area around your workplace is safe for walking, put a 15- to 20-minute appointment on your co-workers' calendars for a quick chat and cardio break. You can use this time to catch up on life or as a walking meeting to brainstorm or discuss upcoming projects.
3. Attend the pizza party, but do so on your own terms.
Don't feel like you need to eat at your desk while the rest of your team is huddled in the break room enjoying their greasier fare. Instead, bring some healthy options such as a vegetable tray, fresh fruit or dessert prepared with healthy substitutes to share. This way, you can still be part of the conversation while sticking with foods you're more comfortable eating.
4. Start an after-work walking or running group.
You're probably not the only one in the office who wants to hit the gym on your way home. If you'd enjoy some company for your afternoon workouts, consider starting a regular post-work walking or running group. This is a great opportunity to get to know your office mates outside the nine-to-five confines, while also holding each other accountable for workouts.
If your office is regularly bombarded with homemade cookies and cakes, extend this health-conscious effort to the break room by establishing a healthy potluck or recipe club. Encourage co-workers to find recipes with healthy sugar substitutes, or share a healthy cooking blog or cookbook that you love and invite people to bring one dish to share at lunch. You'll benefit from the healthier fare around the office and everyone will learn more about nutrition.
5. Plan a "non-traditional" happy hour.
Happy hour doesn't necessarily mean heading to the bar. Make a list of some more active group activities that your co-workers might be interested in—mini-golf, bowling, an escape room—and send around a company-wide invite.
If your journey to health is leaving you feeling isolated in the office, remember that you don't have to go on this journey alone. Confiding in a co-worker about your goals could lead to an accountability buddy and someone who will have your back if anyone tries to peer pressure you into having that slice of birthday cake! Know that the majority of people will be impressed and supportive of your goals, and you won't have to be stuck between healthy work relationships and a healthy life. Talk about a work-life balance win.