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How one CEO is focusing on making health equal wealth.

“A business plan without a health plan is not a plan,” says Yves Doucet of Dovico, a Moncton-based software development company that’s been family owned since 1993. Yves, one of the owners, has gone above and beyond to create a workplace culture that is healthy and creative. “My talent or contribution is I build culture and motivate people,” Yves says, laughing.

Bubbling with enthusiasm, Yves started building a culture of wellness through his own experiences. “When I stepped into the company to help my sister in 2003, I can’t say that I was very focused on wellness at that time. Like most people, I had some struggles in my life and I managed to get through them with exercise. So that became part of my routine and I didn’t really know why I was doing it. I wasn’t imposing it on anyone else.” It was only when he was asked to join the Medavie Blue Cross board that he really started studying and learning about wellness, which really opened his eyes to its importance.

At first he tried some popular programs with his employees, like subsidizing gym memberships, but he noticed a pattern – people would start exercising but then stop soon after.

He also noticed that many employees would rush to lunch and eat whatever they could find, which usually ended up being fast food. So Yves decided to try something: he brought carrots to work.

Yves preparing a healthy snack for his team

“A funny thing happened because people started taking a break, having an apple, some carrots, walking around a bit. That meant they were less hungry at lunch so they made better food choices.” Yves began to notice that there was less lethargy in the afternoons and increased creativity and energy throughout the office.

To further encourage these new habits, Yves had all the junk food and pop removed from the office, replacing them with fresh fruit, vegetables, water, tea and quality coffee. For Yves, this was important because, as a software company, he leads a creative team. “The brain takes 25% of your energy so if you don’t feed it, you can’t be at your creative best.”

But he noticed his employees still weren’t exercising. So he decided to start talking about what he was doing and, even more importantly, showing them. “I started saying, this is what I do. I told them I was going to be very transparent and I started doing burpees at work, skipping, jumping jacks, posting healthy challenges on Facebook.” Through transparency and being a leader, Yves started to foster real change. Wellness at Dovico began to shift.

“When this started, I didn’t tell the employees to do anything. It’s very, very difficult to change. You can’t change anyone. It’s not my job. My job is to get better and to be transparent about how I’m doing it. And if I’m transparent enough and pushing the limit, and inspiring them enough to change, then they will change by themselves.”

And Yves’ approach worked. Staff started getting up early to fit in exercise. One employee, Shelley, set herself a 66 day exercise goal, where she got up at 5 a.m. every morning to get a good sweat on. To keep herself accountable, she would post a video after each workout to Facebook. She went from being inspired to inspiring others.

The entire Dovico culture is now built around wellness. For example, there is a “bad days off” policy where if an employee has a bad day, they can go home. Instead of disrupting the mood in the office, Yves encourages them to leave and use the following system: 20 minutes of exercise to build up a good sweat, 20 minutes of reading to replenish the brain, and 20 minutes of journaling to get the brain reflecting on a topic more intensely.

This system is one Yves swears by. He says that exercise helps “reset” your brain, the reading helps replenish it, and the journaling finally moves you away from what was causing your stress or anxiety to something more productive.

“It’s not about being perfect. It’s about daily progress and microsteps.”

To create a real change when it comes to wellness, Yves thinks we need more leaders who share his level of transparency. While Yves admits that you might not always be perfect, modeling behaviours can be inspiring. “When people ask me why I work out so much, I tell them that I am in the Olympics for life. To compete, I have to be healthy. I have to take care of myself.”

The Dovico team at the Crossroads for Women’s corporate 10 km fundraiser relay in 2013

And by taking care of himself, Yves has inspired his colleagues to do the same. Not a day goes by where wellness isn’t discussed at Dovico. Yves continues to post videos, quotes, workouts and recipes on Facebook and create inspirational posters. “As leaders, I think we’re giving lip service to our employees saying we care about your health so we’ll pay your gym membership. If we really cared about their health, we’d stand up and be healthy ourselves and show them what we are doing. Showing them is not boasting, it’s to show them the humanness, that it’s possible.”

Yves hasn’t just changed his own story—he’s become an inspiring example of wellness in the workplace. And he’s noticed that his employees are more productive and there is a real team spirit that has bloomed throughout the company. Thanks to his passion, dedication and vision, he’s showing others how they can start their own wellness story and how a positive work environment can support them in their goals.

Feeling inspired?

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