Before his life as a technology marketer, Tim Osman was a high school athletics coach. He looks the part, from his shaved head down to the temporary cast he wore because of a torn calf muscle acquired in a basketball game.

Osman’s roundtable session at the AIIM Conference 2015 in San Diego this week stuck out from the agenda.

Who would show up to session at a technology conference that promised a dose of exercise? Even in San Diego — with its picture perfect weather — it didn’t seem like a popular choice.

But a robust group took on Osman’s challenge to lace up their sneakers, play hooky from the conference and take a sanctioned stroll along San Diego Bay to think creatively about addressing challenges in information management by first addressing a personal transformation.

Deep Thoughts

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Osman urged participants to adopt philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s approach, who believed, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

Osman suggested its possible to reaping benefits on multiple levels by pursuing wellness in the work environment.

When Osman made his transformation from education to sales and marketing for OPEX Corp., there was a corresponding change in his lifestyle. He didn’t like it — and he hardly thinks he is unique.

Life is more stressful.

“Technology has caused us to be more sedentary,” said Osman. “Sitting is the new smoking. Employee health benefit costs keep rising because of all the things that are seemingly out of balance. We see more claims. Stress, stress management, smoking, Type 2 diabetes, all of those things really impact the bottom line. How do we improve the enjoyment of the work environment?”

Just Move

Osman started an informal wellness program at OPEX, a company that manufactures, sells and services high volume mailroom automation equipment and document scanners.

“We’re not trying to pigeonhole anyone into a fitness regime,” says Osman. “We provide the freedom to do it.” Osman said it is important employees feel free to just enjoy the time. “We learn in community.”

David Fredrikson, senior applications manager for Bank of America, is a walking example.

He recognized the need to manage stress and improve personal health for himself and his team of 11 people across the US and India. Four months ago, he starting standing instead of sitting at his home based office. “I lost eight pounds without doing anything else. I feel stronger in general. Now, I still sit down once in a while, but it feels funny. The cat sleeps in the chair.”

Fredrikson gained increased performance at work along with improved fitness. “It gives you a better way of focus. I have all these different people communicating, five instant messages at once. It’s very distracting. It’s hard to fix it all at once. Walking behind my house, I can think more clearly about strategy, things that are more important than putting out fires.”

Measuring = Success

Osman said the key to making wellness programs work in the workplace is buy-in, and it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the top down.

Jackie Jablonka, senior manager of web projects for the American Bankers Association, said during the walk that people want to be healthy but don't always know how to make the necessary change. “You have to be the evangelist,” she said.

Information management professionals understand measurement, and measurement can be key to making wellness programs work.

Several roundtable participants pointed to the use of pedometers and fitness activity trackers, setting goals and challenges to generate enthusiasm.

“The US ranks in the bottom 25 percent for work-life balance because of the time we work and the time we work we aren’t getting paid for. Why do we continue to sacrifice life on the altar of success?” asked Osman. “Never forget the value of the individual. Individuals make the company and the culture.”

AIIM’s mission is to ensure that information professionals understand the current and future challenges of managing information assets in an era of social, mobile, cloud and big data. Founded in 1943, AIIM builds on a strong heritage of research and member service.