When your business is health, business casual takes on a whole new meaning.

It’s not abnormal to see employees at the NC Prevention Partners in Chapel Hill around the office in their gym clothes, as a wellness policy facilitates participating in physical activity during work breaks.

Prevention Partners is a non-profit organization designed to build healthier communities and places through preventing the leading causes of chronic disease and death: tobacco, obesity, poor nutrition and physical activity.

It also coaches other employers and organizations on making positive environmental changes in the workplace to boost productivity in employees through their WorkHealthy America Program.

Strategic Alliances Director, Annie Thornhill is a Master of Public Health and says it’s important to “walk the walk” and put the organization’s devotion to health in action in its office.

“It’s a way of keeping people healthy, which is good for all the reasons we know, but it absolutely leads to higher productivity because you’re shaking things up,” Thornhill says. “You’re feeding the other part of your brain – not just the part that likes to sit at a desk in the office and stare at a computer.”

Other than breaks, Prevention Partners has a way of keeping co-workers active while interacting with each other on the clock.

Walking and exercising during meetings, Thornhill says, is a great way to integrate exercise into work, and makes a big difference in brainstorming and productivity.

Employees also have a benefit to use up to $150 to put towards their wellness goals. Thornhill, who uses hers to register for running events, says the cost of providing this incentive is outweighed by the importance of having happy, healthy employees.

Prevention Partners has more short-term programs for its employees to keep up their wellness throughout the year, such as “Maintain, Don’t Gain”, a challenge to reduce unhealthy eating during the holiday season and a community-supported agricultural program to provide fresh and locally-farmed fruits and vegetables for their entire office building.

Thornhill says their secret to success is making it easy for employees to include fitness into their busy schedules right from the office.

“We have dumbbells and videos and a treadmill and exercise equipment. It’s not a high-tech gym; it doesn’t come with a trainer. We’ve also mapped out a 5K walking trail, so we do what we can to provide access and opportunity. But, the real incentive that we provide is time. So that you can use that 30 minutes out of an 8-hour workday to be active, that’s probably the biggest incentive that we’ve provided.”

To learn more about Prevention Partners and programs like WorkHealthy America, visit forprevention.org.