Corporate wellness models that work

Organizations that take the steps to implement health and wellness initiatives not only slow the rise of their health insurance costs, but they provide the added benefit of improving the health and lives of their employees.

If employers are not focusing on lifestyle, they are not managing the major contributor to health care costs, according to Theresa Islo, associate director of the Wellness Council of Wisconsin, a sponsor of the second annual Fittest Execs competition.

“Employees spend about 50 percent of their waking hours at work, so the worksite offers a logical and convenient opportunity to provide information, encouragement, and support for employees interested in improving their health and well-being,” Islo said.

As part of the second annual Fittest Execs competition, organizations were asked to nominate themselves or others that have taken the leadership role by launching employee wellness programs.

The following companies are competing for the first annual Corporate Wellness Award, which is intended to recognize an organization that has done an outstanding job impacting the health and wellness of their employees.

A.N. Ansay & Associates

A.N. Ansay executives believed that by focusing on workplace wellness, the company would support healthy behavioral changes, thereby controlling future health care costs. The first step for the Port Washington insurance and benefit solutions agency was to hire an internal fitness director to oversee health initiatives. Next, they partnered with a wellness provider to identify health risks and to put together a plan that supported a cost management strategy. Once the health risks were identified within the organization, educational plans and health promotion programs were supported by Ansay management to motivate employees to make positive changes in their lifestyle. Each employee is contacted by a health coach, and customized intervention strategies are discussed and tracked. The company has an on-site fitness facility, and employees can participate in group workout sessions or use the facility for their own customized fitness program. Tangible results include weight loss, reduced body mass index (BMI) and healthier lifestyles, but also an overall reduction in insurance costs. Company president Mike Ansay said, “Providing a facility for employees to use for exercise and to improve their health is a wise investment. We have seen overall improvements in several health risk categories, a significant decrease in high cost medical claims, and overall lower medical costs.”

Boevo LLC

From the time the doors opened at Boevo in February 2007, the West-Allis based business technology innovation firm has provided employee health club membership reimbursement. As a small organization striving to make its mark in Milwaukee, it is difficult to provide additional benefits, but company officials say this is a benefit that will always remain as a means to keep employees healthy and working as a team.

Children’s Hospital and Health System

CHHS, which includes 14 entities throughout the state, has expanded dramatically in the past decade and now includes more than 4,400 employees. At CHHS, the message to employees is, “Let your life speak.” The phrase is a reflection of the organization’s commitment to supporting its employees and helping them achieve balance and success at work and at home. As part of this commitment, Children’s enhanced its Healthy Steps wellness program, which now offers biomedical screening, more rewards and incentives and more challenges for employees who take steps to live a healthy lifestyle. There is support for chronic disease management, weight loss and overall health and wellness. Employees who achieve defined fitness goals and complete an online wellness assessment will receive a discount on their health insurance premiums next year. Employees at the main campus in Wauwatosa also may take advantage of massage services, guided meditation, flexible or modified schedules, stress management training and education, and fitness and weight management classes.

CJ & Associates, Inc.

In 2007, the New Berlin-based contract office furniture distributor began its commitment to employee wellness as a proud supporter of the American Heart Association. The company started its Families 4 Families program in honor of founder Judy Rudy, who has struggled for many years with various heart related health issues and in 2006 was given a new lease on life when she had a pacemaker/defibrillator unit implanted. The Families 4 Families program focuses on providing education for heart disease prevention and on creating a business culture that supports exercise and heart healthy living. CJ & Associates also began hosting a series of annual events for their employees, families and clients, including a kickoff celebration, a heart-healthy cooking class, sponsoring a team at the annual Heart Walk and a red wine tasting event. CJ’s 2007 Heart Walk team consisted of 24 walkers and raised more than $10,000, becoming one of the top fundraisers for the event. Leading up to the Heart Walk, the company created an internal program encouraging employees to walk every day. Fifteen employees participated and walked over 2,600 miles from the end of April through the Heart Walk in October. A fiesta celebration was held in honor of their accomplishment. CJ will be participating in the Heart Walk again in 2008.

Forrer Business Interiors

Steelcase, a manufacturer of office furniture, introduced a new product called the Walkstation that enables employees to perform everyday tasks such as talking on the phone or answering e-mail while walking on an industrial treadmill. It enables Forrer’s workforce of 100 to burn calories while working and represents the beginning of a great wellness program for the Milwaukee office furniture solutions company, according to Jillian Zale, director of marketing and business development.

Frett/Barrington Limited

This Waukesha employee benefits consulting firm conducted a health risk assessment (HRA), complete with blood work analysis for the past two years. The company used the results from its HRA to come up with exercise activities and nutrition recommendations for its 10 employees and developed a timeline and budget around each physical activity. “The point is, you don’t have to be a large organization or have to spend a lot of money to focus on wellness,” said account executive Patty Frett.

Gonzalez, Saggio & Harlan LLP

This downtown Milwaukee law firm has installed a full gym with a weight machine, free weights and multiple treadmills and stair climbers, along with private shower and locker room facilities. All employees are encouraged to use the facility at any time and have a key that allows them 24/7 access. The firm also provides the services of a personal trainer to employees at no charge.

InPro Corp.

The Muskego architectural and interior products company offers health risk assessments to all employees annually, which allows employees to measure their improvements from year to year. Healthy Rewards, a new health and wellness program, is designed to encourage healthy behaviors while bringing some fun to the workplace. Participants are able to earn rewards based on points achieved throughout the year by participating in various healthy activities, including on-site Pilates classes, consultation with an onsite personal trainer, community walks/runs, company fitness challenges and special fitness events. Lunch sessions are offered on topics such as healthy relationships and aging well. Onsite meetings are provided with a health coach and a nutritionist. All tobacco users who are interested in quitting and remain tobacco free throughout 2008 will be awarded $1,000. In addition, InPro will reimburse up to $300 for approved tobacco cessation products.

Miller Electric Manufacturing Co.

Miller Electric employs approximately 1,500 people and is committed to providing a healthy work environment from the top-down. The Appleton-based manufacturer of Miller brand arc welding equipment and related systems for metalworking, construction, and other applications offers a physician on-site four hours a week, plus a full-time on-site registered nurse along with a full-time on-site health coach who are contracted through a local health care provider. Employees are able to participate in an on-site health risk assessment, which is mandatory for all employees hired after Aug. 1. 2006. “We have discovered that the key to behavior modification in order to reduce health risks is through the health coaching,” said Patty Leiker, corporate health and wellness manager. “We are seeing great results and literally saving lives. Our on-site medical team also has immediate on-line access to employees’ on-line medical records so continuity of care and communication to the health care provider is instantaneous.”

OutSource Inc.

OutSource employees have the benefit of a complete workout room that includes weights, recumbent bicycle, treadmill, elliptical machine, incline weight bench and a shower facility. Since May 2006, the 65-employee firm in Pewaukee has offered daily classes that range from an abdominal-oriented workout to Zumba, a Latin-influenced aerobics workout. Employees can also get a half-hour personal training sessions with the fitness trainer for just $10 per session. A nutritionist meets with employees regularly. OutSource also offers a company-paid smoking cessation program. In addition, the company offers contests that challenge workers to lose weight or eliminate fast food for one month. The physical results are measurable, as the average employee has lost 8 pounds and 4.4 percent body fat. 

QPS Companies Inc.

In 2007, the Waukesha staffing firm started a “Biggest Loser” weight-loss contest, with 47 percent of internal staff participating and split into random teams. In April, the team with the highest percentage of weight-loss received $1,000. Gift cards of $50 were given to the top three individual winners and smaller prizes given once a month. QPS employees lost 260.2 pounds, averaging 4.13 pounds a person. The individual “Biggest Loser” lost 13.15 percent of her weight. QPS chose to make it an annual event, and this year, 45 percent of employees voluntarily decided to compete. QPS is sponsoring a free health risk assessment in April, and is also offering a reduction in health insurance premiums for participants. “There is a strong desire within QPS’ organization to become more health-focused,” said company human resources supervisor Andrea Hildebrand. “The officers recognize the impact that wellness programs can have on companies, and are happy to reward the employees who are improving the way they live and work.”

Schoeneck Containers Inc.

Fresh off of its 2007 Gold Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of Wisconsin, the entire New Berlin campus of this manufacturer of plastic containers has gone smoke-free as of Jan. 1. The company offers smoking cessation classes and rebates on cessation therapies, and healthy lifestyle classes and health coaching are offered monthly to all members and cover topics including mental, physical and spiritual health, as well as safety. Health Risk Assessments are given annually and biometric results have shown that it is making a difference in the way people live their daily lives. Company leaders live active lifestyles and participate in company-sponsored activities. The newest addition to the company’s health and wellness program is the Monthly Health Challenge. All members are put into teams and are eligible to participate in a health challenge on a monthly basis for a group trophy and individual prize. Spouses are invited to join in the monthly health coaching as well as any company-sponsored activities. 

Village of Grafton

Effective this year, the Village of Grafton implemented a comprehensive health and wellness program for its employees that includes the following components: health risk assessment (HRA); brown bag health and wellness sessions; village-offered recreation programs; the Walking for Wellness program; annual health events; smoking cessation classes; flu/tetanus/ pneumonia shots; and personal consultations/life coaching. The key component of the program is the HRA. Each employee is offered the HRA, which measures basic information including body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose. The HRA can be used as a baseline for employees to gauge their improvement from one year to another. To promote increased participation in a physical activity, employees and their families are eligible to participate in the Village’s recreation programs at no cost or reduced cost. The employees and their families also are eligible for a no-cost season pass to the Grafton Family Aquatic Center upon completion of the HRA. One of the early successes of the program is the village’s Walking for Wellness program. Any employee who is willing to pledge a million steps each year received a free pedometer. This program has created several intradepartmental challenges between employees.

World Class Wire & Cable Inc.

As a value-added manufacturer and exporter of electrical/electronic wire, cable and tubing, this Waukesha company has gone to great lengths to promote fitness for its employees, adding a basketball court and cardio equipment at its Waukesha headquarters, and also opening a state-of-the art fitness center in Hartland. Employees receive discounts at World Class Health and are encouraged to join. According to marketing manager Russell Roering, the impact has been significant, as company morale has improved and several employees have lost weight. Health care premiums are also improving, Roering said.


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