Enlightened employers share tips for building employee wellness programs

With the recent passage of a bill that will create a tax credit for businesses that offer workplace wellness programs, the number of Wisconsin companies offering such benefits is sure to rise.

Employers learned from a panel discussion featuring leaders of five companies that are taking employee wellness to the next level at the Anthem Wellness Summit, which was presented by BizTimes Media on March 27.

The panelists in the “Wellness 2.0” discussion included:
• Tim Jarecki, director of human resources, HellermannTyton North America, Milwaukee.


• Jerry Curtin, chief executive officer, Cultivate by Standard Process, Palmyra.


• David Carpenter, president, Chr. Hansen Inc., Milwaukee.


• Dave Werner, president, Park Bank, Milwaukee.


• Jeanette Pham, co-founder and vice president, Sosh, Milwaukee.


In preparation for the Anthem Wellness Summit, BizTimes asked the panelists to share some of their best practices from their employee wellness programs that could be emulated by other companies. Here is a checklist of some of those best practices:

  • Encourage employees to refrain from sitting for long periods at their desks or work stations. A recent study by the American Heart Association’s journal “Circulation” would lead many executives to conclude that gym memberships and wellness programs may all be for naught without a radical change in sedentary work environments. The study adds to the growing evidence linking time spent sitting during the day to increased heart failure risks in male employees.
  • Offer a cash bonus to every employee who commits to the company’s wellness program.
  • Add a healthy food court, featuring nutritious snacks, to the workplace.
  • Replace unhealthy vending machine snacks and drinks with healthier options.
  • Appoint a wellness committee or team of employees to meet regularly to brainstorm on ideas to create a healthier work environment.
  • Make sure work stations are ergonomically safe and invest in the proper equipment.
  • Offer biometric testing, health risk assessments and blood pressure testing in the workplace.
  • Offer flu shots in the workplace.
  • Cover the admission fees for employees to participate in various walks and runs for charities throughout the year.
  • Provide chair massages for employees.
  • Bring in regular guest speakers to talk to employees about the latest, greatest information related to nutrition and fitness. One company presents a monthly “Lunch and Learn” program.
  • Cover the costs for employees to join yoga classes.
  • Cover the costs for employees to join fitness gymnasiums.
  • Cover the costs for smoking cessation programs.
  • Have fresh fruits and vegetables from local organic farms delivered regularly to the workplace.
  • Make chiropractic adjustments available in the workplace.
  • Start an employee brisk walking program over lunch.
  • Provide “Relax at your Desk” tips for stretching exercises.
  • Have employees participate in scorecards, using the honor system, in which they receive bonus points for engaging in various wellness activities, and then provide incentives for employees to build their point totals.
  • Provide healthy dietary supplements to employees.
  • Offer incentives for employees who choose to ride a bicycle or walk/run to work.
  • Invest in treadmills and height adjustable desks that accommodate standing at work stations.
  • Create wellness activity competitions between teams or departments of employees.
  • Encourage employees to nurture their emotional health and cover the costs when employees need mental health assistance.
Wellness speakers

The Wisconsin Legislature recently unanimously approved the “Healthy Jobs Act.”

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, “This bill creates an income and franchise tax credit for workplace wellness programs. The amount of the credit is equal to 30 percent of the amount that an employer pays in the taxable year to provide a workplace wellness program to any of the employer’s employees who are employed at a small business in this state. A workplace wellness program is a health or fitness program, as certified by the Department of Health Services, that is provided with health risk assessments.”

With the bill, businesses with 50 or fewer employees that implement a wellness program will be eligible for a grant equal to 30 percent of the cost of implementing the program.

Covered services include health risk assessments, weight and stress management, chronic disease prevention, nutrition and fitness programs, and health screenings.

The Wisconsin Public Health Association and Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards released a joint statement applauding the bill.

“The members of WPHA and WALHDAB would like to thank the entire Legislature, and particularly the authors of the bill, Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. John Murtha (R-Baldwin), for recognizing the health value and economic benefits of employee wellness,” said WPHA public affairs committee chair Kristen Grimes. “The Healthy Jobs Act will not only improve the overall health of the state’s workforce, but it will provide financial benefits to Wisconsin’s small business community.”

The Anthem Wellness Summit concluded with a series of breakout discussions. The discussions were led by: Jodi Dreier, a nurse practitioner at The Sleep Wellness Institute, who spoke about how untreated sleep disorders and poor sleep habits contribute to accidents, impaired work productivity, reduced quality of life and poor health; Andrea Moosreiner, a bionutritionist at the Clinical & Translational Science Institute of the Medical College of Wisconsin, who spoke about the connections between food, mood and energy; and Lonnie Watts, a product executive at the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, who spoke about the latest trends in physical fitness.

2014 Wellness Summit sponsored by:


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