LAS VEGAS--Building your own workplace wellness program takes work--and time--but it's worth it.
"It's an investment we need to make," Jennifer Bartlett, HR director at Griffin Communication, told a group of benefits managers during a session at the Human Resource Executive Health and Benefits Leadership Conference. "We want [employees] to be healthy and happy, and if they're healthy and happy they'll be more productive."
Bartlett shared her experiences building, and (continually) tweaking, a wellness program at her company--a multimedia company running TV outlets across Oklahoma --over the last seven years. "If there was a contest or challenge we've done it," she said, noting there have been some failed ventures.
"We got into wellness because we wanted to reduce health costs, but that's not why we do it today," she said. "We do it today because employees like it and it increases morale and engagement."
Though the company's wellness program is extensive and covers more than the list below, here are some components of it that's working out well that your company might want to steal.
Fitbit challenge. Yes, Fitbits can make a difference, Bartlett said. The way she implemented a program was to have a handful of goals and different levels as not everyone is at the same pace--some might walk 20,000 steps in a day, while someone else might strive for 5,000. There are also competition and rewards attached. At Griffin Communications, the company purchased a number of Fitbits, then sold them to its employees for half the cost. It even offered payroll deduction so employees could pay just a few bucks per month to pay for the device. "Everyone can benefit by moving more," Bartlett said. "It's simple and it's universal."
Race entry. Griffin tries to get its employees moving by being supportive of their fitness goals. If an employee wants to participate in a race--whether walking or running--a 5k or even a marathon, it will reimburse them up to $50 one time.
Wellness pantry. This idea, Bartlett said, was "more popular than I ever could have imagined." Bartlett stocks up the fridge and pantry in the company's kitchen with healthy food options. Employees then pay whole sale the price of the food, so it's a cheap option for them to instead of hitting the vending machine. "Employees can pay 25 cents for a bottled water or $1.50 for a soda from the machine."
Gym membership. "We don't have an onsite workout facility, but we do offer 50 percent reimbursement of [employees'] gym membership cost up to a max of 200 per year," she said. The company also reimburses employees for fitness classes, such as yoga.
Biggest Loser contest. Though this contest isn't always popular among companies, a Biggest Loser-type competition--in which employees compete to lose the most weight--worked out well at Griffin. Plus, Bartlett said, "this doesn't cost us anything because the employee buys in $10 to do it." She also insisted the company is sensitive to employees. For example, they only share percentages of weight lost instead of sharing how much each worker weighs, and leave workers who have instead gained weight off email updates about the contest. "Some people aren't advocates of these programs, but our employees really like this."
"Project Zero" contest. This is a program pretty much everyone can use: Its aim is to avoid gaining the dreaded holiday weight. The contest runs from early to mid-November through the first of the year. "Participants will weigh in the first and last day of the contest," Bartlett said. "The goal is to not gain weight during the holidays--we're not trying to get people to lose weight but we're just to not get them to not eat that third piece of pie." Everyone who doesn't gain weight gets a company sweatshirt.
Corporate challenges. Nothing both builds camaraderie and encourages fitness like a team sports or company field day. Bartlett said that employees have basically taken this idea and run with it themselves--coming up with fun ideas throughout the year.