Impact: Worksite Wellness
There was a time when “wellness” was something employees sought before or after work hours, squeezing in sweat sessions, or brown-bagging their lunch to avoid the temptation of doughnuts in the break room. More and more, though, businesses and organizations are not only recognizing the benefits of encouraging healthy habits 8-5, but are reaping the benefits of making “worksite wellness” a seamless part of the daily routine.
“As an organization, we’d been talking about worksite wellness, but the Pathways grant was really the catalyst we needed to implement those changes,” said Aubrey Abbott Patterson, President & CEO of the Hutchinson Community Foundation. “We partnered with United Way as a ‘workplace team’ and applied for the funding. It’s something we’re working on together.”
One way they’re promoting healthier choices is at work is by making those choices healthier--providing fruits and vegetables at all gatherings, and no longer offering pop or soda.
“The staff has been very supportive of these changes. We still enjoy occasional treats like cupcakes or cookies, but now they’re in smaller portions. And instead of using food to celebrate, we might take a walk together and be active. It’s gotten us talking about making healthier choices. We want to be the ones to model what healthy choices look like to the community, and so does the United Way.”
Above: The staff at United Way of the Plains teamed up with the Hutchinson Community Foundation to adopt healthier worksite practices.
Above: Healthy eating options were part of Hutchinson Community Foundation’s Worksite Wellness policy, which they’ve put into practice.
Another workplace that applied for Pathways grant funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is the Hutch Rec. But why would an organization that promotes physical activity need any help with promoting wellness at work?
“We’re a pretty active group, but some recent staff surveys showed that there’s a lot of sedentary times sitting at our desk. We saw a need and wanted to work on that,” said Ted Nelson, Superintendent of Aquatics and Wellness from Hutch Rec. “After all, they say sitting is the new smoking.”
Active meetings, which encourage participants to stand up and move as needed, as well as walking meetings, were implemented as a way to combat sitting for too long. Employees have also been supplied with equipment such as standing desks, exercise balls to sit on, and myofascial release balls to use during the day.
“We’ve brainstormed ideas in the past, but that’s the exciting part of this grant funding. Now we actually have the money. But we had to ask ourselves, what do we really want to use it for? We did more surveys with our staff, and somebody brought up the idea of a commuter bike for each of our locations. So we built it into the grant. Now our employees can hop on a bike and go complete a task. Everybody is really excited about the idea.”
Thanks to a boost from Blue Cross and Blue Shield Pathways grant funding, the Hutch Rec can better lead by example and show the community that wellness can happen both in and out of work hours.
The Reno County Health Department is another organization that’s used its position as a health promoter to make changes at the staff level. “We had already implemented some healthy policies, but the grant funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield helped us take it even further,” said Laurie Carr, Supervisor of Health Education and Promotion at Reno County Health Department. “We now have a standing meeting policy, and having an official, well-document wellness policy in place even helps with our insurance premiums!”
Above: As a leader in promoting health and wellness in Reno County, Hutch Rec realized that staff members needed more ways to move instead of sitting at their desks. Pathways grant funding provided things such as exercise balls, myofascial release balls and exercise bands.
If employees of a recreation organization and the health department struggle with getting enough movement throughout the day, the challenge must be steeper for those with strictly desk jobs. The staff at FEE Insurance knows this all too well.
“We spend a lot of time in the office, and if you don’t think about being active, you don’t do it. We’d tried to have a wellness committee before, but it fizzled out,” said Andrea Finlay, Account Manager, FEE Insurance. “I heard about the Pathways opportunity through my role on the Vitality team with HEAL Reno County. I thought it would be a great way for us to finally make it happen.”
Happen it has, in a big way. 15-minute walking breaks are not only allowed, or encouraged, and every week several staff members attend a yoga class together during their lunch break. Staff were given fitness trackers to capture their steps and encourage more movement.
“We now have a wellness committee with eight employees on board.There’s a lot of buzz and excitement. Pathways gave us the plan to follow, with all of the education and training we needed. It’s also a way to show our employees that we care. We care about their health and wellness.”
The Pathways grant funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield also became a way for FEE Insurance employees to spread that caring to the community.
“An employee on our wellness committee, based in our Dodge City office, actually instigated a 5K fundraiser he did with his daughter that benefited the Make a Wish Foundation,” said Becky Goering, Retirement Transition Advisor & Employee Benefits, FEE Insurance. “It was so neat to see how he took the motivation from our wellness policies and ran with it.”
Above: Staff members at FEE Insurance are encouraged to be active during the day, like this weekly yoga class taught by the Hutch Rec.
Above: FEE Insurance Dodge City employee Mario Rayo was inspired by his role on the wellness committee to coordinate a 5K, with proceeds benefiting the Make a Wish Foundation.
Another person who was inspired to lace up his walking shoes after taking part in his workplace’s Pathways grant program is Ted Cunningham, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Buhler USD 313. While Union Valley Grade School had applied for school wellness funding through the Pathways grant, Buhler schools also applied for help implementing worksite wellness programs at a district level.
“We had a lot of different activities and incentives, one of which was a steps challenge. Our team of four would set a goal every week for a total of 200,000 steps,” said Ted. That’s 50,000 steps per person! Although Ted admitted he didn’t always want to get that many steps in, the Pathways Worksite Wellness program helped urge him on. “I didn’t want to let my team down. I don’t really think I’m that competitive, but we wanted to win.”
Other challenges included drinking water, and doing push-ups, squats, etc. More than 120 staff members participated at various levels, and many expressed an appreciation that the challenges weren’t weight focused.
“It’s a good program. I’m glad we did and I hope we keep doing it.”
Ted’s wife Sheri also participated in the worksite wellness programs--in a big way.
“I did my first 5K after joining the wellness challenges. I’ve done 7 so far. But Sheri has just become hooked on them. She’s done 35!”
That’s more than 108 miles of ground covered by only one individual who participates in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Worksite Wellness Pathways program! USD 313 wasn’t the only school district that took a two-pronged approach to the Pathways grant funding. Nickerson USD 309 and Haven USD 312 also stepped up their worksite wellness programs.
“We started small, and made sure to attend the WorkWell Kansas workshops to learn the best approach. We ended up starting a points program, that participants could earn by doing things such as eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water, quitting tobacco, and being more active,” said Sara Roepka, Haven USD 312 PE/Health Teacher. There were three levels awarded, and winners received items such as gift cards or cash.
“We’re still tweaking, but overall it’s been a success. We had more than 40 people take the water challenge! The staff is really excited to hit each level and get that prize,” Sara said.
Health Direct D’ana Heinlein at USD 309, Nickerson, has also seen impressive staff participation in their worksite wellness program.
“We’re working on getting bicycle lap desks, where staff can sit and work on their laptops while moving. And now instead of donuts at all of our meetings, we serve fruit, yogurt, and healthy options. We take brain breaks during long meetings, and have implemented a recommended policy that if you sit for 60 minutes, you need to get up and move for three. The staff has responded really well to it.”
Above: Whether it’s ugly sweater contests or steps challenges, USD 313 staff members drew on their competitive side to bring some fun to worksite wellness.
(photo courtesy Plum Creek Elementary)
Above: USD 309 Health Director D’ana Heinlein demonstrates the bicycle lap desk, where employees can pedal while getting work done.
• Hutchinson Community
• United Way of Reno County
• The Summit
• FEE Insurance
• USD 313 - Buhler
• USD 309 - Nickerson
• USD 312 - Haven
• Reno County Health Department