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Wellness at Work

By Sarah Hamaker

It’s true: Healthy employees are hap­pier and more productive workers. Happy, healthy workers also have a positive influence on your com­pany’s bottom line. But what can you do to develop these fit and cheerful em­ployees? The simple answer is to offer an employee wellness program.

"We’ve really tried to focus on well­ness over the past five years," said Bill Young, director of compensation, ben­efits and risk for Sheetz. The Altoona, Pennsylvania-based company generally offers two to three employee wellness programs a year.

Over the years, Sheetz has launched a variety of wellness programs, such as "Get Fit on Route 66" walking chal­lenge, a weight-loss program and a nu­trition program that emphasized eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. "During the past five years, we’ve attempted to get workers at all levels engaged in their personal wellness," said Young.

Health = Wealth
One of the major benefits of having an employee wellness program is the reduc­tion of health-care costs. "For the em­ployer, employee wellness programs re­duce the cost of employee use of medical benefits," said Marina London, spokes­person for the Employee Assistance Pro­gram Association in Washington, D.C.

Sheetz has found that to be true, es­pecially since the company offers self-funded health-care insurance. "We’ve been pretty fortunate to control health-care costs," said Young. "We’ve aver­aged about a 7% trend over the last 10 years, but during the last five — when we’ve run employee wellness programs — our trend numbers are around 3.5%. I attribute a good amount of that suc­cess to getting employees engaged in wellness programs."

Other benefits of having an em­ployee wellness program include a more focused workplace and happier employees. "And happy employees are productive employees," said London.

Additionally, the return on invest­ment for an employee wellness pro­gram is huge. "Providing wellness pro­grams is incredibly inexpensive if you compare it to the cost of medical insur­ance," London said.

Program Development
Employee wellness programs can be simple, such as providing fresh fruit to employees on a daily basis, or more elaborate, such as specific challenges like taking 10,000 steps a day. What­ever the program looks like, the bene­fits to both workers and companies are worth the effort.

London recommends starting with a basic employee assistance program (EAP) with a wellness program com­ponent. "Even a basic EAP will provide what’s called lunch-and-learn program­ming where wellness-oriented training, such as stress management or how to deal with an aging parent, is offered to employees during the lunch break," she said. "EAPs are offering even more of this type of service, including diet and exercise consulting, and smoking cessa­tion groups."

This year, Sheetz is going above and beyond employee wellness programs by building a new health and well­ness center beside its distribution fa­cility in Claysburg, Pennsylvania. The 10,500-square-foot building will house a 2,500-square-foot wellness center, a 4,000-square-foot fitness center and a 4,000-square-foot education center. In addition, health assessment and dis­ease management services, plus lifestyle coaching, will be available.

"We felt that having a facility onsite staffed by clinicians, health coaches and nutritionists would really help our folks to get engaged with their life­styles," said Young.

While the health and wellness cen­ter will be open to any Sheetz employ­ee, because of its location, Young an­ticipates around 1,500 employees and families will access it. The center, free to employees and their families, should open in November 2012.

Sheetz also has plans to use the cen­ter to develop wellness programs for the store level. "We need to find ways to get those programs out to all of our employees and to encourage them to enroll," said Young. "We are thinking about creating a mobile wellness unit that could go around to different stores and meetings to do health screenings and wellness education."

All Together Now
Once you have a program, getting em­ployees to use it doesn’t have to be hard. "The first thing we stress to com­panies is that everybody, even the high­est level executive, has to walk the talk. You can’t pretend it’s only a program for the lower-level employees — every­body has to endorse it for it to be suc­cessful," said London.

One mistake some businesses make is not following through after the initial implementation of an employee well­ness program. "You have to repeatedly and consistently market the program," advised London.

Sheetz has around 10% of its eligi­ble employees participate in any given wellness program. "We try to do a lot of challenges," said Young. "We en­courage our employees to create teams within their stores, within their dis­tricts, within their regions and within different departments at our corporate offices that set goals and compete with other teams in the wellness challenge."

As Sheetz has learned, investing in an employee wellness program can boost workers’ health and productivity and a company’s overall success. Said London, "You’re going to attract more potential workers and you’re going to have a bet­ter functioning workforce."

Sarah Hamaker is a NACS Magazine and NACS Daily contributing writer. Visit her online at sarahhamaker.com.

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Fitness Support
According to the NACS State of the Industry Compensation Report of 2011 Data, 18% of companies surveyed provide a fitness center or club membership to their corporate employees (12% offer the benefit to store managerial employees). Approximately 34% of companies surveyed provided health and wellness practices to both corporate and managerial employees.

Order the new NACS Compensation Report today.