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Healthier Employees, Both Physically and Mentally, Benefit Any Company

It’s no secret that healthy and happy employees are more productive employees. The advantages, backed by hundreds of studies, include reduced absenteeism, reduced injuries and workman’s compensation expenditures, reduced employee turnover, greater worker satisfaction, and improved morale, just to name a few. In various ways, both big and small, more companies that stand out as great places to work are caring for the mental and physical health of those that dedicate so many of their waking hours to a company or organization. Comprehensive wellness programs – those that include health risk assessments, and offer free health screenings through on site health fairs among a myriad of other things – can create ripples of positive change. Employees at Chaminade College Preparatory, for example, receive health scores that make them more aware of their physical condition once they complete private assessments online. They are able to check things like their cholesterol and blood pressure levels when health professionals have been brought to campus. As part of a wellness program launched two years ago, all Chaminade employees also get pedometers. Every time an employee walks 10,000 steps or the equivalent of 5 miles, they can enter their name into a drawing for a $100 prize at the end of the month. A 12-week Weight Watchers program that consists of meetings focusing on introducing activity into lifestyle, helping people read labels, understand ingredients, and eat smaller portions among other things, is also available on site. If employees attend 80 percent of the meetings Chaminade reimburses participants $100 out of the total cost of $140 for the program. “We see it as investing in a person’s well being,” said Anne Kulinski, director of Human Resources at Chaminade. During the last Weight Watchers Program, 20 participants lost a combined total of 250 pounds in 12 weeks, she said proudly. Yoga at Work is also offered to Chaminade employees for a cost of $20 for ten weeks of classes- an effort to reduce stress and promote a healthy balance of body and mind. “If employees are healthier they are not going to miss work as much, and if they feel good about themselves they are probably going to do better at their work,” Kulinski said. “We care enough about employees here to remind them that we are partners with them in health”. Chaminade also encourages employees to get an annual physical by reimbursing the cost of their co-pay; it offers 50 percent discounts on subscriptions to health magazines such as Eating Well; and through the organization’s Employee Assistant Program the company distributes health newsletters dealing with a variety of issues ranging from proper hydration to sleep deprivation. To help guard their employee’s emotional health, Chaminade’s Employee Assistance Program allows for free unlimited counseling on personal issues through the phone, and three face-to-face meetings. And to keep their employees spirits nurtured and enriched, Chaminade strongly encourages volunteer work and giving back to the community. “This can be more rewarding than anything,” she said. Dose of healthy competition Camaraderie and group support can be powerful tools when it comes to promoting exercise and healthy eating habits in the workplace. At CPA firm gish SEIDEN employees have seized upon the powerful drive of competition to engage in weight loss programs such as the Biggest Loser contest. Several times a year members of the gish SEIDEN wellness committee, chaired by firm administrator Cindy Randall, set up a weight loss contest where weekly weigh-ins are required. The percentage of weight that an individual loses week to week is displayed on a board for all to see and at the end of two months the person who has lost the most weight wins a prize. To make employees take the contest seriously, those who participate must put their money where their mouth is, and pay a fee of $10. If they don’t lose weight or gain weight, they pay $1. If they refuse to be weighed they pay $2. The winner takes all the cash. Employees cheer each other on and support the effort with daily walks around the neighboring park. Frequently, all those participating (which usually include more than half the firm) will walk together to a local healthy eating spot for lunch. And during tax season, when stress levels and work loads are high, the Wellness Committee makes sure to bring healthy food snacks to the office, and have fresh fruits permanently available to the staff. “We try to always keep everyone motivated, and help them become more wellness minded, both mentally and physically. And people really respond and appreciate it,” said Randall. Fun and games Promoting employee wellness at an organization doesn’t have to be a drag, according to Human Resources Administrator Lauren Knoche. At accounting firm Singer Lewak, contests like Five Alive and Battle of the Bulge, also keep things interesting, she said. Five Alive is a point system game that requires participants to eat five fruits and vegetables a day and work out five times a week for five weeks. At the end of the period, the employee with most points wins a prize. Battle of the Bulge pits accounting offices against each other measuring which office can accrue the most hours of cumulative exercise among employees. That contest lasts 8 weeks. Overall employee health can also be enhanced with a little pampering. For years now, employees of the litigation firm Nemececk & Cole have come to expect the weekly manicures and 20 minute massages that they enjoy at the office. “We try to be nice to our employees,” said firm administrator Barbara Cole. “We’re a litigation firm so if it takes away even a little bit of stress it’s a good thing.” With dim lights, and to the soothing sounds of music, firm employees enjoy a massage and escape from their work day for about 20 minutes every other Tuesday. Through stress relief and a bit of attention given to the hands, “employees feel good about themselves. And if employees feel good about themselves, they are happier, positive, and ultimately more productive.”

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