It's mid-afternoon on a bleak, wintry Friday, and Jon Galgan, project manager at W.M. Jordan construction company in
They're part of a growing trend by companies to promote wellness in order to reduce health insurance premiums and foster a healthier, more productive workforce. According to the American Journal of Health Promotion, employers save an average of $5.81 for every dollar invested in wellness programs. The savings result from significant reductions in employee sick leave, health costs and workers' compensation and disability claims.
However, it's not just the potential economic benefits that local employers cite, but improved morale and better retention.
Changing the environment
In April 2011,
Several on-site programs, from fitness to
An on-site wellness facility
After more than a dozen years of hosting "Lifelong Learning" classes — a mix of construction know-how and personal development — at W.M. Jordan headquarters, CEO John R. Lawson II took the additional step this year of converting a nearby building into a "wellness center" for Newport News employees and their families. They're encouraged to use the gym at whatever time suits them during the work day. The company also built a neighboring garden with 36 raised beds devoted to growing fruits and vegetables for employee consumption.
A fitness aficionado, Lawson hired his personal trainer, Julie Sever, as wellness director. Sever conducts a number of aerobics classes for employees at different times of the day and also offers instruction on nutrition and strategies for fitness in the workplace — including at a desk. "Some of our employees are learning to stand up and talk every time the phone rings," said Lawson.
They're expanding the program to the company's Richmond office, with Sever going back and forth between the two facilities. Lawson invested about $25,000 in the work-out equipment for the new gym. He's hoping it will bring health insurance costs down for the self-insured company, which has 300 employees, 75 of whom work at headquarters. "It should be the gift that keeps giving," Lawson said.
Walking and more walking
After a one-year pilot program, in fall 2012 plumbing supplier giant, Newport News-based Ferguson Enterprises, adopted a partnership with
Crudup, a supervisor who participated in the pilot, collected $500 last year and anticipates picking up another $500 in July. "I park way out. I always take the stairs. I walk throughout the day. I try to get up and walk every hour," he said. "I walk everywhere and I have my pedometer on me from when I get up until I go to bed." He has walked over 8 million steps.
Encouraging preventive care
In addition to sponsoring fitness and weight loss programs, companies are encouraging employees to get regular medical care through a primary care physician. At Bon Secours, employees can get an $800 credit on premiums for having an annual health screening and setting up an online profile. "It's to raise awareness," said Cutter of the optional assessment which had almost 90 percent participation in 2012. She emphasized that the data have no impact on insurance eligibility or employment status.
In 2014, participants will receive a $300 credit for a two-part personal health assessment, another $300 for a routine annual physical, and they'll be eligible for a $300 credit for maintaining or working toward a healthy weight. Altogether employees will be eligible for $900 in savings. The company also added employee wellness to its strategic quality plan for 2013-2015, said Cutter.
Citing figures from the Kaiser Foundation, she said that the U.S. spends more than $2.3 trillion on health care with chronic diseases accounting for about 75 percent of costs. "This program's a lot about keeping the healthy healthy," she said.
At Ferguson, Foote characterizes associates as "very typical and not very healthy." The incentive program includes a $100 reward for those certified as tobacco-free, credited automatically by the insurer, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. This year it added a $250 lure for employees to get their biometrics (cholesterol,
Providing motivation (and money)
Education, hand-holding and competition are integral elements of the wellness programs. Whether it's telephonic health coaching, a daily challenge program, a newsletter with nutrition tips and shout-outs for individual successes, companies aim to offer constant encouragement and information. Sever emails a weekly "Health Builder" newsletter that zeroes in on specific health issues. "It's hard to ignore when it's in your inbox. It's a preventative program. I'm their coach," she said. Lawson concurs. "You've got to have someone there to educate and encourage and to wind in the nutrition part, the whole package," he said.
Crudup enjoys the challenges offered through the Virgin HealthMiles program at Ferguson. "It's always good to have some friendly competition," he said. He's also dutiful about logging in daily to get his bonus points. Challenges can be between individuals, groups and locations.