Stairway To Health: Companies Aim Higher For Workplace Wellness

By: Katie Stukey Email
By: Katie Stukey Email
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The Wellness Council of the Midlands honors 15 Nebraska companies Wednesday at CenturyLink Center Omaha for going above and beyond to keep their employees healthy. One company's wellness policy has earned them gold status.

One of the Well Workplace Award winners is the Baird Holm law firm, housed at the downtown Woodmen Tower. The firm does not have a company gym, but who needs one when your home is 30-stories tall and you occupy five of those floors. They implemented a "Stair Challenge" fueled by peer pressure.

“We put a list up by the stairwell and asked people to sign it each time they took the stairs, so you wanted to have your name on the list several times,” says Baird Holm human resources director Miriam Nelson.

Baird Holm's wellness plan also meant incorporating healthy choices whenever there’s a lunch meeting or special event. Nelson says some kind of fruit or vegetable is always available, though they haven't completely taken away sweets. She says it was met with some resistance at first, but now people have come to expect and enjoy the healthier options.

Logging exercise time or wearing a fitness tracker have become common incentives for companies to keep employees healthy. Instead of being rewarded just for taking part, more and more, employees have to prove they're getting results.

“So actually looking at the bottom line and biometrics, are we seeing results and if so, the incentives are a lot higher level, looking at insurance premiums and some of those kinds of things,” says Wellness Council of the Midlands executive director Rebecca Vinton Dorn.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only seven percent of companies with more than 50 employees offer incentives to potentially lower health insurance premiums. The same study says workplace wellness programs save up to $626 a year in medical costs. Eighty percent of companies say productivity went up and absenteeism went down after wellness programs were put in place.

Companies recognize that wellness at work is much more than healthy eating and exercise. The keynote speaker at Wednesday’s first-ever Pathways To Well-Being Symposium is the world's leading expert on hope, something that can keep employees invested in their work and what's to come.

“If you're able to retain good employees for a long time they feel appreciated, they feel valued, they're recognized for their achievements, they're gonna stay with you a longer time therefore increasing and lowering some of the costs that goes with having to hire new employees,” says Dorn.

Along with lowering the cost of turnover, keynote speaker Shane Lopez says hope leads to happiness, which leads to better health and lower health care costs for employers. Children who say they're hopeful about the future generally earn one grade higher than peers with the same IQ.

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