Workplace Wellness Symposium Employers' Success Stories/Q&A

On June 8, 2010, IWIF, together with CareFirst of Maryland and the Chesapeake Region Safety Council, hosted a Workplace Wellness Symposium. More than 240 Maryland-area employers attended this half-day event. A highlight of the Symposium was a panel discussion featuring representatives from four different employers with offices in Maryland. These employers represented different industries, company sizes, and corporate cultures. Their representatives included:.

  • Rich Foreman, Site Safety Coordinator, Frito Lay Corporation, North America, Aberdeen location;

  • Karen Holland, Event Planner, Law Firm of Baker & Daniels LLC /B&D Consulting;

  • Michelle Brooks, Human Resources Generalist, All Risks, Ltd.;

  • Lisa Ceravalo, Accounting and Benefits Administrator, Redland Brick, Inc.

    The panelists were assembled and moderated by Dawn Motovidlak, President and CEO of Business Health Services.

    Wellness Panel
    Panelist - Left to right, above: Panelists Rich Foreman, Frito Lay Corp.; Karen Holland, Baker & Daniels, LLC/B&D Consulting; Michelle Brooks, All Risks, Ltd.; and Lisa Ceravalo, Redland Brick, Inc., with Moderator Dawn Motovidlak, Business Health Services.

    Q:  What was the catalyst or impetus that got each of you started on your wellness journey? Was it a certain person within the organization, or was it a committee decision? Was it a particularly revealing report on the costs of health care [in your organization], or was it a personal event that impacted a particular leader or executive? What was the button that got wellness pushed at your company?

    A: Michelle Brooks, All Risks – Looking back over three years, I cannot say that we had an “aha” moment to make us join the corporate wellness bandwagon. We had just introduced an HSA [Health Savings Account] option to our medical plan and thought it was a good time to introduce wellness. I have to say that the introduction of our HSA was most likely the catalyst that drove our campaign for wellness at the time. While we were not seeing a significant increase in our claims spending, we wanted to keep the momentum going by involving our employees more in their health care decisions. 

    Karen Holland, Baker & Daniels - our managing partner, Dave Zook, planted the seed a few years back when he expressed his displeasure for “the groaning plates of cookies and brownies” that came with our catered lunches. We worked with our catering vendors to provide alternative options like fresh fruit and fruit salad, yogurt, granola bars, etc., instead of the muffins & Danishes that were traditionally served at meetings. We had adopted other “wellness” initiatives over the years, and some, like our EAP [Employee Assistance Program], were already in place, but we didn’t come collectively together to form our wellness initiative, “Firm for Life,” until 2009, when one of our young attorneys, a wellness enthusiast who’s very active in promoting health and disease prevention within the community, built and presented the case for a wellness program to senior management, and gained their support.

    Lisa Ceravalo, Redland Brick ­­– Redland Brick was changing to a self-insured insurance program and, in order to minimize cost, completed an initial HRA [Health Risk Assessment] [of our employee population]. When the aggregate report was reviewed, we noticed that many employees could benefit from a company-sponsored wellness program.

    Q: This symposium’s main theme has to do with the many challenges and pitfalls to creating and implementing corporate wellness programs, especially in the face of the current economy and the many substantial changes in American health care that will affect all of us in the coming years. Describe some of the major challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them to implement corporate wellness programs at your companies.

    A: Karen Holland, Baker & Daniels – our biggest challenge was developing a wellness program in an economy that forced most companies to scale back on non-essential spending, so we literally had no budget to work with. I conducted an online search for free wellness resources, and one of the first hits I came across was our own health insurance provider, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Its [free, online] “Workplace Wellness” [resource] offers a “how to” guide to starting and implementing [a workplace wellness program] as well as guidelines for measuring the success of that program. I also contacted Nancy Lesch, Health Promotion Specialist at CareFirst, who provided us with a wealth of information and introduced us to CareFirst’s “Walking Works” program. We participate in CareFirst’s monthly webinar series and have discovered benefits we were unaware of, like Blue Card Worldwide, and member discounts. We use the National Health Observances website to promote monthly [wellness] themes and request materials from the organizations listed on their yearly calendar. We created a “Firm for Life” logo and a “Firm for Life” intranet page, where we post all kinds of great information relating to whatever theme we’re promoting, as well as interactive widgets and maps. We have a “Firm for Life” e-mail address that our committee members monitor and respond to. We also partnered with [personal trainers] to offer affordable, small group fitness classes in our building’s fitness center, and have just started a fitness video lending library [using] donated videos and DVDs.

    Rich Foreman, Frito Lay – We operate a 24-hour manufacturing plant [running three shifts], so our main challenge is that we have different work shifts, and some employees don’t have computers. As a solution, we offer wellness programs on different days and times, both day and night. We [also] expanded [our] wellness committee to include a shift point person designated to promote and communicate across all three shifts.

    Lisa Ceravalo, Redland Brick – We have an older, male, employee base with a long-time union culture and some suspicion of management. We constantly communicate changes through a safety manager, and provide assurances that all employee information would be kept confidential.

    Michelle Brooks, All Risks – When we first implemented our Wellness Program three years ago, we worked with two different vendors – a vendor to perform the biometric testing and HRAs [health risk assessments], and a different coaching vendor to provide analysis of the results and follow-up calls to those who were identified as high risk.
    The overall cost of the program was very expensive as well as disjointed. The main problem with using more than one vendor was getting the results data to the vendor we were using as the follow-up piece. It took five months to get this data shared, which placed us four months into the new plan year, [and by then] our employees had forgotten about the program.

    The second year we didn’t provide biometric testing or HRAs to our employees -- again out of sight, out of mind. However, we continued with the incentive, so our employees didn’t see any value in our wellness program other than the incentive we were providing. Finally, this past year, we formed a partnership with a vendor that helps us drive our program, keeps us on track, and pulls all of the pieces together.    

    Q: I was really [impressed] when I spoke to Karen Holland and learned about her definition of corporate wellness. With her holistic approach to corporate wellness, Karen really stretched my thinking about what it could be or should be. I’d like Karen to talk a little more in detail about how her company has redefined wellness as something that encompasses physical health, emotional well-being, community involvement, and even a concern for the impact we have on our environment. Karen, could you please share your exciting vision with us, and talk about how you put this philosophy to work with innovative programs and unique partnerships?

    A: Karen Holland, Baker & Daniels - We wanted our wellness program to be sustainable and accessible to all, and and to align with the work our HLS [Health & Life Sciences]; Public Sector; and Energy, Climate Change and Environment practices. We have two high school interns working with our HLS and Public Sector practices, and “Firm for Life” is in turn working with these interns on implementing Michelle Obama’s “Let's Move!’ initiative to prevent childhood obesity within their schools. [We are also working with] a college intern on how to extend our reach [to] other schools in the [District of Columbia]. We've invited other building tenants to participate in “Weight Watchers at Work,” which greatly increased participation. We’ve persuaded some of our clients to forego big, glossy binders and packets in favor of branded, pre-loaded USB flash drives. We volunteer with the Casey Trees Foundation’s Urban Forestry program, planting trees twice a year northeast and southeast D.C. We also make our activities accessible to our colleagues who use wheelchairs.

    Q: Shifting gears a bit, almost everyone agrees that there is a direct connection between employee engagement, employee participation, and positive wellness program outcomes. I’d like to ask Lisa to talk about some of the creative techniques that she has used at her company to successfully engage a workforce that traditionally has been somewhat  difficult to reach (blue collar, male, unionized, etc.).

    A: Lisa Ceravalo, Redland Brick - Incentives should be used not just for encouraging participation but [also for] rewarding progress. [We offer] incentives for completion of HRA for employees ($75) and incentives for their spouses as well ([we found that] additional engagement of [the] spouse helps maintain [the] engagement of employees). Additional incentives for progress [toward an] increase in HRA score equals a day off. We also highlight an employee success story in the company newsletter.

    Q: Although it can be challenging and time consuming, I think we would all agree that, for any meaningful or important project we need to first define our goals and objectives and then identify the steps we need to take to achieve them. I want to turn to Michelle now and have her discuss the value of creating a strategic wellness approach  and how  identifying some goals and objectives early on can help us with a range of decisions about programs, services, communications and incentives.  

    A: Michelle Brooks, AllRisks -- Looking back at the first two years of our wellness planning, the most important pieces we were missing were goals and a plan to achieve those goals. Partnering with our vendor, we mapped an overall plan for an expanded wellness program, while keeping the same incentives but adding more communication and employee interaction. We formed a diverse Wellness Committee that involves a member from each of our office locations. After reviewing the results of the recent HRA, our committee of wellness champions identified not only a mission statement but three strategic goals based on those results. We planned activities, events, and challenges around those goals – such as our “Know Your Numbers Campaign,” [our] “15-week Walking Challenge,” and our wellness seminars and classes that focus on our “high-risk” areas. 

    The goals we identified are attainable and measurable goals – we are tracking employee’s participation with our enhanced Rewards Program which allows employees to earn reward points for their participation in wellness-related activities. With our Walking Challenge, we have 64% of our employee population participating. The feedback and enthusiasm that we have received in the past few months alone provide me with the confidence that we are finally on the right track with our Wellness Program. I’m optimistic that when we review next year’s HRA and evaluate the participation levels of our employees, we will have met and exceeded the goals our Wellness Committee set for us.

    Q: I’d like to have each of you give us three quick “take aways,” (suggestions, ideas, cautions) for those of us who may be considering starting a corporate wellness program of our own.

    A: Karen Holland, Baker & Daniels 

    1. Your insurance carriers have useful resources you probably don’t know about;
    2. Take time to research, form strategic partnerships, and don’t be afraid to “beg and borrow”;
    3. Make sure your programs are diverse and inclusive – and fun! so that they reach & appeal to all types of people and in different work groups

    Rich Foreman, Frito Lay

    1. Make sure to get management buy-in, and set up your budget with help from Corporate;
    2. Enlist key employees to help implement the program and lead others (we have 15 employees from all departments on our Wellness Committee);
    3. For third-shift employees, offer activities between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., during the evenings, and/or on the weekends.

    Lisa Ceravalo, Redland Brick

    1. Confidentiality is key; make sure the information you collect on employees remains confidential and let them know this;
    2. Incent participation, but more importantly, incent progress; and
    3. Communicate frequently about your new wellness program to keep employees motivated.

    Michelle Brooks, All Risks

    1. Define and outline a strategy for your wellness program – ask yourselves what do you want to accomplish;
    2. Find a good vendor/partner to help share ideas, offer resources, and bring enthusiasm to the campaign; and
    3. Take advantage of the web and video conferencing to bring activities to employees in different physical locations, because communication is key.

    Workplace Wellness resources and information links:

    Healthiest Maryland Program

    CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

    Business Health Services

    Wellness Council of America

    Stand Up More & Eat Better

    America on the Move

    American Heart Association START! Program

    The President’s Challenge

    Shape Up America




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