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Healthy workers are happy workers, gym finds

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By M.L. Dehm
HBJ Freelance Writer
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013, 8:45 a.m.
  • Peak Health and Fitness in downtown Everett offers free consultations for businesses interested in learning more about employee wellness programs. The...

    M.L. Dehm / For HBJ

    Peak Health and Fitness in downtown Everett offers free consultations for businesses interested in learning more about employee wellness programs. These programs can reduce health-care premium costs, keep employees healthy and foster team building.

EVERETT — Peak Health and Fitness is working with local businesses to create company-sponsored wellness programs for their employees. It’s not a new service within the fitness industry but it is one that has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years as companies try to find ways to reduce employee health-care expenses.
“Over the last 10 years, and the last five years in particular, there has been a big push to actually keep track of the value you can add to an organization if they provide wellness for their employees,” said Peak Fitness managing partner Brandon Warnock.
The data varies but studies have indicated that companies that offer comprehensive wellness programs experience a return of between $1.49 and $13 for every dollar invested in the program.
In Warnock’s personal experience, it would be rare for a company to make anything less than 150 percent back on that wellness investment and some companies using his organization are experiencing up to a 1,400 percent return.
Many businesses find the bulk of that return in reduced premium costs for their employee health-care coverage. Insurance providers often offer a discount when employers can show they have a program in place to encourage employees to exercise and stay healthy.
“And another benefit that I don’t think many of them saw coming was reduced sick days,” Warnock said. “A lot less people are calling in sick and they are finding people significantly more productive.”
A recent study showed that active employees took about 27 percent fewer sick days and up to 25 percent fewer disability days than inactive employees. An added benefit was employees being more productive while they are at work. Employees feel better, work better and fewer employees come to work sick.
Many organizations with employee wellness plans also noticed a reduction in turnover. Wellness plans, especially those that include gym memberships and health classes, are a desirable employment perk. It also fosters a team feeling among those who work out together and can lead to a friendlier work atmosphere.
While businesses that offer wellness programs tend to be larger corporations, Warnock has had companies of all sizes participate at Peak Fitness. The companies have been as diverse as health-care facilities, restaurants and collection agencies.
Peak Fitness tailors the programs to each business’ needs and size. Some plans include full gym memberships while others offer quarterly lunchtime seminars and exercise classes once or twice a week.
“We have a shell of what we can do for them, then we put together all the bits and pieces of what would best benefit them to create a custom wellness program,” Warnock said.
That customization can be specific. For example, if a company finds a lot of employees are experiencing back problems, Peak Fitness can create a workout that will help those employees to strengthen core muscles to reduce those back issues.
Peak Fitness also has a selection of exercise equipment in the gym that can help replicate different movements, such as twist and lift rotations, so employees can focus on those muscle groups that they use most often in the workplace.
Companies can’t force employees to work out and get in shape, but many workers would like to do so, especially when it’s provided as a perk. Warnock has found that the employees themselves will sometimes approach supervisors about adding these programs.
One business that is now participating at Peak Fitness had about a dozen employees already exercising there. After encouraging the company to start a wellness plan, they now have more than 100 co-workers going to the gym.
An added incentive offered by many businesses is a “Biggest Loser”-like competition. Most of the companies Warnock has worked with over the years have had a weight-loss contest, he said. Peak Fitness offers the control for these types of contests and keeps the official measurements for them.
It also has special software to help participants to better gauge their personal fitness progress from start to finish.
Some companies offer prizes for these “Biggest Loser”-type competitions. Warnock has seen everything from cash and merchandise to paid time off for the winner. But sometimes that isn’t necessary. Often participating employees simply create a pool, putting their own money into a pot and winner take-all at the end.
Warnock challenges the local business community to try an employee wellness program for a year, track employee progress and see if it pays. The consultation is free.
Get details at www.peakeverett.com.
Story tags » SCBJ BusinessSCBJ Health CareSCBJ People

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