No matter their size, local businesses both large and small have taken the initiative to campaign for better health among employees. They’ve found that even minimal changes can produce big results, such as lower health insurance costs, fewer absences and a staff that looks forward to coming to work.
Take a look at the healthy benefits the following four companies offer their employees. You may be inspired to implement similar programs at your place of employment – or at least encourage your boss to do so.
Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission
Finding ways to fit exercise into busy schedules – work-related or not – can often be difficult. Jeremy Holmes, coordinator of sustainability programs for the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, says it just makes sense to incorporate exercise into the work portion of the day.
In 2008, the Commission became a League of American Bicyclists-certified Bicycle Friendly Business, encouraging bicycling for transportation and offering a loaner bike to staff to take to meetings.
“Making it easy for an employee to commute by bike replaces a trip they were already going to take in the car with one that burns calories and saves money,” he says. “So, they can get some physical activity without much additional time.”
Requirements to become certified include a minimum amount of bicycling activity at the site, some basic accommodations and doing work in the community at large, Holmes explains. The Commission uses the RIDE Solutions program to help build bicycling programs at other businesses.
In addition to cycling, the Commission turned unused office space into a gym for employee use. The idea, Holmes says, came from a desire to provide more employee benefits at a time when revenues were tight.
“Through donations and creative searching on Craigslist, we were able to populate it with an array of equipment, including a bench press, free weights, Bowflex machine, treadmill and exercise bike,” he says.
Many employees take advantage of these benefits, one employee deciding to cancel his gym membership thanks to the on-site facility.
“The employees appreciate having the resources on site; their presence means it is difficult to make excuses about not being able to get to the gym,” Holmes says. “It has encouraged several of us to do a better job of managing our health.”
When Bonz Hart purchased Meridium’s new building, part of his mission was to promote wellness and health, says Bob Francis, the company’s vice president of marketing. The software business, Francis explains, is not a nine-to-five job, so if employees are working odd hours or traveling extensively, they shouldn’t have to depend on an outside gym’s hours for when they can exercise.
So, Meridium provides an on-site gym facility, showers and changing rooms for those employees interested in fitting in a workout during lunch breaks or before or after the workday. The company also has an active group of cyclists and runners who gather for treks during lunch.
“Our business is tough and we need that stress relief,” Francis says. “It makes life here fun after you get an adrenaline rush from a workout to tackle the afternoon with a lot of energy.”
Productivity and a balanced lifestyle are critical for the younger generation, and promoting the opportunity for an active lifestyle was part of Meridium’s recruiting process, Francis says. If new employees came from a larger city, “we wanted to show them that we have many ways to enjoy the outdoors” and stay active.
Having these wellness benefits also helps build relationships among employees.
“You get to know your co-workers over a common bond,” Francis says. “In my role, I have limited interaction with some staff, but through cycling I’ve now spent more time with engineers that participate in the same activities.”