October 2013 Meeting Review

Past Meeting Review – October 2013

“Making the Case for Employee Wellness”– October 2013

By Leslie Herndon, Greenscape Inc.

Another great chapter meeting entitled “Making the Case for Employee Wellness”  was presented in September by Blue Cross Blue Shield NC employees Michael O’Connor, Director of Employee Benefits, and Christy Colgan, Health and Wellness Consultant.

BCBSNC identified several concerning trends while conducting wellness surveys of their 4500 employees including obesity, high blood pressure, and stress and anxiety.  This combined with BCBSNC’s concerns in regards to the ever rising costs in healthcare spurred senior leadership to make a renewed focus on employee wellness.  Mr. O’Connor’s department was charged with this direction and have introduced many new initiatives to combat these concerns while raising the health and awareness knowledge of all employees.  Many of the initiatives took a combined effort between Mr O’Connor’s team and the BCBSNC facilities management team to make happen, so these are great opportunities to keep in mind when creating facility plans for your own company!

  • Build Awareness – They began offering voluntary Health Screenings and Heath Risk Assesments for employees.  They were careful to make this a employee benefit, not a penalization, and as an added benefit tied the premiums for employee coverall to participation in the wellness program.
  • Community Garden – This created this onsite community garden to encourage healthy eating and encourage gardening movement in employees.  It also serves as hands on nutrition education.
  • Stairwell signs – encouraging healthy choices, using the stairs, eating right, etc…  They stressed that with any employee program, communication is key so these signs are used extensively to continue communication.
  • Tobacco Free – They have been a tobacco free environment since 2005 after undergoing a 6 month transition program to help employees reduce and quit their tobacco use.
  • Healthy Catering Options in the Cafeteria – They worked with the facilities team in change of the cafeteria to increase healthy options as well as eliminating sugary drinks in the onsite vending machines and partnering with The Produce Box to provide fresh options for employees to take home.
  • Reducing Barriers to Physical Activity – They created numerous opportunities for physical exercise. Including: onsite fitness center, walking trail, Basketball court, ultimate Frisbee field, onsite group aerobic classes, quarterly fitness challenges, a “Desk to 5K” program, a “Take The Stairs” promotion, etc.
  • On site Medical Clinic – with a onsite nurse practitioner with were able to offer minor medical needs, including mobile mammography and flu shots,  and onsite health coaching and nutrition counseling.
  • “Weight Watchers at Work” – BCBSNC subsidizes 33% of the cost for their employees to utilize this program and it is one of their most popular options.
  • 5 Ton Challenge – Mr. O’Connor stressed how important it is to have senior leadership support for these initiatives to really take off and this challenge is a perfect example.  The CEO of BCBSNC challenged the employees to a 9 month challenge to lose 10,000 pounds as a team.  This reflected a 5% weight loss per employee.  As part of the promotion they created a special “Weight Warriors” 25 person team and documented their journey’s though online blog posts and other communications to spur excitement throughout the company.  Constant, consistent communication was key during this promotion.  As a result, the  company as a whole lost over 11,000 pounds during the challenge with over 1672 employees participating actively.  Even more impressive is that the Weight Warrior team lost over 645 pounds and accounted for 11% of the total company’s weight loss!

Check out this inspiring video.

In wrap up, these programs are not overnight successes, you will have to built trust and plan early and often for the wins!