Employees at L.L. Bean get three stretch breaks a day. Those who work for pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline can work at treadmill desks. And at video game maker Electronic Arts, employees can spend their lunch break kicking around on the company soccer field.
All sorts of companies are realizing the benefits of a proactive, in-house approach to employee wellness. According to a survey by benefits firm Workplace Options, 36% of workers today say they have access to office health perks like wellness seminars and workout rooms. As the Chicago Tribune pointed out in its related story, 70% of Fortune 200 companies offer physical fitness programs of some sort.
The idea is to foster healthier, happier employees, which in turn can lower insurance costs and increase production. It’s a long-term approach that some studies have shown as saving $3 for every $1 invested. Still, in highly competitive industries, it can be hard to part with the up-front cost needed for a weight room or a ball field. What if the facilities just sit there, empty?
Even with all these challenges, we’re seeing an increasing number of supermarkets offering perks and programs for their employees. Price Chopper in Schenectady, New York has a fitness center on the first floor of its new corporate offices. Giant Food Stores recently ran a “Biggest Loser” themed weight loss competition where the winner, an assistant manager, lost 38 pounds. Whole Foods, meanwhile, offers discounts on insurance premiums to employees who are physically fit.
As Ruth Kinsey, former communications director for Food Lion and Refresh contributor recently pointed out, rising insurance premiums are forcing companies to get ahead of the issue. This doesn’t necessarily require a multimillion-dollar investment. Most retailers, she writes, can piggyback off the programs and services they already provide.
If a grocery store already has a nutrition guidance system, a nurse or nutritionist on staff, in-store pharmacies, educational store tours for diabetics or other initiatives that focus on health, why not design a comprehensive approach that incorporates these existing resources into a strategy that includes educational materials and encouragement for employees?
Perhaps the healthiest benefit of all is having empowered employees. Put the responsibility for their health in their hands, and more often than not they’ll rise to the challenge.
(Creative Commons photo courtesy of SashaW)