LGC Members Launch Enticing Wellness Programs to Benefit Their Employees

By Lynn Sperl

Studies abound that verify the true value of workplace wellness programs and their bountiful benefits to employers and employees alike. Consider the results of a 2008 study led by Maritz-a world leader in understanding, enabling and motivating employees. Its findings affirm that wellness programs not only help lower health costs but produce more engaged employees. The study's results also show that employees who work for an employer offering wellness programs will not only exhibit significantly more satisfaction with their jobs, but are more likely to stay with that employer for the long term and even recommend it to friends or family members.

At LGC, we're dedicated to providing our members with effective programs and services aimed at improving the health and safety of their employees. That's why we offer customizable health management tools and consultation services to assist your organization's Joint Loss Management Committee (JLMC) or wellness team in designing and implementing group wellness programs.

Below are three examples of how municipalities have successfully launched wellness initiatives in 2010 for the benefit of their employees:

Town of Bow
During July and early September, the Town of Bow's JLMC launched Be Active ~ Eat Healthy, a 10-week physical activity and nutrition component of LGC's popular GET MOVING! Program. Using promotional materials available in booklet and CD format, Deputy Town Clerk and Tax Collector Cate De Vasto found the program easy to administer as a volunteer coordinator.

Cate joined 16 other participants in self-reporting their eating and exercise habits using a food journal and exercise tracking sheet. Participants took turns sending out motivational e-mails regularly to keep everyone pumped to meet their set goals of exercising 30 minutes/four days and eating healthy/five days each week.

"Almost everybody was exercising every day and eating as healthy as could be by the end of the program," says Cate, who attests to the value of also offering weekly incentives for completing a tracking sheet. And getting the support of Town Manager James Pitts, who offered a chance to win two days of administrative leave to anyone who finished the program, was "a huge incentive," according to Cate.

Final program participation resulted in a 47 percent success rate with self-reported weight losses in the 10-15 pound range. Fellow participants have since e-mailed Cate telling her "it was a lot of fun having the support of everyone" and vowing that "we will have to continue to inspire each other." Cate and her colleagues hope to "fine tune" the program the next time around "to increase participation."

City of Claremont
This past spring, the City of Claremont's Wellness Committee kicked off a Walk Across America Challenge for employees. Patterned after the Get Walking component of LGC's GET MOVING! Program, the challenge provides teams of employees the opportunity to log weekly walking times, which later convert into miles and count toward a mapped destination goal. "The whole intention is to get employees to make healthy decisions and involved in their own wellness," said Claremont's Human Resources Coordinator Bette Shattuck, who sits on the City's Wellness Committee.

The eight-week challenge attracted 36 employees who formed nine teams. "Everybody who participated earned a prize, with T-shirts and MP3 players going to the winning team members," explained Bette. She noted that all Walk Across America Challenge incentives were purchased with monies awarded to the City by LGC as one of its 2010 WELLDollars Discretionary Grants. "We also had a drawing for a day off with pay," she added.

Using participant feedback, the Wellness Committee tweaked their program before launching a second Walk Across America Challenge in September. "We decided to allow different physical activities-like bicycling, golfing and hiking-since everyone isn't a walker, increased each team's size from four up to six people and shortened the challenge to six weeks," Bette noted. The committee has also computerized a spreadsheet for tracking participant/team mileage. At press time, the second challenge was winding down with Claremont's Fire Department team leading the race to reach Chicago first based on accrued miles.

"The camaraderie that's developed between employees and departments is fun," said Bette, who, like her colleagues, looks forward to advancing onto Denver and Los Angeles in future challenges. Meanwhile, she and her fellow Wellness Committee members are already considering other programs to benefit Claremont's active and retired employees. "We're dedicated to helping them make healthy decisions in their lives," Bette points out.

Town of Hooksett
A Hooksett Goes Healthy fitness campaign created such positive employee camaraderie when it began last February that participants were sorry to see it end in May. Spearheaded by the town's Joint Loss Safety Committee, the campaign has incorporated a Biggest Loser weight loss challenge as well as exercise and nutrition programs. "People were asking 'what's next?' and wanted a new challenge," said Town Administrator Carol Granfield.

Over the summer, a group of enthusiastic employees organized and created the Hooksett Amazing Race. Drawing inspiration from a popular reality TV game show, the activity challenged two teams to find clues and complete 10 tasks first in order to win exciting door prizes donated by Hooksett's business community. It involved 22 employees randomly divided into two teams and promoted teamwork between people who don't normally work together. "We started out with a safety challenge where the captain of each team had to don portable fire-fighting gear and knock down cans off a work zone barricade with a fire hose," explained Carol. Another task tapped into employees' knowledge of Hooksett's history.

Completing each task depended on teams successfully collaborating on a mutually agreed-upon strategy. "It turned out to be the highlight of our September Employee Appreciation Picnic-not only for the Hooksett Amazing Race participants themselves but for those of us cheering along the sidelines," reflected Carol. "We're hoping to market the program to other municipalities as an effective stress management tool and morale booster, which could provide an added revenue source for our town," she added.

Lynn Sperl is a communications specialist at New Hampshire Local Government Center and a contributing editor for New Hampshire Town and City magazine. For more information on LGC's health management services available to members, please call 800.852.3358 and ask for LGC's Health and Safety Department or email.