Work Can Be Good for Your Health

Employers throughout North Carolina are making health and wellness a priority. Healthy workers, who are both physically and mentally fit, are more productive, and better performance leads to higher job satisfaction. Here are ways some of Carolina Parenting’s N.C. Family-Friendly 50 firms are promoting healthy lifestyles.

Covering the basics

In today’s environment of rising health-care costs, nobody can take health-insurance coverage for granted. Many companies are skimping on health-care coverage for employees and their families, but some are shouldering the costs of nearly all health insurance expenses for employers and their families, and that’s worth applauding.

American Express (Greensboro) – Pays 80 percent for employees and 70 percent for family members.

Capitol Broadcasting Co. (Raleigh) – Pays 100 percent of health-insurance costs for employees and 70 percent for family members.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals (Raleigh) – Pays nearly 90 percent for employees and nearly 70 percent for families.

Creative health-care benefits

A few companies are really creative with health-care benefits. A few examples:

Bank of America (Charlotte) – As part of a significant health benefits redesign introduced in 2009, Bank of America offers associates earning less than $100,000 a year a bank-funded Health Care Account, providing $600-$1,200 per year to help them pay for eligible medical expenses (co-pays, prescriptions, etc.).

Capitol Broadcasting Co. – The company has a health advocate service that acts as a liaison between health-care providers and insurance providers. The service helps employees navigate complicated situations on what insurance companies cover for procedures. This can save the employee significant time and money.

SAS (Cary) – At no cost to employees and their covered dependents, SAS offers an on-site Health Care Center, boasting a 57-member staff, including trained lactation educators, family nurse practitioners, physicians, registered dieticians, medical laboratory technologists, physical therapists and a psychologist. This center averages nearly 4,000 visits a month.

Excited to exercise

Many companies, such as SAS, WakeMed Health and Hospitals, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, have workout facilities on site. This certainly saves employees valuable travel time between the office and the gym, affording extra time to spend with their families.

Some companies have taken this type of initiative a step further and instituted exercise programs, such as the following two examples.

Capitol Broadcasting Co. – CBC was the first company in North Carolina to be designated a “Be Active” workplace. Through the program, employees earn points for physical activity. The program also includes a health club reimbursement and gym membership discounts.

TIAA-CREF (Charlotte) – TIAA-CREF sponsors programs such as the “Get Fit Challenge,” designed to help employees learn the fundamentals of total health. Teams are formed, and prizes are awarded to those who score the most points. This complements the company’s $650 per year reimbursement for gym memberships and its comprehensive corporate athletic program.

Healthy eating made simple

Preparing and eating healthy meals may be a challenge for working families. Some companies offer simple solutions and special incentives to help make mealtimes healthier and less stressful.

American Express – This is one company that offers a great solution: It provides take-home food items from their on-site cafeteria, saving employees time and money. American Express also has registered dieticians on site to help employees learn how to make well-balanced meals.

Providence Day School (Charlotte) – The private school provides payment for a WeightWatchers program once the employee has reached a certain goal. The employee pays for the program up front, but, ultimately, can be reimbursed up to 200 percent. This program promotes a healthy lifestyle for staff, who can then be role models for their family members.

Comprehensive wellness programs

Clearly, a number of companies are taking steps to emphasize health and wellness for their employees and their families. A few companies stand out for having incredibly comprehensive wellness programs:

Cisco (Research Triangle Park) – Cisco uses an internal Web site, “HealthConnections,” to serve as the hub of its wellness offerings. The program includes a Personal Health Assessment, free on-site health screenings, health coaching and Cisco Cafes to help employees make healthy food choices.

Cisco’s “Healthy Living Program” is a six-week online program designed to help employees improve their diet and exercise routines and assist them in managing chronic health conditions. In 2008, more than 11,000 Cisco employees enrolled in a healthy living program, and 97 percent of employees who have completed the program indicate they achieved their healthy living goals.

One of the most technologically advanced elements of the program is “Cisco HealthPresence,” a virtual clinic that couples TelePresence with biometric equipment to provide employees with medical visits anywhere in the world.

Duke Energy (Charlotte) – The power company’s wellness program includes health fairs, guest speakers, fitness centers, a nurse’s phone line and smoking cessation program, to name a few. In addition, employees can earn up to $250 in a company health-care spending account.

Wii for wellness, and more

Several companies are promoting healthy lifestyles in very creative ways:

Ameritrust Mortgage (Charlotte) – Employees can relieve stress and stretch their legs using with Wii Sport in the company break room.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) – Neck tension? Knots between the shoulder blades? BCBSNC provides on-site table and chair massages.

Duke University and Health System (Durham) – The company’s “Live for Life” department coordinates a mobile farmers market, where employees can purchase fresh produce before heading home.

Promoting healthy lifestyles is a win-win situation for employers and employees. Workers who take fewer sick days are more productive, which translates directly to positive company morale and increased revenue. As for employees, a healthy diet, exercise and reduced stress improve their personal satisfaction and the quality of time spent with families.

Holly Rice is the director of the MBA for Executives Evening Program with UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Christine Ferrell is the marketing and business development director. In 2009, they partnered with Carolina Parenting Inc. to select the N.C. Family-Friendly 50 companies.


Categories: Family Health, Fit Family Challenge, Health, Nutrition, Work-Life, Work-Life Balance