On-the-Job Health and Wellness

Workplace wellness plans help employees focus on fitness and healthy living.
Kailyn Martin takes time out for a little yoga at Edina City Hall. Namaste!

Many Edina employers have implemented workplace wellness initiatives to promote healthy habits. A healthy work environment can reduce health care costs associated with risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, tobacco use and inactivity. It’s also fun and inspiring to be part of a collaborative effort focused on fitness. From small modifications to company-wide competitions, here is a sample of efforts to promote healthy living at work. A grassroots wellness program sprouted at Edina City Hall five years ago. The goal is to have an employee from each department provide input on promoting workplace wellness. A calendar with regularly scheduled wellness events provides the framework. Calendar events include lunch-and-learn sessions with various instructors. “We’ve had a nutritionist talk about healthy eating and a physician provide instruction on how best to sit at a work station to alleviate or avoid back pain,” says Donna Tilsner, recreation supervisor for Edina Parks and Recreation. “We’ve also offered sample classes in yoga and other exercise regimens.” Employee newsletters advertise walking clubs and information on the importance of drinking water. City staff also has the option to break for recess. But not schoolyard style—Instant Recess is an innovative computer application complete with video exercise instruction. You simply click the app, follow along and perform prescribed stretches right at your desk. Law firm Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC  implemented  its current workplace wellness plan in 2012 as part of the community health improvement initiative called do.town, a collaboration of city and community leaders with help from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. It began with an exciting competition to earn points and win prizes by completing certain tasks. The tasks included tracking weight and blood pressure as well as wearing a sensor to track movements throughout the workday. “The goal was to have 200 minutes of movement each day by the end of the program,” says Kelly Thaemert, human resource and facilities manager for Hellmuth & Johnson. “The sensors light up when you’re doing well. So people checked each other’s sensors to keep score. It became quite a competition.” Hellmuth & Johnson also changed its vending machine to include healthier snack options. And birthday celebrations now include healthier choices in addition to cake. Fairview Southdale Hospital has provided employees with health club discounts and regular activity campaigns for more than 10 years. An exciting addition to Fairview Southdale’s commitment to wellness is an on-site farmers market for employees and local residents. Four local vendors supply fresh, locally grown produce and flowers from July through October on Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. The farmers  market will also include educational booths and occasional cooking demonstrations. This added convenience of farm-fresh shopping at work should help busy people prepare healthier meals at home.  Wellness options can be customized to fit the size and scope of the workplace. Commuter Services in Edina has only three full-time staff, but they have committed to a tobacco-free policy and also pool personal funds to stock a healthy snack station. “The snack station is great,” says Kate Meredith, director of outreach. “If I get busy and skip lunch or need a late afternoon pick-me-up, there is always fruit, vegetables, nuts or healthy snack crackers.” The staff at Commuter Services is also organizing walking meetings. “We have lots of hallways to walk while talking,” says Meredith. “We’ve also discussed skipping the elevator and taking the stairs whenever possible.” Employers decide what realistic goals are and determine the pace of implementing workplace wellness initiatives. But when business owners and leaders buy in, employees take notice. Linda Pellowski, worksite wellness consultant for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota says, “Outcomes of workplace wellness initiatives may include increased morale, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and better-managed health care costs.” Pellowski notes that people eat what is readily available. “Some employers believe employees will revolt if doughnuts are replaced with healthier options. Not true. Offer both and let people vote with their palate.” Employers can also improve workplace wellness simply by promoting the free resources included in their current health care plan. “We find the majority of employers don’t adequately promote quit-smoking resources, pre-natal support or fitness center discounts provided by their health care plan,” Pellowski says. Simple changes in culture can benefit both employers and employees. And the costs of workplace wellness plans are associated to however employers want to proceed. Let these Edina employers and employees inspire you to get fit and be more mindful of the value of wellness.