Employer Health Programs

Employers are learning that it is important to introduce and implement health and wellness programs for their employees, but how? Last fall we got together with some employers and brainstormed ways employers could help their employees to become healthier. One of the companies present for the discussion was Houle Electric. The representatives from Houle left that meeting with some ideas for implementing a program, but more importantly, it became a priority for them to introduce a program.

The Houle HR team was looking for a way they could incorporate the challenge across all their staff. That meant taking into account office staff, as well as, staff working in the field. The "Walking the Globe Challenge” aimed to do just that as well as offer a little friendly competition among staff. Employees were encouraged to create a team of 10 people with each person aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day. The team totals are then updated weekly on a map around the world. Altogether, the teams have travelled over 11 million steps after 10 weeks of the program. "The field staff are just crushing the office staff,” laughs Erica Rizzo, HR Assistant with Houle Electric. The challenge is voluntary and all participating employees were given a pedometer for tracking.

Erica has noticed other positive outcomes from the challenge as well, "I have seen little healthier habit changes here and there less donuts and soda being consumed and a fruit platter is now being served with the donuts. There is also stronger cross-departmental ties and banter between teams, which has been nice to see.” One of the Houle employees has even lost 15 pounds to date and people that didn’t initially sign up have become interested, asking for a pedometer and walking on their own.

Through her research, Erica found that 16 weeks is the amount of time required to change a habit, so they wanted their program to be at least that long. The team at Fall Protection Group was also looking for a program for their employees; one that would make a lasting change in increasing their physical activity. They wanted something that was achievable for everyone and that would require employees to do a bit of training leading up to the event to create a healthy habit. The end result is a $500 payment (first one is tax-free) to any employee that completes a half marathon. There is currently no limit on the amount employees can claim, but to receive subsequent payouts, their time must be at least one second faster than their previous race and employed with the company for at least a year. Ron O’Neil, Director of Fall Protection Group, feels strongly about the motivation behind their program, "We wanted to make a statement and say that fitness is important, that we see mental health and well-being as a priority and we wanted to be a place that people would want to work at.” Ron feels he has seen a change in people being more aware of what they are eating and going out for a run at lunch and also just a bit more conscious and interested in developing other healthy habits. The nature of the work at Fall Protection Group requires that fitness is a top priority for some staff, but they aren’t the only ones participating in the program, "it is not just the fitness fiends that are participating and some of the fitness fiends have not yet participated in the program. Some of our oldest staff members have participated”.

Houle Electric and Fall Protection Program are both great examples of implementing a fitness program for their employees, and they both feel strongly that their programs have brought positive changes to the workplace, beyond the fitness aspect. It is sometimes challenging to create a program that is specific to a company’s culture and accessible to all employees but it can be done. Kudos to both these groups for making it happen.