Tower FCU's Wellness Program Emphasizes Education and Participation
With getting healthy topping New Year's resolution lists and credit unions looking at how to keep top talent when the economy rebounds, 2010 may be the time to jumpstart a wellness program.
According to the 2009 Principal Financial Well-Being Index, 45% of consumers working at small to medium-sized companies said that they would stay at their jobs longer because of employer-sponsored wellness programs. The index, released by benefits provider Principal Financial Group, surveys American workers on their wellness attitudes and behaviors at companies with 10 to 1,000 employees.
The survey also found that 45% of staffers said they are encouraged to work harder and perform better and 26% had missed fewer days of work as a result of participating in workplace wellness programs.
"When it comes to offering a wellness program, don't think you have to do everything at once," said Tower Federal Credit Union Human Resources Generalist Carla Campbell. "Look at it as an ongoing evolution, where you can bring in more elements as you learn about what your employee populations wants and discover new wellness opportunities available."
Since 2006, Tower FCU has been tinkering with its wellness program offerings, which have always centered on health risk assessments, screenings, prevention and exercise. Campbell said each year something new is offered to enhance and build the program to the next level. Before the initial launch of its Wealth of Wellness program four years ago, the Laurel, Md.-based credit union spent a little over a year researching companies, polling employees for ideas and designing a comprehensive program that would be beneficial to the employee base.
"The best advice I have to offer is to really research the provider that will be able to best service your needs. For us, the selected programs needed to be able to provide trend information and show how an employee is progressing from year to year," said Campbell. "Detailed comparison reports allow the company to show return on investment by the trend analysis that the company receives."
Tower FCU has defined wellness as a personal strategy that emphasizes a healthy lifestyle through learning about and proactively participating in activities such as: fitness, education, planned diet, risk screenings, rest and relaxation techniques, weight maintenance and disease management. To that end, the comprehensive program developed includes on-site health fairs, immunizations, fitness classes, "Lunch & Learn" sessions and a "Walking and Movement Challenge," where employees can be part of a walking group that walks the perimeter of their facility during the lunch hour.
To encourage staffers to participate in program offerings, the credit union created a "Healthy Reward Points" system, where employees can earn points throughout the year for different activities. For example, those who go to a doctor or dentist for a check-up or cleaning can earn 15 points, they can get another 15 points by participating in at least five of six fitness classes, or if they join the brain fitness interactive seminar or "Ultimate Loser Challenge," they can earn 10 points for each. At the end of each year, Tower FCU contributes $200 to the flexible savings account of staffers who earned 100 to 120 points and $350 to those who earned more than 121 points.
"We try to offer a lot of variety and listen to what our employees want," said Campbell. "There have been a lot of requests to have a Weight Watchers group, and we're looking into adding that to our program. The wellness program is a way to help employees feel more valued because their employer cares enough about them to make it easy for them to improve their health."
She added that a wellness program doesn't have to be costly. Less than 5% of Tower FCU's HR budget is earmarked for wellness programs and activities. Participation is completely voluntary, and of the 450 employees, 25% to 50% of the staff participates in some manner within the program.
The credit union's wellness efforts have been paying off. In addition to being recognized as a Fit Friendly/Healthy Workplace two years in a row, Tower FCU has recently received an innovation award from the Horizon Foundation and the Howard County Health Department for outstanding innovation in employee wellness.