UT Federal Credit Union staffers are a few steps closer to getting healthier.
To jump-start a 2012 wellness initiative, employees not only received pedometers but were surprised by Antone Davis, who placed second for the most weight lost on season 12 of “The Biggest Loser.”
Davis, a former University of Tennessee, Knoxville alum and NFL football player, recently helped kick off the Knoxville, Tenn.-based credit union’s 10-week wellness challenge.
“His story of his struggle with weight was just inspirational,” said Stephanie M. Efird, vice president of human resources at the $196 million credit union. “One of our training initiatives this year is to build upon the wellness programs we developed at the beginning of last year.”
With a limited budget, UTFCU’s wellness initiative began simply with wellness tips emailed to employees. Last fall, just before the holidays it expanded to include a “Maintain Don’t Gain” challenge. Any employee who signed up for the contest and didn’t gain more than two pounds over the holidays would win prizes such as movie tickets. Of the 75 employees, 35 participated.
“It was such a small thing, and we found that it didn’t really matter what the gift was because our employees loved the competition,” said Efird. “I also think it appealed to the employees because it was something they wanted to do for themselves anyway. The contest was just an added incentive.”
According to a Society of Human Resources Management Wellness in the Workplace study, wellness programs have helped control the spiraling costs of health care. Key findings have indicated that health and wellness resources are low-cost offerings that can help employees live a healthier lifestyle. In 2011, 75% of companies offered wellness resources and information, 56% produced a wellness publication and 39% offered health fairs.
In addition, health care premium discounts have gained popularity. Over the last three years, there has been a slight increase in the percentage of companies that offered discounts for getting an annual health risk assessment, not using tobacco products and participating in wellness and weight-loss programs.
With an eye on keeping the momentum and interest going into the new year, UT FCU’s five-person wellness committee opted to make the program more inclusive so that prizes for the 10-week challenge would be based on a points system.
“We have an affiliation with University of Tennessee Hospital and were dovetailing on what they were doing, which initially was a biggest loser contest,” said Efird. “We realized that it wouldn’t appeal to people who either didn’t have a lot of weight to lose or didn’t need to lose weight at all. So we began looking at the point system as a more holistic approach to becoming healthier overall.”
To that end, points can be earned for everything from doing more than 30 minutes of cardio to eating five fruits and vegetables a day. In addition, bonus points can be earned for every 1% of weight lost or even completing a 5K race. The individual with the most points at the end of the challenge will win a Wii Fit with the exercise module. Other prizes have been tiered into small, medium or large prizes.
“We wanted it to be very inclusive and doable. The idea is that everyday participants take steps to make incremental changes for a healthier lifestyle,” said Efird. “I’m considered a health guru here and even for me just getting those five servings of fruits and veggies and 8,000 steps a day has been challenging. And as far as timing, we thought wrapping up the competition at 10 weeks would coincide with right about when everyone would want to get back into their bathing suits.”
She added that staffers were excited about the launch and now her greatest concern is how the wellness committee will be able to top it.