Wiring a Healthy Workforce, and Family
Faith Technologies’ Wellness Program Goes Beyond Employees to Reach Spouses
Menasha, Wis. (May 13, 2009) – It’s a typical work day for Katie Behm, Wellness Specialist with Faith Technologies, as she responds to a voice message left by the wife of a technician from Wisconsin.
The woman is looking for ways to make healthy changes to her family’s eating routine. She comments that they drink a lot of soda and eat a bit too much fast food on-the-go.
“Help me understand your family’s day-to-day lifestyle,” says Behm. “That should be a good start for you to set some realistic goals for your family and begin to moderate food choices.”
As the company’s go-to wellness coach and a registered nurse, Behm works with assigned “wellness chargers” at 15 division offices across the country to actively communicate and implement a program which encourages more than 1,400 employees in six states to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes. Thus, helping Faith Technologies insure a healthier workforce.
With the cost of health benefits reaching double-digit increases in recent years, many employers across industries are working to find ways to minimize costs. In a 2008 survey by Hewitt Associates of more than 500 U.S. companies, more than 60 percent “plan” to institute programs that help employees change and/or sustain a healthier lifestyle.
The work of Behm and the wellness chargers is part of Faith Technologies proactive investment in employees and families, while working to reduce the company’s overall healthcare costs and increase productivity. The wellness program includes personalized coaching, tailored plans, several rewards programs, tobacco cessation and a health risk assessment (HRA).
“Since the wellness program began in 2005, Faith Technologies has stayed within its health insurance budget,” says Behm. “We’ve been able to invest more into our initiative to provide additional options for the company’s workforce and their families.”
Wellness program in-action
At Faith Technologies’ 15 divisions in 2008, a total of 629 employees and 555 spouses completed HRAs. The assessment, offered free-of-charge every fall, includes a health and lifestyle questionnaire, a personal report analyzing their current health profile, as well as cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose screenings.
“It’s a simple idea,” says Behm. “By actively engaging and providing incentives for the well-being of our workforce and their families, those that participate are probably going to use less healthcare and be cheaper to insure.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75 percent of employers’ healthcare costs and productivity loss are related to employee lifestyle choices.
For Faith Technologies’ employees, completing an HRA means saving $3 to $25 on monthly health benefit payments based on their medical coverage plan (i.e., employee only or employee share). In a 2007 survey conducted by MetLife, only 27 percent of employers with wellness programs offered a discount to employees on their contribution to medical plans.
“How employers communicate a wellness program is just as important as how they design it,” says Behm. “The program and ongoing communication is designed to help take a preventative approach while helping employees see the value of our efforts.”
Faith Technologies’ wellness program is actively communicated via email and quarterly newsletters. Also, Behm and the wellness chargers are always available via phone and personal email to provide insight.
The company’s program features several reward plans and incentives beyond a decrease in health benefit payments from completing HRAs. According to the MetLife survey, only 2 percent of employers with wellness programs offer cash bonuses.
“Charging Forward,” which began April 1, 2009, is a three-month, online-based program that allows employees to track their exercise activities to earn points towards Faith Technologies apparel.
Another program, “Healthy Rewards,” is a lifestyle merit plan where employees can track 12 different health-related activities and earn up to $150 in cash per year. In 2008, nearly 300 employees company-wide participated in the rewards program.
A third incentive program, “Healthy Holidays,” is a contest which occurs during the winter months where teams of four (employees and spouses) weigh-in once a week to win cash prizes. During the 2008 – 2009 holiday season, 144 participants across the company dropped more than 650 lbs.
At the offices, Faith Technologies overhauled its food options by replacing many of the “non-healthy” vending machine items with healthier fare at a discounted rate. At each location, oatmeal and tea is provided for free while employees can snack on fruit for 25 cents, as well as other healthy options such as bottled water and Kashi Bars for 50 cents. The company has also implemented healthy guidelines when ordering food for meetings, training sessions and special events.
In 2009, Faith Technologies began offering health club and recreational sport team reimbursements, as well as money back for participation in activities such as a charitable 5K walk/run.
“And beyond all of the obvious benefits for the workforce, their families and managing our healthcare costs, the program gives us an edge in recruiting and maintaining desirable employees,” says Behm.