Tips on implementing a wellness program for your company

By Erin Krawczak
For The Bellingham Business Journal

As a busy working mom, I am always thinking about how to squeeze in quality time with my three active kids. That’s why it meant so much to me last year when I was able to spend a full workday helping my son finish his Eagle Scout project. The wellness program is one of my favorite perks of working for Peoples Bank. Called Wholepeople, it includes a $200 annual wellness reimbursement, paid time off for community service and wellness-related activities, and other benefits designed to promote a healthy mind, body and community.

Data shows that more and more businesses are recognizing the link between employee wellness and overall job satisfaction, happiness and productivity. Whether you are thinking of setting up or expanding your wellness program, here are a few pointers that can help you design a program that works for everyone in your organization.

Do it for the right reasons. A secret to our wellness program’s success is our company’s fundamental operating philosophy. Peoples Bank implicitly understands that employee health is not just about lowering medical plan costs or boosting productivity numbers. While those are indisputably good outcomes, our wellness plan is designed to boost camaraderie and morale, which in turn leads to a happier and healthier workplace. We are not just addressing costs; we want to improve people’s lives.

Build camaraderie. One of our most popular wellness events is what we call our step challenge. At certain times throughout the year, employees compete with each other in groups to see who can walk the most steps in a particular time period. During a recent challenge, my department got creamed by the marketing department. Building camaraderie with people in different departments across the company is what makes these challenges fun. We are always trying to find new ways to strengthen our workplace by providing new experiences, great incentives and prizes, a chance to create friendly rivalries and connections, and opportunities for recognition. This not only builds participation and excitement but has long-lasting benefit in terms of overall morale.

Listen to Employees. While we have a great team of experienced professionals in charge of our HR and benefits departments, some of the best ideas for our wellness program have come from employees. Our wellness committee is comprised of employees from various backgrounds and departments across the company. This helps ensure a well-rounded program that offers something for everyone. The committee is also responsible for vetting the use of the bank’s annual wellnesss reimbursement program, which provides employees up to $200 per year for wellness related purchases. The committee approves of everything from recreational gear and gym memberships to produce boxes from local farms. We’re always asking for constructive feedback from employees and adjusting our program accordingly.

We also invite employees to share their ideas for bank-supported giving programs. For example, we recently held a crayon drive for Seattle Children’s Hospital. We recently learned that our efforts led to their largest donation of crayons and activity books to date. Whether it is collecting crayons, building homes for Habitat for Humanity, or donating more 900 pounds of infant formula and diapers, we strive to offer a broad range of activities that get people involved and support the community.

We constantly hear from employees how grateful they are for the Wholepeople wellness program and how it has impacted them positively. I believe our open-door policy and openness to trying new things is a big part of our success. When we really listen to what employees want and what they are interested in, everyone wins.

Erin Krawczak is assistant vice president, training and development manager at Peoples Bank, and serves as the wellness committee chair. She has more than 18 years of human resources experience and received her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in human resources management from Utah State.

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