is class instructor of M&I Bank’s employee yoga class,
which is part of the city’s wellness initiative.
Every week, employees at M&I Bank’s
downtown office can take a yoga class or attend a Weight Watchers
Each day, the office staff at J.H.
Findorff & Son Inc. can use a fully outfitted gym in their
Steps like these are bringing Milwaukee
companies closer to being named Well Workplaces by the Wellness
Councils of America (WELCOA). And if 40 companies meet WELCOA’s
standards over the next two years, Milwaukee will become Wisconsin’s
first Well City.
"We want to show that we’re not
lagging, we’re leading," says Janet McMahon, executive director
of Milwaukee’s Well City initiative.
According to McMahon, Milwaukee must
have 20 percent of its workforce (about 50,000 people) employed by
companies that have acheived Well Workplace designation (from WELCOA)
in order to become a Well City USA. Currently, the list of employers
who have made a commitment to the Well City Milwaukee initiative
reflects more than 85,000 employees. "The challenge now is for
each employer to meet the wellness program standards set forth by
WELCOA and become a Well Workplace by the end of 2009," says
McMahon. This spring, at least two companies will have met the Well
Workplace criteria. For the rest, "this is our
M&I Bank’s 1,000 Milwaukee-area
employees have been invited to participate in screenings for risk
factors, such as high cholesterol, and complete surveys about their
health. Employees who participate get a reduction in their health care
premiums for two years and are included in a prize raffle.
"Once we get the results of our
health assessments and find out what our risks are, we will develop
specific programs to address those," says Barbara Feiertag, a
nurse who serves as the bank’s corporate wellness manager.
"We’ve already seen some success
stories. We had employees who quit smoking since our smoking cessation
program in October. They said, ‘OK, this is the time.’"
Findorff’s office staff numbers just
34, but the company would like to expand its efforts to its 150
Milwaukee-based field workers and its Madison employees.
"In construction, safety is the
No. 1 consideration, and health is part of that," notes Valeria
Alba, project manager assistant in charge of wellness efforts. "A
lot of our field workers have lunch boxes full of Doritos or they
smoke, and we want to reach out to them."
Findorff moved its headquarters to
North 6th Street around the time it signed on to the Well City
initiative, which explains in part why it has an on-site gym complete
with showers. The office also has a bike rack to encourage two-wheeled
commuting, and an outdoor basketball hoop that gets lots of use.
M&I and Findorff also have
employees participating in Lighten Up Wisconsin, an online-based
workplace exercise and weight loss incentive competition.
The Well City initiative received seed
money from several area health systems and is partnered not only with
companies but also with nonprofit organizations and local colleges and
universities. WELCOA, which has a Wisconsin council headquartered on
Milwaukee’s East Side, is providing a framework for the effort.
"The application itself is a
cookbook for success," says McMahon. "If you work with the
criteria and follow through, in the end you will have a comprehensive,
results-driven wellness program.
"That’s what this is about —
it’s not about giving out trophies."