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Wellness in the workplace
Employees at local companies are learning how to live a healthier lifestyle

Photos by Matt Haas

March 2015

Employees at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin practice yoga in the cancer center.

Conceived to help control rising health care costs and curtail lost work productivity, workplace wellness programs today have evolved to address more than just exercise and healthy food choices.

"Our wellness program focuses overall on how to be a better person," says Kathryn Menard-Rothe, staff wellness manager for Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. That means offering community volunteer opportunities and lunch-and-learn topics on green issues like composting.

As Milwaukee area employers see the value in offering workplace wellness programs, they are beginning to expand their efforts beyond standard services like smoking cessation, chronic disease management, weight control and physical fitness.

"People think health and wellness is about physical fitness, but it’s really about lifestyle choices," says Annette Adams, vice president of Total Rewards for Kohl’s.

According to Adams, Kohl’s doesn’t have a formal workplace wellness program, instead preferring to develop wellness solutions that focus on the overall well-being of its employees.

"We talk more about lifelong health care and provide a number of different facets to help our associates address their wellness needs," she explains.

Kohl’s employees take a fitness class at the company’s wellness center.

Larger employers like Froedtert and Kohl’s have established on-site medical clinics where employees and family members can seek treatment for acute health conditions like ear infections and bronchitis and avoid costly trips to the urgent care clinic or ER.

"All staff can participate, not just those who take Froedtert’s insurance," explains Menard-Rothe. "We want to make sure employees get the appropriate care they need."

Along with acute care services and routine health assessments, Froedtert recently added a counselor to its clinic staff to address employees’ mental health needs.

"The mental health of our staff and their families is so important," says Menard-Rothe. "We’re making it easy to access counseling services."

Since expanding its wellness center to a former ProHealth Care building near its corporate headquarters in Menomonee Falls last spring, Kohl’s has seen an exponential increase in employees accessing the company’s on-site health care clinic and pharmacy.

"It’s been wildly successful," says Adams. In fact, nearly half of Kohl’s employees and families have designated physicians at the company’s Wellness Center as their primary care doctor.

"It’s a positive consequence that we hadn’t anticipated," says Adams.

Kohl’s opened its first on-site health care clinic in 2007 to encourage employees to be proactive in taking care of their health needs. The move to its new wellness center facility last May doubled the size of Kohl’s on-site clinic and pharmacy and added a 14,000-square-foot state-of-the-art fitness center.

"We wanted to change the face of what health care delivery looks like for our associates," says Adams.

Beyond its corporate wellness center, Kohl’s has established a smaller express care clinic for employees at its off-site credit center. Other inventive wellness solutions like biannual visits from Columbia St. Mary’s mobile mammography unit and traveling flu shot clinics target associates at Kohl’s distribution center and store locations. "We want to make our wellness solutions available for everyone," says Adams.

Large corporations aren’t the only employers developing comprehensive workplace wellness programs. Small and midsize companies are equally committed to their employees’ well-being.

At PyraMax Bank, which employs 115 people at eight area branches, the wellness committee emphasizes fun as part of every activity it coordinates.

"We’re focused on the whole person, not just an insurance discount," says Monica Baker, chief brand officer for PyraMax.

The close-knit staff takes a team approach, organizing employee outings to local fun runs and friendly workplace competitions like "Hold it through the Holidays," which challenged staff to maintain their weight over the holidays. When management saw employees’ stress level on the rise last year, they offered on-site acupuncture sessions and chair massages.

PyraMax’s approach has earned the organization Platinum Well Workplace recognition from the Wellness Council of Wisconsin.

"Receiving that kind of recognition tells our employees that what we’re doing is beneficial," says Baker.

Helping its employees live a longer, happier, healthier life is what drives DUECO’s workplace wellness program.

"Wellness has always been a cornerstone," says Denise Huebner, human resources director for DUECO, a Waukesha-based company with 350 employees.

Recognizing that people spend the majority of their day at work, DUECO began developing its workplace wellness program six years ago to support employees in their endeavors to embrace healthier lifestyles.

Today, DUECO’s robust wellness committee represents a cross-section of the company, from the manufacturing floor to the sales teams to support staff. The team has introduced a number of successful initiatives, including Wellness Wednesdays, a hands-on lunch and learn series with topics that range from healthy cooking demonstrations to reading nutrition labels, and a healthy food policy at all of DUECO’s facilities.

"We’re trying to encourage healthy habits among our employees," says Huebner. That doesn’t mean a ban on doughnuts at morning meetings or employee pizza parties, but a commitment to serve at least one healthy food choice at company-sponsored events.

"We’re not outlawing junk food, but now we also serve fresh fruit or salad," she explains. "We’ve found if it’s there, it gets eaten – especially if it’s free."

Whatever approach employers take to promoting health and wellness, it’s clear that employees appreciate the convenience and value that workplace wellness programs offer.

"Our employees tell us they feel like someone genuinely cares about them," says Adams.



This story ran in the March 2015 issue of: