Published July 20, 2010
Volume 18, Number 7

Corporate Wellness—More Important Now than Ever  

Michelle Callahan leads her group in muscle-strengthening
exercises at Club Oracle’s sports conditioning class.

Corporate wellness remains a hot topic, even in a troubled economy. In fact, some would argue that the issue warrants redoubled attention when times are tough and the workforce is under even more pressure to perform.

Along with diet and nutrition, workplace stress can be a major impediment to well-being, posits Lorie Montgomery of Reach Fitness, the firm that operates Oracle’s wellness facilities. As site manager for Club Oracle, Montgomery says that many of today’s health problems stem from two sources: what we eat, and workplace stress.

“In this economy, people are working so hard to keep their jobs,” she observes. “Combining that with bad food choices and poor nutrition can produce an unhealthy individual.”

Fortunately, an array of remedies, many of them centering around fitness and exercise, can reverse this worrisome trend.

As home to more than 400 businesses, Hacienda represents a wide spectrum of approaches to corporate wellness. For some employers, it’s a casual session shooting hoops or kicking around a soccer ball at lunch. Others sponsor intramural or league teams, a good way for employees to release adrenaline and let off steam. Still others have made a more formal commitment to wellness, but even here multiple options are represented. 

“A Good Starting Point”
“Bringing fitness to the workplace is a sound proposition,” maintains Polycom’s Don Muger, a senior manager in the videoconferencing provider’s real estate and facilities organization. Polycom’s two-story, 50,000-square foot headquarters in Hacienda includes a small fitness center, roughly 400 square feet, right next to the cafeteria and available to the workforce of 155 around the clock.

“We look at fitness programs as a means to relieve short-term stress in the workplace, while allowing our team to work onsite from a work-life balance perspective. They also factor into our ergonomics efforts,” Muger comments. “It is a health check, a way to keep the body in top shape, which in return helps to potentially reduce the likelihood of injury.”

Polycom’s fitness center is outfitted with some eight pieces of equipment, such as stationery bikes and treadmills, along with a wide range of dumbbells for upper trunk muscle fitness and strength. A universal machine allows users to work the upper and lower trunk and extremities without requiring a bench press. 

The center also includes a television, locker rooms, and shower facilities. Open 24/7, it is unstaffed, but employees must first sign a waiver. While activity tends to be higher during the business day, especially at lunch, Muger has noticed that both early morning and after-work hours are trending up so far this year.

With this increased usage will come more offerings. The company hopes to add fitness and cardio classes on site. Some employees are lobbying for yoga to be the first.

“I would characterize what we have now as a good starting point in our wellness efforts, along with other programs Human Resources is currently working on. Our philosophy, especially moving forward under our new CEO, Andy Miller, is to make Polycom one of the best places to work,” he says. “A healthy workforce is one of the key components as we continue to build our wellness strategy, not to mention the employee satisfaction that goes hand-in-hand with onsite service offerings.” 

From a pragmatic perspective, Muger doesn’t expect at this point to see any significant insurance benefit in the form of premium reductions or rebates. However, it might be different in the future. “The efforts we’re putting in will springboard into enhanced wellness offerings, so down the road we might expect to see savings. For now, and in the future, it will always be the right thing to do for our employees, plain and simple.”

In the meantime, he evangelizes about the benefits of corporate wellness. “I suggest that every company, regardless of size, needs to have starting point. If you are going into a facility that has ample and usable space, you should jump-start a fitness center if the opportunity presents itself.” He points out that management support is instrumental in making it happen, but that it is always worth the effort. “You start small and grow the program over time, all based on opportunity,” he advises.

Wellness Has Many Touchpoints
Oracle, which has approximately1,500 employees working on its Hacienda campus, has been building its corporate wellness program over the course of several years. The hub is its 6,000-square-foot Club Oracle, located on the first floor of the complex on Owens Drive. The linchpin is the holistic view that wellness has many touchpoints, in and out of the gym. The capstone is a management strategy that strives to engage employees and accommodate their needs. The payback is a healthier, more productive and energetic workforce. 

Site manager Montgomery, who has been “living and breathing wellness” for the past 25 years, has helped to craft a well-rounded program that has something for just about everyone. In June she was working on setting up a flu shot clinic for the fall. Other types of outreach can range from skin cancer and cholesterol screenings to blood drives—offerings that benefit employees while also promoting the availability of the additional health resources.

Club Oracle also has a team of ancillary professionals--chiropractor, acupuncturist, nutritionist, massage therapist—who practice on site according to a fixed schedule. While their services are fee-based, Oracle has integrated payment into the employee health plan so the user out-of-pocket is just the co-pay. The appeal of this convenient billing system has been instrumental in the program’s success. 

Informative lectures and workshops are usually popular, but some topics, like how to handle stress or depression, tend to make employees self-conscious and fail to draw a crowd. Instead, Montgomery suggests using surveys as a lead-in to address employee concerns in these areas. Those who have indicated a desire for assistance are then invited for a personalized—and confidential—consultation. 

Confidentiality is a key reason why Oracle opted for an outside vendor to run the wellness function, Montgomery explains. The contractor relationship introduces a layer of privacy for employees, allowing them to protect personal details. “It’s important to have that third-party distance,” she comments.

Online tools can be very useful, and not only for goals like smoking cessation and weight reduction. Oracle employees are encouraged to use their health benefit website to complete a health risk assessment, or HRA. “We are able to work closely with the benefit carrier to track their successes anonymously with our program and provide data for Oracle,” Montgomery explains. The data could help to drive the cost of health care down, “not only for the employee but for the company.”

Still, the need to get physical takes center stage in any fitness initiative, and the gym is a hive of activity.

The equipment line-up includes about two dozen machines for aerobic workouts--ranging from standards like the elliptical trainer, treadmill, and stair stepper, to the recently introduced all-motion terrain machine. Rounding out the assortment are upright and recumbent bikes, plus a set of weighted machines and free weights. All the equipment is brand-new, state of the art, complete with integrated television and iPod ports.

Some two dozen group exercise classes are offered weekly, all free to members. Held in a studio that accommodates up to 15 at a time, the classes are as well attended as they are varied. The long list ranges from kick boxing, spinning, and sports conditioning to ab classes and Pilates. Employees love the fact that all accessory equipment is provided—mats, blocks, straps etc.—so “no one has to bring anything but himself,” Montgomery comments.

Most classes are 30 or 45 minutes long; only yoga, Pilates, power pump, and boot camp last a full hour. “We are at work, but many people do a 30-minute workout, shower, pick up lunch, and are back at their desk within an hour,” she notes. Some classes reach maximum capacity every session, for example, the 11:15 a.m. ab blast. The Pilates class is usually fully booked, too. Employees can sign up for classes online, and they can also send in a cancellation if they can’t make it. An automated system notifies people on the wait list about last- minute vacancies, so empty spots do not go unfilled. 

The fully staffed facility gets at least 1,000 visits per week, or 200 per day. It is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 7 p.m. on Friday. At this point in time it is closed on weekends, but that might change down the road, Montgomery relates. 

Oracle is also concerned about reaching remote workers, encouraging them to become actively involved in a fitness program. Montgomery has a series of chair and floor exercises and a routine for working with weights that she can teach them, and she welcomes email questions and requests.

“We want to make sure we create an avenue for them to get help,” she says. “We really care. And we know that if we can increase the employee’s level of interest in fitness, we can increase the productivity level for the employer.” 

Other In-Park Options
If a corporate fitness facility isn’t available, there are many other nearby options. Martial arts classes have become very popular as a way to stay in shape. The instructors at Hacienda's Victory in Performance Mixed Martial Arts (VIPMMA) and Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu bring their classes to Google in Mountain View at lunch time, but they offer several levels of Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu instruction on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings at the dojo at 5627 Stoneridge Drive. They have also put together a special incentive for Hacienda tenants: a free trial week and a 20 percent discount on signing up for a class. For more information, visit http://davecamarillo.com/classVIP.shtml or call VIPMMA at (925) 463-1515.

Steve Del Fierro demonstrates his moves to his students at
VIPMMA’s Muay Thai class(left); Chris Coldiron instructs
students during the all levels open mat (right).

Group exercise classes are also a highlight at 24-Hour Fitness, at 5860 West Las Positas Blvd. Choices range from boot camp to cycling to dance to mind and body sessions. Club manager Jeff Waite knows the value of incentives. A rewards program allows members to accumulate virtual medals over six months and then cash them in for attractive prizes. One is the bodybugg, a state-of-the-art calorie management system. Non-members can try out the facilities with a free seven-day pass. Companies with 51 or more employees are eligible for corporate memberships.  Call (925) 463-1515 or visit www.24hourfitness.com.

If you are not ready for the gym, consider a walking program as the first step to wellness. Experts advise setting an easy goal at first. A pedometer and measuring tape are helpful to monitor and record personal progress. Seeing results is great motivation.

Several employee groups have formed noontime walking clubs within Hacienda. Walking has so many physical benefits, helping to decrease high blood pressure, elevate mood, alleviate depression, lose weight—all of which promote a healthier heart. It is also a low-cost way to increase productivity.

With six primary outdoor features, the park itself provides the perfect backdrop for exercise and movement, whether fast or slow.

Hacienda’s Linear Park, a private greenbelt adjacent to Owens Plaza Park, is best accessed through the Owens Plaza Park entrance at Rosewood Drive and Owens Drive. The park covers several acres and offers a basketball court, tennis court, picnic area, tot lot, and open lawn area.

Owens Plaza Park, which abuts the center portion of the Linear Park, spans more than three acres. This park features picnic tables, benches and a tot lot and is accessible through a tree-lined entry off of Owens Drive.

Creekside Park is accessible from W. Las Positas Boulevard between Owens Drive and Stoneridge Drive as well as from the Linear Park via a footbridge over the Tassajara Creek. A large 6.6-acre open lawn space is the primary feature, but the park also includes courts for basketball and sand volleyball and a play area with swings.

An 18-station outdoor parcourse has been installed for walkers or joggers. The course covers a 2.3-mile stretch within Hacienda. Maps of the parcourse route are available from the Hacienda web site at www.hacienda.org/pdf/parcourse.pdf. Hart Middle School has a number of sporting facilities, including soccer fields, basketball courts, a full quarter mile track, and a gymnasium. Public use of the facilities is coordinated through Pleasanton’s Parks and Recreation Department. Hacienda also has several hiking trails available to tenants and residents.

Information about health and wellness services available in the business park is easily accessed through the Service Locator on the Hacienda web site. Go to www.hacienda.org and select “Services” from the main menu and “Service Locator” from the drop-down menu. Open the service locator map on the following page and then choose a service such as Fitness or Health. The map will respond with the location of all the services within the park. Highlight the service icon to identify the business. Selecting the service icon will bring up details on the business including a description and contact information. 

In addition to the online Service Locator, Hacienda has compiled a printed Service Directory, complete with information on health and wellness services in the park. To order a copy, go to www.hacienda.org/forms/forms_order_orientation.html. Service Directories can also be obtained by contacting the Hacienda Owners Association at (925) 734-6500.


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