The increasing cost of healthcare has made wellness a top-of-mind issue everywhere, and employers are constantly looking for ways to safeguard the health of their workforce. The high price of medical insurance and the question of employee productivity make a compelling case for a broad range of wellness initiatives and benefit programs, from health club memberships to subsidized weight loss classes.
Hacienda employers are tuned into the trend. They have increasingly come to realize that work itself takes a toll on the human body, especially in the landscape of the 21st century office, where people spend so much of their time sitting in front of a computer screen.
From a wellness perspective, there are a few issues associated with being deskbound eight hours a day. The sedentary nature of computer tasks often keeps employees from moving around, stretching out fatigued muscles, and burning calories. Unless your work environment has been carefully designed, you are apt to wind up overstressing some part of your body, and that can lead to health problems as well as diminished productivity.
Lorie Montgomery is program manager for Club One, the company that operates fitness centers for Oracle, including the facility at 4460 Hacienda Drive which serves employees of both Oracle and Kaiser. When asked what she would recommend if business owners could adopt only one fitness initiative, she has a ready answer: Movement. "Businesses must stress that employees should get up from their computer periodically to move and stretch," she advises. "If they do not have an onsite fitness center available, perhaps they could have someone come in and lead stretch breaks."
As relaxed and refreshed as you might feel sitting back down after a stretch session, it's still important to make sure your work space is configured for individual comfort. Many companies, Safeway for example, have an ergonomics group that on request will observe an employee at work and make recommendations, from the type of desk and chair to screen height and keyboard placement, according to Darrell Hart, director of benefits at the grocery chain.
Club One's Montgomery is also very sensitive to employees with computer-related stress. "We have a structured assessment program that addresses computer postural problems, injury prevention programs based on repetitive motion, and general fitness programs that can be tailored to meet individual goals within the time allotment," she says.
Along with its ergonomic program, Shaklee helps employees shake off stress at busy times of the year by bringing in a masseuse to provide chair massages. "Especially before our annual convention, people are working long hours, and they just love this kind of break," observes vice president of human resources Roxie Vogt.
Operating a gym or fitness center is a popular avenue to wellness among companies whose employee base is large enough to justify the expense. These days such facilities are apt to offer much more than the opportunity to work up a sweat on the treadmill or basketball court; they are also centers of learning, imparting the latest techniques to ease employees into a healthy lifestyle.
According to Montgomery, "What we do at Club One is a bit different than what you find in a commercial setting for the general public. We are a fitness club but with a wellness initiative, so we take a different approach." In addition to its wellness assessment, Club One resources include a Doctor of Chiropractic and trainers who collaborate on custom work-out programs.
The 400-plus employees at Safeway's office at 4410 Rosewood Dr. constitute just a fraction of the total headquarters population, most of whom are stationed on the four-building campus near Stoneridge Mall, where the 17,000-square-foot Safeway Health and Fitness Center opened last year. In addition to state-of-the art equipment, the center offers daily classes in yoga, spin cycling, and aerobics. Personal fitness instructors are also available.
Safeway also operates a wellness clinic staffed by an Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner. To motivate time-challenged employees to take advantage of these services, the company launched an internal fitness competition that started with 500 employees organized into eight corporate teams. Employees can also take advantage of discounted memberships to outside fitness clubs with locations nationwide.
Across the board, the bulging American waistline appears to be the number-one wellness concern for employees and employers alike. So many other medical conditions are associated with obesity that businesses have become very supportive of almost any effort to shed those extra pounds.
"We understand that weight loss can lower the risk for certain diseases and improve overall health," Safeway's Hart comments. Not only does the company have several programs specifically targeting weight loss, but it is also making plans to institute incentives through payroll contributions for insurance deductibles or co-pays.
Shaklee, itself a leading player in the health and wellness industry, also pays a lot of attention to weight loss, incorporating the use of one of its weight management products, Cinch, into team campaigns. "We organize competitions that help employees set goals and plan strategies to achieve success in weight loss. It's pretty exciting to watch. One person eventually lost 50 pounds when she continued the program after the competition," Vogt remarks. The message is reinforced by having fresh fruit available in the workplace, along with cupboards stocked with free natural nutritional products. "Being a health and wellness company, it's natural for us to encourage our employees to 'eat healthy,'" she says.
Benefits carriers are developing a multitude of new products that allow employers to incentivize wellness in the workplace. Shaklee employees who take a health assessment or sign up for coaching in areas like weight loss or smoking cessation, for example, can receive credits to apply to their deductibles, Vogt reports.
An agreement with its health insurance provider allows Safeway to offer employees and spouses a care management program to help with a gamut of conditions, from obesity and stress relief to diabetes, asthma, and cardiac problems. Online coaches provide guidance on various personalized health issues, building confidence and encouraging smarter lifestyle choices.
Whether electronic or face to face, support goes a long way in any wellness endeavor, Hart observes. "Research shows that people who have various medical conditions or want to lose weight have much better success with group support than if they try to go alone."
If you are not ready for the gym, consider a walking program as the first step to wellness, Shaklee's Vogt advises. "With walking you can set an easy goal at first, and then achieve and increase it." She advises getting a pedometer and a measuring tape to monitor and record personal progress. "Seeing results is what makes a program effective. It's the key to ongoing fitness," she emphasizes.
"Form noontime walking clubs while the weather is good," echoes Montgomery. Walking has so many physical benefits, from helping to decrease high blood pressure, elevate mood, alleviate depression, lose weight - all of which promote a healthier heart. "It is a very cost-effective method to help create a better lifestyle for the employee," and it also increases productivity, she notes.
Sports activities can play a role as well. Like many other Hacienda businesses, Shaklee sponsors a company softball team and provides on-site facilities for basketball and other sports.
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 are coordinated through Pleasanton's Parks and Recreation Department. Hacienda also has several hiking trails available to tenants and residents
Many health and wellness services are available in the business park. Information about them 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. Highlighting the service icon will 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 directory, go to www.hacienda.org/forms/forms_order_orientation.html , and place your request. Service Directories can also be obtained by contacting the Hacienda Owners Association at (925) 734-6500.
Other work-out facilities in the park include: Diablo Valley Fitness, 5635 W. Las Positas Blvd., Suite 410, (925) 598-9858, www.diablovalleyfitness.com Victory in Performance Mixed Martial Arts, 5627 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 316, (925) 416-7701, www.vipmma.net 24-Hour Fitness, 4860 West Las Positas, (925) 463-1515, www.24hourfitness.com
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