How a CEO Implemented a Wellness Program Within His Company

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I am not one of those health freaks that insists on everything being organic, free range, cage free, bottled, and non-GMO. Nor do I spend 30+ minutes at the gym seven days a week working on my physique. I’m just a regular guy who like many of you, woke up one day and decided it was time to be a little bit more healthy and fit.

I guess it’s only fair that I tell you that I’ve never been in horrible shape. I’m a tall thin man that at my worst weight was at most between 20-25 pounds overweight – at which point my health care physician called me “border line obese.”  I’m also competitive to a fault. I love to play competitive sports like basketball, softball, and golf. Yes, I have found a way to make golf competitive and therefore keep my attention. I’m also a very frugal business owner.

Every year I’m the one that analyzes our company’s health care costs and makes a decision on which provider to use so that our costs don’t skyrocket. All of these factors led me to start a wellness program at my company. Because of the interest level, not only from my employees but from outsiders as well, I’ve decided to write about our experience and hopefully inspire someone else to take this journey to better health with us.

A Seed Planted

A couple years ago a company approached me offering to implement a wellness program for us. Of course, they presented a well thought out program that offered the employees an amazing experience for wellness growth with prizes, point structures, website metrics and so much more. We considered it for about two minutes. The problem was that I knew everyone wasn’t going to participate.

People buy gym memberships promising themselves they are going to “get their money’s worth” and after a month or two they barely go anymore.  I’m frugal…ok you can call me cheap. So paying for a program that had a per employee cost was not ideal. But the seed was planted. Making it still a good idea to help our employees with their wellness goals.

Implementing a Corporate Wellness Benefits Package

Fast forward to the end of 2019. Me and my business partners are doing year end financials and our budget for the next year. I suggest that a new benefit we can offer our employees should be a wellness benefits package. I even offered to help implement it. We will pay our employees to get healthy which in turn should decrease our health care costs. For a frugal guy this is awesome.

The engineer in me insists that running this should be a piece of cake. I’ll just come up with 12 monthly wellness challenges, that can be self-monitored on the honor system and we will offer $50 each month to every employee that successfully meets the challenge. So no wasted expenses. Because it’s all about wellness, we will focus on nutrition, exercise, and meditation for our various challenges. To make sure that we are seeing progress, we started the year by providing each employee an InBody assessment to baseline several personal statistics such as weight, BMI, and a bunch of other stuff that you need a personal trainer certification to understand. We will take these assessments at six month intervals to track progress.

A Competition with Mr. Competitive

My wife has helped me to be healthier both by example and by nagging verbal impression. I’ve had to watch documentaries on Monsanto and Netflix series like “What the Health.” At home we eat mostly a vegetarian diet with some fish from time to time. She also follows health gurus like the late Dr. Sebi and believes in holistic medicine over synthetic. About a year ago, she finally impressed upon me the value of drinking lots of water. Dare I say, she challenged me! Now it’s on. You just created a competition with Mr. Competitive.

I started drinking water every day. Not nearly the recommended amount for my size/weight but a new habit was forming. 25 ounces a day turned to 40 ounces a day. Soon I was up to 64 ounces a day (the amount that some research says should be your daily allotment). I can’t say that I was successful everyday, but I was doing something that I never did before. I was drinking water regularly. And I was seeing results.

My energy level went up. My allergy symptoms went down. And I developed a taste for water. This last one is huge because I grew up in the 70’s on Kool Aid and Tang. The thought of drinking water when thirsty was like yuck. Give me the Rock-a-dile Red and we can call it a day. But once I started consciously and deliberately drinking more water, I actually got to the point where I craved water.

The Water Challenge

So I drank less sugary drinks and started simply drinking water. And just when I thought I was doing a great job, a health practitioner at my church rocked my boat. They told me that I should actually drink half my weight in ounces of water everyday.  Now that’s a lot of water. I’ll drown if I try to drink that much water in one day. And then have to do it over and over and over again. Not me! Unless of course someone says “I challenge you to drink half your weight in ounces of water every day.” Man! “That was tricky.”  “You shouldn’t have said that.”  “You just wait!” Oh! Sorry, I was channeling my inner Robert De Niro.

Back to the wellness challenges. Since I personally had seen the advantages of drinking water, and it seemed like a relatively easy thing to do (all my employees have access to water) and to track, the first three challenges would all be about drinking water. I remember my journey of not drinking water everyday to attempting to drink half my weight in ounces of water everyday. It definitely wasn’t a wake up one morning and decide I’m going to start drinking 100 ounces of water today and every day from now on. No problem. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Not!

Getting Organized

So in order to help folks who may also not drink water everyday, I decided that the first challenge would be to create a new habit – drinking some water every day. I know most folks are inherently lazy so I created a spreadsheet. The sheet has tabs for January, February, and March. Each tab has a calendar that represents all the days of that month. At the top of the spreadsheet is a cell for your name, one for your weight, and one that calculates how much water you need to drink daily to meet the challenge.

To make it easy, January’s target was 1/3 of your personal daily target based on half your weight in ounces.  For February the target was 2/3 of your personal target and March was the full amount. The spreadsheet also has several summation calculations so you can see how many total ounces you drink for the month as well as totals per day and per week. For the corporate challenge we paid $50/month to those that met and/or exceeded the total while meeting the daily minimums at least 25 days (23 for Feb).

When January completed, about 40% of our company actually participated and achieved their January water consumption goal. One person actually told me, “this is too easy.”  Of course he only weighed about 150 pounds and therefore only needed to drink 25 ounces a day to meet his January goal. I assured him that he didn’t have to limit himself to the January target and he just laughed.

The Benefit of New Habits

My goal was being met – a new habit of consciously drinking water daily was forming and without major push-back 40% of our employees started a new journey towards healthier living. Another employee said that he lost 9 pounds just two weeks into the water consumption challenge. Strategies started being shared among employees and they were using the 25 ounce water bottles we distributed with our company logo on it. That’s what I call a win, win.

I hope to start nutrition and exercise challenges for April and beyond. I even plan to have a month where we have several different goals in one month. Would love to hear from other health practitioners about other challenge ideas that we could implement, and I plan to continue to write about all of our successes. Think about it, how can your family or company implement wellness challenges?

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