Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Companies Invest In Employee Wellness

“At Domino Sugar, workers have competed to lose weight. At Laureate Education, employees get a small subsidy toward a gym membership. At apparel designer 180s, workers are encouraged to work out at lunch. Even in a recession, employers say they are putting money into corporate wellness programs they hope will lead to healthier workers and healthier profits. For many businesses, doing so will be a matter of survival as the cost of health care soars along with chronic health problems, corporate wellness experts say. Experts contend that improving workers' health can also reduce costs associated with absenteeism and workers' compensation. Interest in starting workplace wellness programs has increased in the Baltimore area in the past year, said Tim Rhode, owner of local fitness chain MAC, who said the company's work site wellness consulting business is up. One of its clients, Baltimore-based Laureate, offers a $10 monthly subsidy to employees who work out at the MAC, a subsidy matched by the health club, and now has more than 300 of Laureate's 600 Baltimore workers enrolled, Rhode said. ‘What's driving that is a need on the part of the employers to make sure their employees are happy and healthy - and ready to work,’ said Rhode, who said that in the recession, companies may be more focused than ever on cost-cutting, but ‘the stakes are higher.’ Employers have begun embracing wellness programs, agreed Kenneth R. Huber, a senior vice president for the employee benefit group at PSA, ‘because of the crisis we're in. People have tight budgets right now and find it difficult to set aside money, but now more than ever it is critical to get at these costs.’ Baltimore-based 180s LLC, maker of behind-the-head ear warmers, gloves and sunglasses, is trying new ways to incorporate wellness into the workday through a partnership with the MAC. Last week, the company offered its 40 workers a free group ‘spinning’ class at MAC's new Harbor East facility. The apparel designer is considering occasionally offering other types of classes, perhaps in yoga or kickboxing. ‘The company is catching up with the lifestyle of wellness, as a lot of companies should be, and respecting that we do need time to go work out,’ said Keith Scully, 180s director of marketing. ‘The return is happier, harder-working associates.’”,0,3557524.story

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