by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Special-Lite Employee Wellness

Every other month Special-Lite employees eagerly gather around a revolving drum in hopes their name will be drawn to win a prize. The lighthearted Fit Ticket raffle encourages the 120 employees of this Decatur MI door and partition manufacturer to participate in wellness initiatives and activities.

Stacey Hollenbeck (Environmental, Health, & Safety Manager) explains, “We’ve placed a Fit Ticket value on virtually all wellness-related activities. Depending on the activity, employees can earn anywhere from 1-25 tickets for preventive physicals and a variety of health screenings such as prostate or gynecological exams, biometric screenings, and dental cleanings. Participation in community and charity events is typically worth 5 tickets. Quitting tobacco use for 6 months is worth 25 tickets.”

Employees write their names on the back of each ticket, which is then placed in the raffle drum. After each drawing the drum is emptied and the raffle starts over. At year-end, tickets from the entire year go back into the drum for a series of larger grand prize drawings. Wellness committee members maintain the program by taking turns buying the raffle prizes, reviewing activity documentation, and distributing raffle tickets.

In addition, Special-Lite offers employees $50 for participating in an annual health screening by the company’s worksite wellness vendor, Holtyn & Associates, or their personal healthcare provider.

Onsite Wellness Resources

Holtyn health coaches are onsite quarterly to:

  • Conduct screenings
  • Counsel participants on personal risk factors and help them set goals to improve
  • Work with high-risk employees throughout the year to manage their conditions.

Stacey believes Holtyn’s services are an important addition to their program: “We partnered with Holtyn in 2009. Prior to that we contracted with a local hospital every other year for health screenings, but our people needed more frequent reinforcement as they worked toward their goals.”

Aggregate reports and feedback from coaches help drive other initiatives. Stacey explains how quarterly lunch-and-learns reflect this input. “If the coach expresses concern over blood pressure or cholesterol control trends, we design a program to address those problems. We’ve also offered exercise, nutrition, and weight management programs as well as financial wellness programs on retirement planning... if employees want it, we try to meet that need. All information programs are provided half on company time and half on employee time.”

Because many staff members work 10-hour days — with up to 60-hour weeks in the summer — Stacey stocks fruit baskets, granola bars, peanuts, raisins, and instant oatmeal in the company’s 2 break rooms. “Everything is $.50. It’s been a huge success, especially in the production area. Our employees are more conscientious about what they eat now. I see a lot of them eating from the baskets throughout the day.”

Special-Lite opened an onsite fitness center in March 2013 complete with 2 treadmills, an elliptical cross trainer, 2 exercise bicycles, dual-action cable weight-resistant machine, and free weights. Employees can entertain themselves while exercising with iPod docking stations or TVs.

In addition to lunch breaks, production personnel get 2 10-minute morning breaks and a 15-minute afternoon break. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, many staff members take advantage of the fitness center or a walking trail around the facility. Employees even set up a chipping green, complete with flag poles, for golf enthusiasts; maintenance personnel keep it mowed for them throughout the season.

Wellness Committee

Stacey personally chose the members of her 9-person wellness committee, which meets monthly. “Being such a small company, I pretty much know everybody and wanted to ensure good representation. I selected a mix of production and office personnel, as well as someone from various departments. I also count on support from a number of our very active and health-conscious employees, many of whom are runners and marathoners.”

Improvements Achieved

Management reviews Holtyn’s aggregate data and recommendations with employees each March in a general meeting. While Special-Lite has improved overall risk factors, Stacey acknowledges that health insurance premiums are going up no matter what they do. “Although I can point to individuals who have significantly improved personal risk factors, it’s hard to determine if we’ve made any real impact at a corporate level. Instead, we focus on keeping healthy people healthy. Management backs the program 100%. If we can capture the younger employees and get healthy practices ingrained in them, maybe they won’t become another statistic down the road. I believe we are accomplishing that goal.”

Strong Ties to the Community and Each Other

Stacey emphasizes the strong connection Special-Lite has with the Decatur area: “One of our employees coaches a local cross-country school track team. Every August he organizes an annual 5K walk/run and 10K run to raise money for the school athletic department. Special-Lite sponsors this event as well as other community fitness activities that support local charitable organizations and field teams to such events as the Kalamazoo Marathon, Relay for Life, and a popular mud run. Many employees are golfers, so you’ll often see a team at various golf outings.”

Stacey points out that after-hour activities aren’t confined to organized community events. “Every fall and spring we go out together for a long bike ride. We hope to set up a canoeing trip this summer. Skiing is popular in the winter, so it’s not uncommon for employees to organize their own outings. We have many runners who enjoy each other’s company and run as a group. Basically, an employee who comes up with an idea for an outing and puts up a flier can count on finding a few folks to join in the fun.”

Even though managing Special-Lite’s wellness program is an additional duty, the opportunity has meant a lot to Stacey. “It’s allowed me to get to know everyone a little more and learn their stories. I like the idea of providing our employees with the tools they need to make changes in their lives… it’s been a cool thing to watch. Perhaps it’s made me more aware, but I can see the changes.”

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