Work Perks

Companies focus on employee health

At Live Oak Bank’s new headquarters in Wilmington, employees have their pick of ways to get their heart rate up in between meetings.

With a full gym facility on site, employees can take advantage of cardio equipment, bikes, and strengthening and conditioning equipment anytime during the day, shower in the locker room, and return to work. Two full-time trainers are available to do everything from small private classes free of charge to private sessions for $20 per hour, subsidized by the company.

“Employee satisfaction scores are through the roof,” says CHRIS MCABEE, wellness coordinator at Live Oak Bank.

With the backing of senior management, several companies in Wilmington have made wellness programs a priority. In return, they see employee satisfaction and productivity rise, creating a win-win situation for workers and the company.

Live Oak Bank CEO Chip Mahan came up with the idea to offer exercise options while going to McAbee for his own training sessions and later incorporated the concept into the new building on Tiburon Drive.

Now, 60 to 70 percent of employees work with a trainer, McAbee says.

Running trails totaling nearly half a mile wind around the bank’s campus. Employees can run, walk, and integrate other elements such as push-ups on the trails.

A registered dietician meets with employees regularly, and other health care providers present information in a lunch-and-learn session on the smoke-free campus.

Live Oak Bank also pays 100 percent of employee and family health insurance coverage.

“Each dollar spent is $3-4 saved, so it’s a huge value to the company,” McAbee says about the wellness program.

Add on the increase in worker productivity, fewer sick days, fewer worker compensation claims, more perks to attract new employees, and it’s a healthy move for the business.

NEW HANOVER REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER also has turned its health focus inward.

The hospital’s motto is “No barriers, no excuses,” says KAREN CURRAN, director of compensation and benefits at New Hanover Regional.

With a 20,000-square-foot employee gym available 24/7 for $5 a paycheck – $10 to include family members – and child care, time, and money barriers have been addressed.

The hospital has developed a culture of wellness using the fitness center as a platform where it offers trainers and seventy free classes and health and weight loss challenges. Among New Hanover Regional’s successful programs is the 12 to Life, a twelve-week program for people who need to start a healthier lifestyle, Curran says. There are also Weight Watchers at Work, diabetes health plans, and tobacco cessation programs.

The hospital’s Weight Week Challenges have helped more than twenty employees lose over 100 pounds each, with three individuals losing more than 150 pounds, Curran says.

Eating the right foods is a big part of that, so registered dieticians put together fun programs. The Healthy Chew program offers a multidisciplinary presentation at different sites, with fitness staff, registered dieticians, and employee benefits people bringing information and samples of healthy food prepared by hospital food services.

The hospital has self-funded insurance so healthier employees is a company benefit. Medical plan costs per member per month have gone down some, and the hospital will hold the rates flat if employees stay healthier, Curran says. The hospital has 10,000 covered people and 4,600 employees, so it’s no small task.

“The senior team is dedicated to this. Wellness is a critical point for them, and they walk the walk,” Curran says.

PAT MEDEIROS¸ human resources director at WILMINGTON HEALTH, says it’s about giving employees alternatives at the medical group practice.

“The intent is to get people to try to make an effort to be healthy,” Medeiros says.

Wilmington Health pays 95 percent of the self-funded health insurance for employees, so it’s important that employees stay in good health, exercise, and eat right, officials say.

And it’s related to the premiums they pay. In the beginning of the year, there is an evaluation of weight, lab work, and tobacco usage. If the employee’s biometrics are good, they get a $10 discount for filling out an online survey that includes questions about seatbelt usage and frequency of exercise. At the end of the assessment, there are tools to help with areas such as stress and nutrition. Nonsmokers and individuals with lower than 28 BMI get another $5 off their premiums, Medeiros says.

Employees who don’t meet the scores for biometrics have options. They are able to participate in health programs such as completing an eight-week weight loss program to get discounts. 

Instructors for Zumba classes are offered free at any Wilmington Health location that has five or more participants. The main office offers a free, full-body workout for any of their employees, and discounts are offered for employees at several local gyms, Medeiros says.

At PPD, employees are encouraged to do annual health risk assessments and get annual biometric screenings in an effort to take control of their own health.

“Our wellness activities and challenges are linked to incentives,” says MEG DAVENPORT, executive director of corporate administration at PPD.

“In the Wilmington headquarters facility, we have a full service gym featuring state-of-the-art exercise equipment, workout spaces, and instructor-led classes,” Davenport says, adding that trainers are also available.

PPD supports a number of area walks, runs, and races including the PPD Beach2Battleship Triathlon. “For the Beach2Battleship event, we select a team of clinical trial ‘heroes’ who have overcome illness, such as cancer, to become triathletes and role models for health,” Davenport says.

Training classes are held for employees in preparation for these events. Group competitions for weight loss and physical activity, activity challenges, holiday programs, and educational seminars on good nutrition also are offered at the company.

“We also have programs addressing women’s and men’s health issues, ways to reduce stress in the workplace, and create work life balance. We have Mothers’ Rooms for nursing moms who are returning to work as well,” Davenport says. “PPD understands that support for wellness programs is an investment in the health of our employees and our company.”


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