Employee wellness now in mainstream

'We encourage camaraderie, to exercise together.'

Ten years ago, wellness in the workplace was a simple concept promoted by health insurers trying to reduce their costs through preventative care. Like many revolutionary ideas, businesses and the public didn’t embrace it wholeheartedly. More

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Focus: HEALTH CARE

Employee wellness now in mainstream

'We encourage camaraderie, to exercise together.'

PBN PHOTO/CHRIS SHORES
STANDING-ROOM ONLY: Insure My Trip Services User Experience Manager Chris Jackson, foreground, and Web designer Hristo Kanchov work from standing workstations in their Warwick office. The setup is part of the wellness program at the company.
Posted 5/21/12

Ten years ago, wellness in the workplace was a simple concept promoted by health insurers trying to reduce their costs through preventative care. Like many revolutionary ideas, businesses and the public didn’t embrace it wholeheartedly.

Now wellness has entered the mainstream, as companies offer their staff free resources and discounts, and employees are actively participating in a variety of programs. Insurers have also picked up the slack, offering more ways to keep people healthy.

Dennis Carroll is a typical example. He normally works on a computer at Insure My Trip Services Inc., of Warwick, but had read that sitting for long periods of time isn’t healthy. He created a standing workstation and after a few months felt better. He also reported his findings to the company.

“We found it to be a novel approach,” said Vikki Corliss, IMT head of public relations and wellness-committee co-chairwoman.

The company culture itself embraces the philosophy. Of its 50 employees, as many as half of them participate in ShapeUp Rhode Island programs. Advisers from the Health and Wellness Institute – a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island – have given discussions about healthy-eating habits. They also help with blood drives and cancer screenings, all for free.

Critical to wellness plans are the emergence of unified health centers, a one-stop medical care, psychological counseling, health and wellness facility. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration lists 35 centers in the Ocean State, a number that has steadily increased over the past several years.

But that’s not all. The company has their own gym on-site. May Day breakfasts celebrate the season while remaining healthy. Furthermore, councilors meet with employees and advise them on specific health concerns, ranging from nutrition and diabetes to smoking cessation.

“Our wellness program is certainly inspired by Blue Cross, but we consider their services very separate from our own program,” said Corliss.

Like many other organizations, health insurers and chambers of commerce, BCBSRI presents annual wellness and worksite health programs.

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