West Shore Community College is one of 184 companies nationwide to receive a 2017 Healthiest Companies in America award in recognition of its efforts to promote and encourage healthy lifestyles.
Employee wellness has long been a priority at West Shore, and in 2011, the college retained the firm Interactive Health to enhance and expand its employee wellness offerings. Headquartered in Illinois, Interactive Health offers employee wellness programs to corporations, schools and municipalities across the country.
“We have a great employee wellness program,” said Julie Page Smith, director of the WSCC’s Wellness Center and coordinator of the program. “It’s inspiring to see our employees making healthy choices every day.” The program is open to all West Shore faculty, administrators, and support staff.
Good employee health translates to higher productivity, lower medical costs, fewer workers’ compensation and disability claims, and reduced absenteeism, Smith explained.
The program includes an annual biometric screening, which helps employees identify health risks and set personal health goals. Employees work to earn a certain number of wellness points throughout the year by participating in healthy activities such as online wellness workshops, wellness challenges, wellness webinars, health coaching, preventative health exams, and logging exercise time.
Participants often meet on campus to view and discuss webinars on a range of wellness topics including exercise, nutrition, stress management, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and weight management.
The program takes a mind-balance approach to health and encourages not only physical activity and nutrition, but meaningful social relationships such as volunteering in the community, talking with friends, reading, writing, and completing crossword puzzles.
Employees also participate in wellness potlucks throughout the year. “Our employees bring some pretty amazing healthy dishes and recipes to share too,” said Smith.
Administrative assistant Tasha Dault has taken part in the program since its inception and now serves on the wellness team. “Everyone supports each other in doing this, so you’re motivated to continue with your wellness goals,” she said.
During a recent healthy eating challenge, she discovered the nutritional benefits and enjoyment of foods previously unfamiliar to her. “Coworkers met at lunchtime and we tried couscous, star fruit, and pomegranates. It pushed me to get out of my food box.”
“Every day, you can see employees out walking the campus, participating in activities in the Recreation and Wellness Center, or taking part in skate time at the ice arena,” said Smith. “Our Friday Fitness Walks give employees the chance to get away from their desks and get some exercise with employees who work in different departments.”
Participation in the program is voluntary. Seventy-two percent of West Shore employees take part, and 90 percent return to take on new health challenges each term. Seventy-six percent of repeat participants have met their personal health goals, more than Interactive Health’s benchmark of 71 percent. This demonstrates just how much engagement in the program is key to improving health outcomes.
“It’s wonderful that West Shore is able to offer this kind of comprehensive wellness program to our employees,” said Smith. “We encourage more worksites throughout our community to incorporate health promotion. We certainly are proof that it works!”