By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Employers offer incentives to encourage a healthy workplace
Some employees exercise on the clock or in company gym
0204healthyco 2
ProCare Rx employees, from left, Ben Walker, Sierra Smith, Cecelia Coulson, Krystin Hogan, Jamecia Thomas and Sara Arro, work out on their lunch hour last week. The business won the fittest medium-sized company from Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. - photo by LAURA SWARTS

Hall County’s most fit companies

Small companies: Human Technologies Inc.

Medium companies: ProCare Rx

Large companies: Hall County government

In a growing effort to combat obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other “lifestyle diseases,” more workplaces are offering wellness programs to promote healthy living among their employees.

Roughly half of U.S. employers offer such programs in one form or another, according to a 2013 report from the global think tank, the RAND Corp. Three Hall County companies have joined those ranks in the past few years, and they were recognized as the county’s most fit companies by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

The awards, which were given out at the annual HealthSmart Expo, were split into three categories based on the number of employees at each company.

“You have more energy when you are healthy. You can interact with people better, and you have a clearer mind,” said Kelly Smith, industrial recruiter for HTI Employment Solutions, which won the ‘most fit company’ award for organizations with less than 50 employees.

“You always hear ‘You are what you eat’ and I feel like that is true,” she said. “If you eat really decent food, you feel better about yourself. But if you eat more fatty foods, you have more of a yucky feeling. If you are feeling yucky, you are not going to perform to the best of your abilities at your job.”

Smith, in fact, participates in her own workout regime.

“If I can get at least 30 minutes of cardio in, I feel like I have successfully pushed myself to a basic workout,” she said. “But there are times when I like to see how far I can push myself, and those times I think ‘Why did I just do that to myself?’

“But sometimes you got to do that to challenge yourself, and I’m the type of person that likes to take a challenge and see how far I can push it.”

Owned by the Greenville, S.C.-based Human Technologies Inc., HTI opened its office in Oakwood in October 2012. The hiring agency provides employees the opportunity to participate in running, cycling and triathlon events by covering registration fees, providing uniforms and organizing physical group activities. Additionally, the company organizes weight-loss competitions among its workers.

The company participates in the chamber of commerce’s annual 5-kilometer Chamber Chase, and employees from HTI’s parent company traveled from South Carolina to participate in last year’s race.

Gainesville-based ProCare Rx, which provides claims processing, benefit administration, systems software and other management services for pharmacies across the U.S., won the award for medium-sized companies. In 2013, the company hired Karen Shockley, a registered nurse, to help design and implement an employee wellness program.

“Since the kickoff in August, we have a gym at the office, and we released a workout policy that says if employees commit to working out for 30 minutes three times a week, they can do so on company time,” Shockley said. “We spent a lot of time planning it. The owner of the company said that our vision is that every employee should have the energy and mobility to do what they want to do.”

Angela Reed, an eligibility analyst for the company, regularly uses the exercise facilities.

“It helps the rest of the day go better when I’ve had a good workout at lunch,” she said. “I somehow feel more energetic, even though you would think you would be more tired.

“Nobody has an excuse not to work out when you have 30 minutes given to you and you actually get paid to do it, so it’s a wonderful program.”

In addition to the gym, ProCare provides health screenings and a monthly newsletter on health topics, hosts “lunch and learn” sessions on proper nutrition and stress management and encourages participation in local events such as the Chamber Chase.

The company also replaced all of the vending machines with its own to provide healthier snacks such as green tea, Coke Zero, pure fruit juice, baked chips, nuts and popcorn.

Employees who participate receive a lower cost share on health insurance, which may come in the form of lower premiums, copays or deductibles.

“We know our employees are our greatest asset,” Shockley said. “So we are making an investment in their health, so they can continue to have the energy to focus and be good at their job. We want to get the message across that we’re doing this because we care about our employees, and want them to stay healthy and stay employees of ProCare.”

The organization that took home the award for large companies isn’t a company at all, but the Hall County government, which employees roughly 1,500 people.

The county’s wellness program started in 2012 with a “biggest loser” weight-loss competition, and has since grown into other programs and participation in local races.

County workers and their dependents can go to local community centers for free. And this month, the county is starting a new eight-weeks-long program to provide exercise classes such as Zumba, boot camps and yoga four times a week.

“I think it improves employee’s self-worth,” Shenna Adamson said. “We saw that with the biggest loser competition. We had people drop 30, 40 and 50 pounds.

“Also the healthier someone is, the less likely they are going to have medical issues. That is less claims dollars the county incurs because we are self-insured.”

The county’s wellness program is entirely funded with money granted specifically for that purpose from the health services company CIGNA.

“It really isn’t costing the county anything,” said Bill Moats, director of human resources for the county. “We’re very fortunate to have that money. Without it, these programs may not exist.”

In the long-term future, the county will consider expanding the program to include insurance rewards, but for the time being, exercise programs will be the primary focus, Moats said.