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Staying fit for the job: Businesses aim to produce healthy workers, cut insurance costs
Fitness gear, health tips, biometric tests all aim to keep employees at work
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Andres Benjumea, an account manager for ProCare Rx, works out with free weights at the fitness center at the ProCare Rx facility in Gainesville, on Oct. 25, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

Sharon Blalock collects more than a paycheck at ProCare Rx.

She also has benefited from the Hall County company’s workout room that features elliptical machines and treadmills. The Alto woman doesn’t mind sharing that she has shed 100 pounds and — much to her delight — several clothing sizes.

And she’s convinced the company’s wellness focus helped turn her life around.

“We have weight loss challenges, they send out healthy recipes, they do so much to encourage us to have a better life, to be healthier,” Blalock said.

Several Hall County companies are following a similar trend of promoting fitness and wellness in the workplace. The motivation may be largely to control health insurance costs, but businesses also are realizing that a healthier employee means a more productive — and less absent — employee.

Happy Ferguson of Syfan Logistics had a quick response as to why her company has started such an initiative: “Insurance premiums.”

The company was drawn especially to insurer Humana’s wellness program, Go365.

“It’s a great way for your employees to exercise and earn (rewards),” she said. “You’ve got Amazon gift cards, different things like that. One employee said he had enough Fandango (cards) so that he didn’t have to buy movie tickets for a year.”

“As for the employer, the more participation that you have” has a bearing on rate renewal time every year, Ferguson said.

And Syfan has plenty of offerings, having won the Most Fit Company award for medium-sized businesses at this year’s Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce HealthSmart Expo. The company at 2037 Old Candler Road sponsors and participates in community 5K races, has co-ed and men’s softball teams and a men’s golf team.

It also has an exercise room featuring two trainers to work with employees.

Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance at 100 Brenau Ave. also uses Humana’s Go365 program, which involves employees taking a health risk assessment and undergoing a biometric screening.

By taking certain steps, in addition to gift cards, “(employees) can decrease their premium by participating,” vice president and partner Brett Fowler said.

“In turn, you hope that means less days missed from work due to sickness,” he said.

Fowler, whose company offers several insurance products, said Turner, Wood & Smith felt compelled to set an example itself.

“We’re not a perfect model of it, but we have to practice some of what we preach,” he said.

Fowler helps organize the chamber’s annual Health Care Reform forum, which talks about the latest in legislation, particularly the federal Affordable Care Act, but also gives the latest on premium costs.

“For the majority of employers, (health insurance) is their second largest expense behind payroll,” Fowler said.

“What we’re seeing is employers are starting to realize that have to try to do their part to educate their employees, because costs are increasing rapidly — much more than someone’s income is.”

His company teams up with the Longstreet Clinic to provide flu shots at the workplace. Also, they encourage employees to participate in the Chamber Chase 5K & Wellness Walk by paying their entry fee.

Many employees use stand-up desks to encourage movement for improved circulation and relief from lower back pain. More such desks will be added as the company moves to its new building off Jesse Jewell Parkway in 2018.

King’s Hawaiian at 5420 H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway won the large division Most Fit Company award at the health expo.

The company, with 540 employees, already had a corporate wellness program in place when, earlier this year, “we had a group of folks really passionate about health and wellness and wanted to do more activities,” said Michele Bertolino, continuous improvement manager at the plant.

“So we developed a wellness team to kick off a lot more event and activities. It changed from being top-down to employee-driven.”

One of the activities is seeking out new trails in the area to walk on Saturdays.

“That’s one of the unique things we do that doesn’t cost the company any money, and we go

out there and get employees active,” she said.

Also, the plant held a “Biggest Loser” competition that resulted in employees dropping 350 pounds.

ProCare Rx, a previous Most Fit Company winner, also has other tools to encourage better lifestyles, including providing healthy choices in the breakroom vending machine.

“For a nurse, this is like playing in the candy store,” wellness coordinator Karen Shockley said of her efforts at the company. “You get to work on the front end of trying to help people stay well.”