Studies continue to show that good health practices at work create a more productive and efficient environment with less absenteeism, proving that the “daily grind” doesn’t have to be a grind. From a Battle Ground restaurant to a regional law firm, these five workplaces are making the 9-to-5 a happier and healthier experience.
Healthiest Company – Private Sector/Nonprofit
Kaiser Permanente calls The Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) its poster child because of its high participation rate in the insurance provider’s online wellness program.
As a Kaiser Permanente subscriber, the FVRL is allotted several thousand dollars in wellness incentives for events that encourage healthy habits and participation.
Every year, FVRL hosts an annual month-long wellness event. This year, employees formed teams or competed individually in a program called Happy Trails – with the goal to exercise, eat more vegetables and drink more water. Everyone who participated – about 75 percent of FVRL’s employees – received an hour of paid leave.
“A healthy work environment translates to happier employees,” said Josh Young, FVRL’s wellness committee chair and human resources generalist.
Employees work both sedentary highly active jobs at more than 10 libraries and offices throughout Southwest Washington. Because of this dynamic, FVRL offers ways to stay physically active during and outside of work. The organization facilitates on-site yoga classes during work hours and supplements employees annually for their gym memberships.
Besides physical activity, FVRL has focused on providing healthy food in the workplace. It hosts a monthly potluck, which encourages employees to bring healthy dishes. Also, some junk food in the library’s vending machines has been replaced with healthy snacks.
FVRL has plans to decrease the chemicals that its employees are exposed to. For example, the organization has replaced receipt paper with nonhazardous paper and has ordered biodegradable janitorial products.
“We want to see more staff become even healthier,” said Sherry Braga, who is FVRL’s volunteer coordinator and a member of the wellness committee. “And we want to continue to partner with Kaiser to encourage good healthy behavior.”
This is the second year that FVRL has been recognized by the Vancouver Business Journal for its wellness efforts.
Healthiest Company – Small Employer
Boutique accounting firm Opsahl Dawson wants to change what people think about accountants when it comes to their health.
“I’ve recognized that employees are the most important asset we have,” said Aaron Dawson, president and shareholder of Long View-based Opsahl Dawson, which also has offices in Vancouver. “So we do everything in our power to make sure that they’re comfortable.”
Some of these tools include standing desks and nutrition and weight management.
“Sitting is the new smoking – you don’t want to do it,” said Dawson. The firm provides all of its 30 employees with motorized desks that can raise and lower, which improves posture and keeps blood flowing.
Each employee also has a Fitbit to track steps and is encouraged to participate in weekly fitness challenges.
Opsahl Dawson conducts “Biggest Loser” challenges where participating employees report weight loss each week and report the results to the firm. The challenge creates accountability and encouragement, said Dawson.
And when tax season – from February to mid-April – rolls around with grueling 60 hour-work weeks, accountants have access to free healthy Saturday lunches and fresh fruit and granola bars throughout the week. This keeps energy levels up, said Dawson.
“Office donuts are a thing of the past for us,” he said. “Once you get momentum going, people don’t want to go backwards.”
Healthiest Company – Mid-sized Employer
Battle Ground-based Mill Creek Pub is one of the few restaurants in Southwest Washington to encourage its wait staff, bartenders and cooking staff to quit smoking, eat healthier and exercise more.
“Health is peoples’ source of wealth,” said Russell Brent, owner of Mill Creek Pub. “Without health, happiness is almost impossible.”
Mill Creek’s wellness program includes discounted healthy food, weight loss challenges, weekly hikes and smoking cessation help.
The restaurant industry has a higher rate of smoking than many other industries. Smokers often take multiple breaks, which decrease productivity, said Brent. “All you have to do is go by the dumpsters at any restaurant and see cigarettes everywhere,” he said.
Already, three employees have participated in the program, which offers participants up to $50 per month toward smoking cessation products – whether that’s the patch or nicotine gum.
Since Brent launched the program, the restaurant’s chef has quit smoking and has lost 70 pounds from participating in the wellness program, especially by eating healthier.
To encourage healthy eating, employees receive a 75 percent discount – compared to the normal 50 percent – when they order healthy menu options.
“I find that several of them have become health nuts and are cognizant of what they put in their mouth,” said Brent. “You can still have the mac and cheese, but can’t have it every day.”
Healthiest Company – Large Employer
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently designated Camas-based WaferTech as its first Health Champion in the Oregon and Southwest Washington region.
“Diabetes is expensive to manage and is one of the top cost drivers of rising health insurance premiums,” said Lauren Bryan, manager of special events and fundraising for the ADA of Oregon, Southwest Washington and Southern Idaho. “So employers should have a lot of incentive to help their workforce prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.”
In order to qualify for the recognition, WaferTech had to meet certain criteria in nutrition, physical activity and organizational wellbeing.
The semiconductor contract manufacturer has its own medical providers on-site, including a physical therapist who treats injured employees. The company also gives biometric screenings throughout the year to help employees become aware of the health areas where they need to take action, said Alison Dezsofi, Wafertech’s benefits analyst.
To help employees stay in shape, Wafertech offers a 24-hour gym, low-calorie healthy meals at its cafeteria, yoga classes and a Weight Watchers program, in which participants have already lost a total of 1,400 lbs. The company encourages employees to take short breaks and walk around the office throughout the day.
“Our wellness team’s mission is to find fun ways to foster healthy habits and to enhance the quality of life,” said Dezsofi. “Research shows that healthy employees are happier, have higher productivity and less absents.”
Healthiest Company – Headquartered outside of Southwest Washington
Most of Perkins & Co.’s wellness-related activities are employee driven.
“Instead of our owners telling employees to do something, they (the employees) are involving each other in what makes them happy,” said Dave Sullivan, shareholder and director of business development at Perkins & Co., which has about 130 employees throughout its Portland and Vancouver offices.
The accounting firm’s employee-run wellness committee orchestrates physical challenges throughout the year, including a challenge during tax season (January through May).
In this year’s challenge, employees generated 235,182 minutes of exercise in nine weeks, and more than 50 percent of the company participated. Other mini-challenges have included contests for the most steps and the most sleep hours. The committee also coordinates a yoga series twice a year.
“We’ve seen an increase in employee morale, relationship building and passion for common activities,” said Sullivan.
Other perks that keep employees healthy include a bi-weekly massage therapist, standing work stations, company paid meals during the busy season, free financial seminars and a company quiet room.
The quiet room – equipped with a recliner, blankets and a white noise machine – encourages employees to get away from their desks and recharge.
“Our initiatives aren’t necessarily intended to increase employee productivity,” said Sullivan. “We do it because it’s fun, the right thing to do and makes for a better workplace for all of us.”
Congratulations to The Fort Vancouver Regional Library, Opsahl Dawson, Mill Creek Pub, WaferTech LLC and Perkins & Co. – our 2015 Healthiest Companies of Southwest Washington.
Managing Editor Nicholas Shanmac also contributed to this story.