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Keeping employees healthy.

A workplace wellness program demonstrates commitment to overall employee welfare.

To help control medical costs, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), Washington, D.C., instituted an employee wellness program last year that rewards the staff for healthy behavior. To our surprise, nearly half of our 170 employees joined the program when it started, and participation has now reached two thirds.

ATLA is acutely aware of health and safety issues because our members often represent injury victims. We are also committed to having a healthy work force--a commitment that cannot be achieved without our employees' direct, sustained participation.

Our wellness program complements a number of ATLA activities, including a consumer protection program; a conference series on toy, sports, workplace, and senior safety; and an upcoming anti-smoking campaign conducted with the American Cancer Society. ATLA's offices and educational seminars have been smoke-free for some time.

We also offer employees an in-house gym and are offering nutritionally sound vending machine snacks. We provide financial assistance to help employees quit smoking, and a celebratory lunch for everyone who stops.

A staff wellness committee plans lunch-time seminars, recreational programs, and other activities aimed at improving employee health. They have also targeted healthy activities and formulated a point system to track accomplishments.

Points are tallied in six-month cycles and logged on weekly progress reports. Employees can enroll at any time in the cycle. To stress the link between good health and decreased health care costs, sufficient points can earn a rebate on an individual's insurance premium. Points can be traded for personal leave days, sports event tickets, lunches, and credit at spas, tennis facilities, and sporting goods stores. Participants must pre-enroll and set goals for the next cycle to qualify. Each cycle concludes with a free, on-site health fair, including health screenings for interested employees.

Program participants who exercise, refrain from smoking, maintain weight, and have acceptable levels of cholesterol and blood pressure can earn rebates of up to $15 per month, payable at the end of the insurance year. Employees who, for medical reasons, cannot achieve rebate status, can still earn discounts on their insurance premiums.

"The program has already helped considerably to increase employee awareness of vital health issues," says employee Mary Petersen.

Employees are eligible for an award once they achieve 250 points. Points can be earned in four ways:

* Employees may earn up to two lifestyle points per week by maintaining healthy weight; limiting fat, cholesterol, sugar, and salt; using a seat belt; avoiding or limiting use of alcohol and tobacco; and using stairs instead of elevators.

* Employees can accumulate a maximum of 15 physical points each week by exercising vigorously for 30 minutes three times a week.

* Employees can earn up to 30 goal points in a cycle by reaching such goals as losing 10 pounds.

* Bonus points can accrue by having a physical examination (75 points), participating in semiannual health screenings (75 points), and attending monthly ATLA wellness seminars (25 points each).

Redeeming the points costs ATLA about $3,600, and two screenings per year cost a total of $5,000. With two thirds of our employees participating, we consider these screenings a bargain.

While the program is still too new to have had any measurable impact on medical claims, employee morale is definitely higher and absenteeism is lower. Employees also report they feel more in control of a vital aspect of their lives.

Thomas H. Henderson, Jr., CAE, is executive director of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Washington, D.C.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Annual Meeting Issue; evaluation of employee wellness programs
Author:Henderson, Thomas H., Jr.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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