Incentives That Save Lives

Grow Financial invests in employee well-being with a smoke-free campus, monetary rewards, and a host of wellness resources.

No one said being healthy is easy, but the encouragement of employers and colleagues can certainly provide much needed motivation. Of course, a slight bump in the paycheck doesn’t hurt employees’ drive toward fitness, either.

Grow Financial Federal Credit Union ($1.8B, Tampa, FL) already offers employees an ambitious package of resources, activities, and events to facilitate a pleasant and healthy work environment. But they needed a more aggressive plan to push employees to kick one bad habit.

Given everything we now know about the harmful health effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke, we felt eliminating that risk was an essential and necessary step, says Kimberly Woollard, senior vice president of human resources and professional development.

In October 2011, Grow Financial issued an announcement that the organization would be moving to a smoke-free workplace both at the corporate campus and across its 18-branch network by July 1 of this year.

The move was really twofold for us, Woollard says. The first goal was to increase the health and safety of our employees and members. The second was to save our employees, as well as the organization, money through any means possible.

A nine-month transition period gave tobacco users ample time to quit or find other alternatives, and the message was reinforced as the deadline approached.

Weekly emails were sent out to employees that included health statistics and links to websites with resources to stop smoking. Information about the policy was also accessible on the home page of the employee intranet.

Prior to July 1, we displayed temporary signage outside of the building and in our parking garages announcing the effective date, Woollard says. Now that the smoke-free campus policy is in effect, we have permanent signage up.

At least two employees have already kicked the habit as a result of the initiative.

We did realize that banning tobacco use on our properties may pose a hardship for some, and there were a handful of employees that had a negative response, Woollard says. But overall the response has been positive.

The move has not just helped employees physically, but financially as well. Prior to the full ban, the credit union implemented a Healthy Pledge credit to counteract any negative sentiments and reward employees for their efforts.

Every employee who has not used any tobacco products in the past six months, including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco, receives a $20 credit per pay period that reduces their medical plan deduction. The credit union relies on the honor system here.

Roughly 80% of employees who use our health care plans have taken this pledge and we expect this number to increase to 85% by January, Woollard says.

There are benefits for the credit union as well. Any health improvements in an employee’s lifestyle will lead to less sick time and fewer breaks, and improved operational efficiency, says Woollard. Small lifestyle changes can also impact institutional costs like health insurance.

Any ROI generated from the program will be channeled back into new incentives, resources, or better coverage for the employees, Woollard says.

A long-standing partnership between United Health Care and Grow Financial’s internal Health and Wellness Committee provides free blood pressure screenings and other ongoing health care advice to employees.

Those at the central location also have access to an onsite fitness center and the services of a personal trainer, and many employees work out together in pairs and groups, even if it means just taking a run around the campus, Woollard says.

The credit union even holds a Get Fit Challenge each January to reward employees for achievements such as losing the most weight. The combined cost for these wellness programs is around $50,000 annually, but the credit union views it an investment more than an expense.

In 2013, Grow Financial is planning to further expand the types of health incentives that employees can earn to lower their insurance costs, including categories for physical activity, healthy body mass index, and normal blood pressure reports.

May 28, 2014

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