North Bay Business Journal

Monday, November 25, 2013, 5:40 am

Healthiest Companies in North Bay 2013 winner profiles

21 winners in the third annual competition


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Pacific Union College

Two-time winner

Encouraging employees to live holistically

ANGWIN — Pacific Union College has an active wellness program that incentivizes its 244 full-time and 48 part-time employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise and stress-reduction techniques. This program has engaged nearly 90 percent of the staff.

Steve Penners, of the college’s information Technology Support and Services office, is also a yoga teacher and offers classes on-campus to faculty and staff.

“PUC got the memo over 10 years ago that when employees are healthy, the organization is healthy,” said President Heather Knight. “With health care costs rising, chronic lifestyle illnesses becoming epidemic, and budgets shrinking in a tough economy, workplace wellness was one of the wisest budgeting decisions PUC has ever made.”

In just the last two years, PUC employees have lowered their risk factors by 16 percent. Today the college staff has an average of 1.45 risk factors while the national average is 2.2 — a difference of 33 percent.

“We’ve seen a 14 percent improvement in HDL levels, an 11 percent gain in fasting glucose levels and a 33 percent advance in fitness and physical activity levels. It all adds us to healthier, happier employees with a 24 percent improvement in positive mental outlook self-reporting levels,” said Gaylin Bowers, director of human resources.

“As PUC supports employees to live holistically, we believe they are better able to achieve excellence in their jobs, in their influence on coworkers and the college students we serve.”

The college wellness program includes an annual health assessment, educational programs at lunchtime, and free monthly 15-minute massages on the clock to help the staff rejuvenate and relax. Walking, stair climbing and other physical activities are also encouraged.

“We work in a faith community that acknowledges God’s creative wisdom in weaving each person into a seamless mind, body and spirit package. Workplace wellness has made jobs at PUC more satisfying, knowing that we in administration not only value the work skills of our faculty and staff, but their wellbeing, health and vitality as well,” President Knight said.

Petaluma Health Center

First-time winner

Offering a diversity of employee wellness options

PETALUMA — “As a primary health care facility, we believe offering a diversity of employee wellness programs not only enhances the quality of life of our employees, but allows our staff to better serve as healthy living role models for our patient population,” said CEO Kathie Powell.

Petaluma Health Center offers 15 fitness classes per week for its employees

In January PHC launched a 14-member Employee Wellness Committee with strong support from senior management.

In July employees were offered a broad spectrum of biometric screenings, in partnership with the St. Joseph Health System, including tests for body fat, body mass index, total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, LDL, Non HDL, TC/HDL, glucose and Hemoglobin A1C. More than half of all employees participated.

The center also partnered with the Petaluma Bounty Community Farm to set up a weekly farm stand in its facility, and teamed with Tara Firma Farms to receive CSA boxes of organic meats, cheese, eggs and produce delivered to the office.

The wellness committee sponsors the PHC walking club for daily treks around the neighborhood and there are reduced fees for our community fitness program with classes held at the Center.

This program hosts 15 fitness classes per week including Zumba, Tai Chi, Yoga, body toning, core training, Pilates and more.

PHC’s two-year-old facility at 1179 North McDowell Blvd. has additional wellness amenities, such as a bike room, showers and a lactation room. The entire campus is smoke free.

This year a 4,000-square-foot vegetable garden was developed as part of Petaluma 350, a citywide effort to promote sustainability, with the help of local non-profit City Acts, PHC volunteers, staff, doctors and patients.  

Regular Lunch-and-Learn sessions are held on topics such as nutrition, dental health, meditation, stress management and chair Yoga.

“We designated March as our Wellness Month that culminated with a Wellness Fair featuring 20 local vendors,” said Ciera Rudin, community relations specialist. “Over 40 wellness-related prizes were given away to the staff.”

The PHC Wellness Department produces a newsletter that highlights health topics such as allergies, choosing cooking oils and stress management techniques.


First-time winner

Inspiring employees to think about making healthful choices

Raydiance employees participating in Mud Run

PETALUMA — Raydiance has a comprehensive Employee Health and Wellness program administered by an internal committee, while relying on outside providers — such as St. Joseph Health and Kaiser Permanente — to deliver key content.

“The goal of our program is to inspire our employees to think proactively about their health and lifestyle,” said Kathi Safferd, human resources director. “We give them information they need to make healthy choices.”

Activities unfold according to a monthly calendar where something new and engaging, usually educational in nature, is made available to them.

Outside speakers come in to talk about making healthy lifestyle choices, to conduct exercise classes, and to discuss the importance of regular health screenings.

Biometric screening includes BMI and body fat percentage assessments to raise awareness of chronic disease, skin cancer risks and other issues. Speakers also cover topics such as the value of massage and Yoga, nutrition and diet, preventative medicine and stress management. Doctors and nurses present other important topics.

The Raydiance program includes on-site flu shots, allergy testing as well as blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease screening.

“We make announcements at company functions describing physical activities where employees have participated, such as in bicycle events, marathons, swimming contests and similar athletic competitions. Informing everyone about what some are doing helps to get other employees involved in these fun and healthy activities,” Ms. Safferd added. “Employees have also invited their partners to attend our events and screenings free of charge.”

The company holds a number of Lunch-and-Learn sessions and provides electronic health information monthly to all employees in English and Spanish.

Redwood Empire Schools Insurance Group (RESIG)

Two-time winner

A ‘ready, set, move,’ theme-based program

WINDSOR — Believing that involving employees in fun and movement-based activities will promote wellness beyond the office, causing a ripple effect that will impact employee families and their communities, RESIG offers programs that promote team spirit and friendly competition.

Kick-off BBQ for Redwood Empire Schools Insurance Group staff introduce the 2013 “Ready, Set, Move” theme

“The success of our wellness program largely depends on keeping employees engaged, so it’s critical to offer new, interesting and fun events,” said Brent Howatt, executive director. “We feel that our new theme-based program — Ready, Set Move — delivers just that.”

Ready, Set, Move activities range from getting up from a desk to help put a jig-saw puzzle together, to playing basketball. Theme T-shirts are provided for employees on event days to enhance the wellness program spirit.

New program features include an E-Book Library of over 125 health, nutrition and wellness resources, recipes, and simple ways to get active. The E-Book is used to cook healthy dishes for the staff each month.

A Wii Fit program is used by staff during lunch or breaks. Humor and stress reduction activities, such as Crazy Hat Day, Ugly Sweater Day and a Stress-Relief Game Day, are planned.

These initiatives join a host of wellness options already in place — walking, stretch breaks, Yoga and Pilates classes; healthy snacks offered weekly, and a yearly Wellness Picnic.

A designated Wellness Room serves as a place to relax with blankets and pillows, providing a comfortable, private area for nursing mothers or where employees can go to measure their blood pressure and weight.

Monthly massages are scheduled for employees along with quarterly Healthy Chef cookoffs, Wii bowling tournaments and a March Madness Hoops Tournament. A basketball hoop, badminton set and hula-hoops are provided for Bucket of Fun activities.

“The most amazing part of our wellness program is that all of these activities are offered with the support of a small, seven-person wellness committee working within a budget of $1,500 a year for a staff of 23 people,” said Rose Burcina, director of health benefits.

Redwood Regional Medical Group

Three-time winner

‘Live Well, Work Well’ builds teamwork

SANTA ROSA — Redwood Regional Medical Group has supported wellness in the workplace for the past three years by offering a complimentary program to all employees called “Live Well, Work Well.”

Redwood Regional Medical Group team at Light the Night Walk in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in October of this year

“As a health care organization, it is important for us to reflect good health to our patients, in addition to being caring and compassionate,” said CEO Wayne Fairchild. “We need to reflect a level of fitness, energy and optimism which can all be a result of taking care of our own health.”

He believes that if Redwood focuses on wellness, absenteeism can be lowered and employees can be more available to patients and support those who serve patients every day.

Redwood makes wellness a priority with a free annual biometric screening, discount gym memberships and incentives for completing fun and challenging wellness activities that encourage physical activity, healthy eating and community involvement.

Incentives include gift certificates to REI, Sports Authority, health food stores and to purchase activity devices.

These programs continue to garner positive feedback from employees and have increased awareness of personal health numbers for cholesterol and glucose.

Challenges are rolled out via a wellness website to aid participants in understanding their numbers, maintaining healthy ranges or improving them.

“There is a high level of health-oriented support among employees. In response to a challenge a few years ago, walking groups were formed. Some of these groups still walk at lunch and they continue to pester each other,” said Linda Chotkevys, executive director of human resources.

“If someone doesn’t feel like walking on a given day, other members cajole them into it. Live Well, Work Well is building internal teamwork and healthier bodies.”

She believes that workplace wellness is a good investment because an organization’s collective good health can impact the cost of health care benefits, and therefore, the bottom line.

“In this environment of shrinking Medicare reimbursements, we should do what we can to decrease expenses. Our wellness program can impact that,” Ms. Chotkevys added.

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1 Comment

  1. November 25, 2013, 5:49 am

    by Kenneth Sandale

    “Since last year, employee exposure to second-hand smoke has been greatly reduced as a result of a reduction in the number of designated smoking areas from 25 to three.”

    So the employees are getting poisoned, but not as much as before.

    While improving, it is hard to imagine this is one of the “best” companies.

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