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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Worksite Wellness: 6 Key Lessons from an Agency Getting It Done

Sporting blue ribbons (instead of the customary pink), Rebecca Paden and a number of her co-workers from the Downtown Department of Cultural Resources (DCR) office stopped by the AHA booth last month at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers’ Market. I asked about the ribbons and learned that they were wearing them to raise awareness for Men’s Health Month as part of their Worksite Wellness Committee activities. Their visit to the market was also part of the committee’s 2011 Wellness Kickoff, where employees were invited to renew their new year’s resolutions and join in the walk to shop the market.

I have since learned that Downtown DCR has an incredibly active Worksite Wellness Committee comprised of 14 members who volunteer their time on behalf of wellness for their fellow agency employees. What began in 2006 per a mandate from the Office of State Personnel is today a vibrant committee dedicated to helping co-workers reduce stress, be active, be connected, and further enjoy their time at work together.

“I don’t do things half way, so we set out trying to find fun activities that would get people moving when we launched this committee,” said Ansley Wegner, a research historian for Downtown DCR and the original Worksite Wellness Committee chair. Today Ansley serves as the DCR Worksite Wellness Coordinator for all 8 Worksite Wellness Committees across the agency statewide. “Sometimes we’re here 9 hours a day, so anything we can do to help people get out, be active, and tour the museums, for example, helps make them happy. And that changes their perception of coming to work every day.”

Rebecca, who took over as the Downtown DCR Worksite Wellness chair three years ago, said that employees participated a total of 789 times in 2009, and a total of 1009 times in 2010. Many employees have participated in multiple events. Any way you add it up, those are impressive numbers.

Over the years, the Worksite Wellness Committee has created a Wellness/Fitness Room (which features donated gym equipment and information on health and wellness), offered weekly yoga classes, organized walking tours of gardens, parks and historical sites in town, created a downtown Raleigh walking map, hosted educational luncheon sessions on healthy snacks, gardening, and more; hosted Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less classes; and created exercise challenges and awards programs, among other activities.

The majority of the Downtown DCR Worksite Wellness activities are held during the work day, often over lunch time, Rebecca said, although they typically participate in one walk/run each year. Often this is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in the fall, where friends and family are invited to join. The committee is particularly proud of the Wellness/Fitness Room. “We hear feedback from folks that it’s great to have a fitness room and wellness activities so they can get to know people they wouldn’t have otherwise in the office. It’s a great way to create fellowship in the agency,” Rebecca said. This brightly painted yellow room features a treadmill, elliptical, 2 bikes, weights and plenty of exercise videos.

Six Key Lessons

Rebecca shared some great lessons for anyone looking to improve wellness and health in their office by organizing a Worksite Wellness Committee.

  1. You do not need a budget. “Some people might get discouraged because they do not have funding for worksite wellness, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve been doing this for quite a while with zero money. It’s just a matter of being creative,” Rebecca said.
  2. Networking is key. “We have a very dynamic group of people on our committee who are very creative and very good at networking,” Rebecca said. “They are resourceful about contacting people they know at work or in the community who can help us with events. For examples, we each keep our eyes and ears open for speakers, lunch and learn topics, classes and tours. At times, we even tap into our own skill sets and offer activities,” Rebecca said. Downtown DCR has partnered with more than 20 organizations or individuals, such as the American Cancer Society, YMCA, Duke Physical Therapy students, The Collard Patch, Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina and others. “The creativity that our committee members bring to the table is so valuable, especially since we operate with no budget.” Rebecca commented.
  3. Seek employee input. “Our goal is to keep employees engaged and healthy,” Rebecca said. Finding out what events and activities employees are interested in really helps to offer effective programs that will get people involved. To that end, the Worksite Wellness Committee is about to launch a new employee interest survey to gauge employee’s current interests.
  4. Promoting events and healthy concepts. Learning the best way to promote the events in your organization is also important, Rebecca said. “This changes based on feedback from committee members and agency employees, but we issue a monthly enewsletter as well as announcements about each event.” Healthy lifestyle fliers are featured in the Fitness Room, and the committee has hung posters encouraging people to use the stairs, rather than the elevator. “We have one poster that says ‘The stairs: the cheapest gym anywhere.’,” Ansley said. “To this day, I cannot get in an elevator without thinking about that since I hung so many of those posters!”
  5. Developing clear goals. “Each year, we develop our main goals that we work toward. We meet once a month, and periodically, we evaluate our progress and determine what we can improve upon. For planning purposes, it also helps to keep track of participation to see which events have higher attendance,” Rebecca commented.
  6. Gaining management support. Keeping management informed and getting their “buy-in” is key. “It’s important to have each committee member reach agreement with his or her manager about involvement in the committee. It is also important that their committee service be listed on their performance plan,” Rebecca said. “We also have been very fortunate that Linda Carlisle, the secretary of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, has been on board. She was very supportive of our fitness room and has joined in several events.”

Kudos to the Downtown DCR Worksite Wellness Committee for its breadth of programming and for sharing these lessons. Keep up the great work!

If you’re office has a worksite wellness plan in place, let us know. AHA would love to hear more about what other businesses, organizations and agencies in Wake County are doing in this area.

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