At Simplex, employees work it out

Monday, April 26, 2010

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – When Simplex Healthcare moved into bigger digs recently it carved out space for an unusual purpose: an employee fitness center.

“A guiding principle at Simplex is ‘Live Well, Be Well’ because we believe that creating a healthy workplace creates healthy and happy employees,” stated CEO Doug Hudson in a release. “This principle translates to our patients and ultimately our success.”

To that end, the company partnered with Nashville-based Onlife Health, a personal health coaching company, to develop an employee wellness program.

“This is a company that already has wellness as part of its mission and can now take it to the next level,” said Chris Hunter, Onlife CEO. “Given the success of programs like ‘The Biggest Loser’ there is much excitement around worksite challenges and these types of programs.”

In addition to the fitness center, which contains cardio and weight training equipment, Onlife will offer personal fitness and wellness programs; nutrition classes; and biometric screenings, which test things like flexibility and blood pressure. A 10-week pilot program will give 30 employees the opportunity to work closely with life coaches to achieve wellness and fitness goals.

Aside from being an obvious benefit for employees, a wellness program can pay off for the boss, too, said Hunter. It builds workforce morale, reduces employee absences and increases productivity, he said.

“We hear constantly from clients that, when somebody begins to exercise, what they immediately see is the jump in productivity and jump in engagement with the work,” said Hunter.

Longer term, companies may see a reduction in healthcare expenses. Shield Healthcare has offered employee wellness programs like weight loss, smoking cessation and health screenings for several years.

“We have had a measurable reduction in our cost of benefits,” said Jennifer Puleo, vice president of human resources for the Valencia, Calif.-based provider. “In previous years, it wasn’t unheard of to have 15%, 20% or 30% increases in our insurance premiums. This past year, it was 5.4%.”

Above all, making wellness a part of the company culture can have wide-reaching affects, said Hunter.

“Someone that has not exercised historically—when they see someone they work side by side with gain energy and results—it’s contagious,” he said.