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Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Bottom Line?

A team member with DaVita's Village Vitality promotes a new program to employees.

DaVita's Village Vitality team has matching tracksuits.

Ping Identity offers healthy snacks in the cafeteria.

Ping Identity encourages employees to take some time outside.

DaVita has a 24-hour fitness facility for employees.

Ping Identity offers exercise balls for employees to sit on while working.

Besides home, the biggest threat to our health is the workplace. By keeping track of the pulse of its employees, such Denver companies as DaVita, Ping Identity and Boa Technology have realized a healthy workforce is a productive one.
It's hard to escape health and wellness if you live in Denver. Whether it's people riding their bikes along the Platte River or jogging around Washington Park, health and wellness just isn't all talk, people are actually getting out and doing it.
Still, while Colorado advertises itself as a healthy state, studies have shown obesity is rising everywhere, and this state is not immune. 
Unhealthy habits aren't just about appearances, according to the Integrated Benefits Institute, poor health and lack of productivity by workers costs the U.S. economy $576 billion annually. Nearly 40 percent of that total, or $227 billion, results from lost productivity due to poor health. The report stated other costs include short and long-term disability, health policies, illness absence, presentee-ism and worker's compensation.
While establishing a healthy workplace is not the first item on the agenda among rigid deadlines, product launches and new marketing campaigns, several Denver companies are showcasing how building a culture of health not only boosts employee morale, but also helps the bottom line. 
Health and wellness in the village DaVita has a 24-hour fitness facility for employees.
When you provide healthcare services at 1,991 outpatient dialysis centers located in the U.S. serving approximately 156,000 patients, it would seem that health and wellness would be a no brainer. 
"Many of our healthcare professionals are nurses and technicians," says DaVita Wellness Manager Casey Scott. "So when they take care of themselves, they take care of patients." 
At the same time, when it comes to tracking the wellness needs of 50,000 employees, with more than 1,000 in the Denver area, it's a little more complicated. 
To help jump-start a culture of health, DaVita started Village Vitality in 2007. Part of the Village Vitality program allows teammates (DaVita's term for employees) to earn points for healthy activities such as quitting smoking, losing weight, getting biometric screenings and maintaining a healthy blood-pressure level. 
Village Vitality includes an in-house of several wellness professionals and the company partners with its insurance provider Cigna, for dietitians, exercise physiologists, nurses, and other health specialists who work with DaVita employees on their goals. 
But these points aren't just a congratulatory slap on the back; employees can save up to $800 on their health care premiums. 
"We've asked our teammates to be accountable for their health," Scott says. "We want to aspire them, encourage them -- we're constantly talking wellness."
One new program they recently launched was to invite spouses and domestic partners on an employee's health plan to participate in the Vitality Points and get rewarded for taking action. 
Each year the "We are Well" award is given to employees who write an essay documenting how Village Vitality has had a positive impact on their life. The winner of the award receives free health insurance premiums for the entire year. 
"I think it's been successful for us because we truly have fostered a culture of wellness when we started this in 2007," Scott says. "We have slowly built upon it and keep adding things as we have sought out teammate feedback." 
Ping Identity encourages employees to take some time outside.Starting from the ground up
When the human resources department at identity security company, Ping Identity, wanted to begin a health and wellness program, they started with nothing. 
"We had no budget, no framework, no real plan and we kind of launched it to see what happens," says Melissa Grandchamp, Director of Human Resources at Ping Identity. "Obviously since then, we have a framework, we have a plan and we now have a budget as we have been able to justify the value of the program."
In 2011, Ping Identity launched its "Ignite Your Health" program, which targets the four realms of health: mind, body, finances and spirit. The program addresses each of these four areas to help employees gain and maintain a healthy balance. In addition to individual consultations, a site dedicated to wellness and a 24-hour wellness hotline, the program includes contests and incentives to encourage healthy living.
"When we started the Ignite program, we realized it was a lot of fun and more than just managing claims and benefits costs," Grandchamp says. "There are a lot of different activities that can be associated with wellness. Our program has activities each month that is focused on something very specific."
For instance, they've hosted a stress awareness month and brought in on-site massages or a nutrition month where cooking experts provide demonstrations at the office. To keep the programs fresh and relevant, Grandchamp says they hold focus groups to find out what is important to their workers as far as health and wellness is concerned and will gear programs around that. 
The biggest concern of any new project within a company is, naturally, ROI. Grandchamp says the benchmark for ROI of these types of programs is typically over a three- to five-year period.
"When we look at participation in our program and then look at what is the latest nationwide ratio between premiums and claims, we are below average on that," she says. "Now that we're hitting year three, we are starting to see real things come in." 
'Not an elitist feel'
For some, health and wellness is second nature, but for others it can be a bit intimidating. 
About three years ago, RiNo-based Boa Technology, the makers of the patented Boa closure system, started company's "Health & Wellness Challenge" that supports individuals' goals and rewards them for their achievements in pursuit of ideal work-life balance.
Garett Graubins, Marketing Director at Boa Technology, says that just in its third year, this program has already become a cornerstone at Boa.
"We wanted everyone to from the program, we don't want to have an elitist feel to it," Graubins says. "When people see goals, they immediate think, 'Gosh, do I need to run a marathon?' And yes, that helps earn points, but it's also a pretty broad spectrum of things to do to achieve better health and wellness that don't involve them suffering too much. For example, you can earn points by flossing your teeth, it's as simple and barebones as that." 
Employee participation in the health and wellness program has risen by 20 percent each of the three years and currently about 75 percent of Boa employees take part.
"How do you measure the success of it? It's hard, it's something you feel more than you touch or measure," Graubins says. "I wish I could point out employee cholesterol has been lowered by this amount, but we don't have those statistics. I do think that employee participation is measurable, and the fact that so many employees do take part, we see that as a big sign of success."
Boa Technology's headquarters, which recently relocated to the TAXI development on the Platte River, has a dog-, bike-, barbecue- and family-friendly work environment. In addition, the company gives employees, many of whom are bikers, skiers and triathletes, $500 annually to support their physical activities, either in the form of classes, gym membership, race entry fees or equipment. Boa also offers employees lunchtime fitness and nutrition workshops, outdoor and volunteer activities and profit-sharing benefits.
"If I can put on my corporate thinking hat, a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, so there is that component to it," Graubins says. "But I do think that if you 't feel good about where you work at, chances are, you won't be there very long no matter how much they pay or the benefits they offer."

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Heather Caliendo.

Heather is a Denver-based journalist and Confluence contributor. 
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