Many look at the New Year as an opportunity to resolve to lose weight or become more fit. For Cortez city staff, wellness is not just a consideration on a list of New Year’s resolutions, but rather has become a year-round focus with some amazing results.
In 1993, after several staff members learned what other organizations were doing to encourage a healthy lifestyle for employees, the city Employee Wellness Program was established. It is open to any employee working a minimum of 20 hours a week year-round.
Activities are offered with points for participation that can be used for cash awards and prizes. Up to 50 points can be earned each year for getting immunizations and screening tests such as for cholesterol and mammograms.
Cardiovascular exercise, including diverse activities such as yard work, walking or pickleball, garners three points for each 30 minutes of engagement, and attendance at wellness luncheons held monthly is worth one point each. The luncheons feature speakers, demonstrations or fun physical activities, and an annual employee golf tournament is held each September. A running tally of points is kept for each calendar year. Employees earning 600 or more points are reimbursed up to $100 for the purchase of wellness-related items such as gym memberships, gardening supplies or tennis shoes; those with 551-plus points earn a $75 reimbursement; those with 501 points, a $50 reimbursement. It’s a great motivator for staff to “get healthy” and the eligible purchases help them engage in healthy activities!
Tobacco use and obesity can significantly impact health as well as result in higher health care costs. Since the city is self-insured, a healthy lifestyle is also good for the bottom line!
Staff wanting to quit using tobacco and remain tobacco-free for at least one year are eligible for an award. There’s also an incentive for those wishing to lose weight for health reasons. Both of these programs are available once per employee. Each fall, employees can take advantage of low-cost flu and pneumonia shots through the county health department, and staff who choose to participate in fitness-test events throughout the year, using national standards with age grouping, can earn points toward up to a $120 health insurance premium credit.
To make “getting active” more fun and to incentivize participation, Wellness Challenges are offered throughout the year. One of the most popular is the “Stepper Club,” which tallies steps using an online program called DailyEndorphin.
“We Will Rock You” is an exercise challenge with points based on the time and exercise performed on the employee’s off time. A “D-I-Y Weight Loss Program” is also included.
Winners of these competitions can earn time off and monetary prizes for each challenge, and at the end of the year, a most-successful award is given to the top woman and top man who have competed in all four 2019 challenges.
Staff and their families are eligible for a discount on passes at city recreation facilities, including the outdoor pool, golf course and Cortez Recreation Center. Several months ago, City Council voted to include fitness classes along with facility use in the price of an annual rec center pass. All members of the community can take advantage of this benefit by purchasing a pass rather than simply paying at each visit.
City Clerk Linda Smith oversees the Wellness Program, and she, along with a stellar Wellness Committee, are creative in coming up with ways to get folks moving and eating more healthfully – fruit bowls in city buildings is one popular idea. The program’s success is evidenced by the fact that last year, 92 out of 136 city employees participated. “What starts as an effort to make small improvements often results in life changes such as running marathons,” Linda told me.
Nick Randall, city mechanic with General Services, likes the program because it helps him stay involved and keep active. He monitors his daily steps and increased physical activity has allowed him to forgo taking insulin. Sara Coffey, in the finance department, loves the program because in addition to helping her stay active, she says it brings employees together. Two years ago, Sara was the female Challenge winner. She says, “It’s fun and a nice benefit of working for the city, which is proactive helping people get healthy, if they choose.
It’s fun; for many, it’s the competition; the health benefits are tangible. For taxpayers and the city, “it saves a lot of money,” said John Dougherty, city manager.
Sounds like a win-win to me.
Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez.