Responding to increased health-care costs and higher incidents of health issues among staff, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union in Wentzville, Mo., committed to improving its employee’s lives with a wellness program, says Robyn Whalen, president of human resources (HR) and administration for the $207 million asset credit union.
1st Financial Federal’s program started with three basic components:
In an exchange with Credit Union Magazine, Whalen shares more about the credit union’s wellness journey.
CU Mag: What led you to implement a wellness program?
Whalen: We implemented a wellness program to improve the overall physical and mental health and well-being of our employees and their families, as well as to provide wellness education.
The documented benefits of improved wellness are many: higher productivity, better morale, lower absenteeism, and, eventually, lower health insurance costs for all.
Also, wellness supports our core purpose: We help our members achieve their financial dreams.
In order to help our members, we need to be here, with high energy, loving what we do and staying in our jobs. We care about our employees’ health and want to provide opportunities for prevention, early diagnosis, overall improvement, education, and awareness.
CU Mag: How did you approach this challenge? Where did you start?
Whalen: We started by having a collaborative meeting with the wellness representatives from our benefit broker, employee assistance plan provider, and medical plan provider.
Through their resources and guidance, we sketched out an initial plan that included getting a baseline measurement of the health of our employees and planning simple, fun activities throughout the year with a focus on awareness and participation.
Next, we requested employee volunteers to participate on the wellness committee to provide direction, guidance, ideas, and feedback. We ensured that we had at least one volunteer from each department and branch location so all employees were represented at every level.
CU Mag: How did employees react?
Whalen: Employees responded positively to the addition of the wellness program.
In particular, we have a 40% participation rate in our gym subsidy program. By bringing [one of the club’s representatives] to the employees to complete enrollment, it is easy and convenient for employees to participate.
Depending on the level of membership, our subsidy program covers anywhere from 66% to 100% of the employee’s membership.
We saw our greatest increase in participation with the addition of [our online wellness provider’s] company challenge platform and our “Every Step Counts” challenge.
Our wellness committee wanted to focus heavily on rewarding company participation by incrementally awarding milestone bonuses for reaching company goals from one to 15 million steps during the six-week challenge.
The most challenging changes involved the decision to go to smoke-free campuses. We knew it would be a struggle for some employees.
But with the resources offered through our employee assistance provider and the lengthy announcement period we have found that those employees have succeeded in reducing and, in some cases, eliminating altogether their smoking habits.
CU Mag: What other challenges did you face?
Whalen: Our committee is dedicated to living well and being “Wellness Warriors.” It has been a challenge from time to time to get staff all in.
Our committee dreams big and sometimes it has been difficult to step back and remember that our program is young and that baby steps are big wins. We can’t do it all at once.
CU Mag: What advice would you offer other CUs?
Whalen: Celebrate even the smallest victories. It takes time to change your habits.
We found that championing participation was a key to getting our employees engaged with small daily or weekly prizes.
We also wanted our employees to know that regardless of their contribution, every step really does count and together we can reach our goals.