BIGN Gerber

The employees of a credit union that has implemented an incentive-laden health and wellness program developed by Ottawa Kent are listening to their wallets perhaps as much as their health consciousness, and are pocketing as much as an additional $180 a year.

Ottawa Kent, an outsource risk management company and independent insurance agency, partnered with Michigan-based Gerber Federal Credit Union and administered the latter's Wellness401k program in 2012. The concept: In the same way investing money in a 401k can contribute to future financial wellness, investing time and effort into one’s health can help maintain wellness through the Golden Years.

The initiative rewards employees with monetary contributions for completing tasks aimed at improving health. Gerber employees receive $60 at the end of the year for completing an annual physical; $60 by contractually agreeing to not smoke tobacco; and $60 for meeting with a health and wellness coach at least three times a year, explains Ellen Davis, Gerber’s assistant vice president of human resources.

Wellness Revolution

When Gerber implemented its first wellness plan in 2009, roughly 35 percent of the company’s 40-plus employees signed on. In 2014, two years after Wellness401k came into play, Ottawa Kent honored the credit union with an award for commitment to instilling a wellness vision into its business strategy.

The award was cause for Gerber to celebrate a job well done, but not a reason to rest on its laurels, Davis says.

"We have no intention of stopping our commitment to a healthy workplace," she says.

Wellness 401k is based on the Five Pillars of Health and Wellness developed by Dr. Dee W. Edington, the former director of the University of Michigan Health Management Center. The pillars are: senior leadership, operations leadership, self-leadership, reward positive actions and quality assurance.

“Our wellness program follows our mission statement, and that is to improve the financial well-being of each member through superior member services and quality products,” Davis says. "Our belief is that healthy, engaged employees will provide better services to our members."

Gerber employees have been enthusiastic about the wellness program since the partnership with Ottawa Kent was formed. During 2015 and 2016, 95 percent of the workforce participated, she adds.

“Our employees have really gotten on board,” Davis says. “It’s the right thing to do. We are a small company and having our employees live a healthy lifestyle is so important.”

Gerber has taken an active role in trying to help employees by providing information and encouraging them to make better health decisions. One example is the posting of potential side effects of drinking soda on its vending machines.

“We haven’t removed [soft drinks] from our vending machines, but we at least want to mention the bad things about drinking pop,” Davis says. “We made it a point to offer healthy options like water and juices, along with the chips and candy bars.”

Davis notes that offerings at employee meetings include fresh fruit and bagels, but the doughnut holes and candy are there for those who want them.

“Everyone used to dip into the candy, so now we want to offer healthy choices,” Davis says.

To further emphasize a healthy lifestyle and support an important cause, employees are encouraged to participate in the local Relay for Life. The event is a fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society during which participants walk around a track to show support for persons who are undergoing cancer treatment, or have lost loved ones to the disease.