Workplace wellness collaborative provides employer solutions
Employers are asking themselves how they can support their workers' health and well-being. At Kootasca Community Action, participating in a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) workplace wellness collaborative provided some answers.
The nonprofit that serves low income individuals and families in Itasca and Koochiching counties found that simple changes can be the best. These are the healthy lifestyle changes employees can make at the office that can easily be incorporated into their lives away from work.
A group of employees from Kootasca Community Action was all smiles after being recognized for participating in a SHIP workplace wellness collaborative.
"Of the four SHIP worksite wellness initiatives (physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation and support for breastfeeding mothers), we focused on healthy eating and physical activity because there were more people at offices that we could reach with these," said Marta Carrigan, human resources coordinator at Kootasca Community Action.
The employer’s participation came through Get Fit Itasca's Worksite Wellness collaborative, which was funded through SHIP and Healthy Northland, the SHIP grantee for northeastern Minnesota.
SHIP staff showed us that there are so many cool ideas that can work at any size company. - Marta Carrigan, human resources coordinator at Kootasca Community Action
The workplace wellness coordinator in Itasca County guided eight employers, including Kootasca Community Action, through a 12-month process. Representatives from each of the employers met monthly to support each other and were given resources and opportunities for mini-grants to implement new policies and systems within their organizations to directly affect environmental change.
“That contact (with SHIP staff) was extremely beneficial,” Carrigan said. “They helped us find strategies that worked for us and were easy to put in place.”
Getting employees involved at work
Kootasca Community Action has 90 employees at its Grand Rapids and International Falls sites. The company got about 75 percent of its workforce participating in at least one of its workplace wellness efforts, including a water challenge (which encouraged employees to drink 64 ounces of water every day for a week), a healthy snack station and a challenge that encouraged participants to walk each day to reach the equivalent of 120 miles during the summer (15 minutes of exercise counted as a mile).
Because adults spend so much of their day at work, the work environment has significant potential to help employees choose healthier options, which can change lifestyles. That was one of the reasons Kootasca Community Action decided to sign on with the SHIP workplace wellness collaborative in Itasca County.
"SHIP staff showed us that there are so many cool ideas that can work at any size company," Carrigan said. "They showed us what could work for us and helped us put these things in place."