A healthy employee is a happy employee. Wellness is a key driver for employee engagement


Share on LinkedIn

This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture

The third INCH

The third inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees involves Workplace Wellness. Little extras designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace and improve health outcomes.

Why is Wellness so Basic?

max borgesWithout health, we have nothing. It’s an easy concept to grasp. More than just health, wellness is also about enhancing productivity. Max Borges of the Max Borges Agency (#713) breaks it down further,

When you feel good physically,” the triathlete says, “you feel good mentally.”

So his South Florida company, which does public relations for the consumer electronics industry, offers employee benefits such as an on site gym, as well as fitness classes and reimbursement for athletic competition entry fees. (Source: DailyFinance.com)

Conversely, employees without a sense of wellness tend to take excessive sick days and suffer from low job satisfaction. Leaders at Canada’s Halton Healthcare (#803) were faced with these exact issues. They found a solution in Kailo, a decidedly psychosocial framework for staff wellness that was developed at Mercy Medical Center in Northern Iowa. Kailo, an ancient word meaning whole, pulls into balance all aspects of health and well-being, including social, emotional, spiritual and physical elements.

We wanted to build trust and improve relationships among employees. Kailo offered proven approaches to demonstrate respect and value for all employees regardless of their current health practices, and allowed us also to promote humor, fun and play in the workplace,” says Anna Rizzotto, Halton’s Kailo Coordinator.

Times of caring and sharing among co-workers were dubbed “Kailo” moments. Staff embraced all the benefits of Kailo, including “Kailo-to-Go” in-services, the Kailo Treat Kart, the Kailo First Aid Basket, and the ever-popular mini-massage. “The feel-good impact of mini-massage appears to surpass all other program offerings!” (Source: Quality Worklife,Quality Healthcare Collaborative)

Two Paths Diverge

As an employer you have two choices. Ignore wellness and pay a hefty premium (pun intended) or take action. Let’s look at a baker’s dozen of companies in the latter category. Organizations that demonstrate the ability to go the extra mile to promote workplace wellness:

Financial incentives

At Kahler Slater (#697), a Milwaukee-based architectural design firm, employees have access to health coaches and risk assessments. Individuals who meet health goals are rewarded with a discount of $720 off their annual health premiums. In addition, the firm sponsors a Wellness Committee that creates promotional and competitive activities to keep its 125 employees engaged. The committee works on three firm-wide activities per year, including charity weight loss challenges and events such as a “Fast Food Challenge,” which encourages employees to avoid fast food for a month. (Source: GreatPlaceToWork.com)

The wellness program at Borshoff (#719) includes subsidized yoga classes onsite, free pedometers, educational seminars and incentives to promote healthy living and positive work/life balance. Those who set and reach wellness goals receive $50 off their monthly insurance premium. The program has 91% employee participation. (Source: PR News Online)

clif bar green goldfish wellness #105

California based Clif Bar sports an extensive gym at its Emeryville headquarters (#105). The company literally pays people to work out. Each employee receives 30 minutes of paid time to work out and exercise. In addition, everyone gets 2.5 hours of personal training each year for free. The company was born on a bike and remains very environmentally conscious. Employees are given a subsidy of $500 to buy a bike (#139) as long as they ride it to the office at least twice a month. Does all this stuff add up? Clif Bar’s Retention Rate is 96%. [Source: ABC News]

Encourages employees to consider alternative transportation, Nature’s Path Foods (#641) offers $500 each year to spend on physical activities, such as the purchase of a new bicycle for commuting and supports employees with secure bike storage and onsite shower facilities.

Winter Wellness

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (#355) there is a free flu shot. Recently, an in-house doctor started at the top of the company’s 30-story office tower in The Woodlands and over three weeks worked his way down, floor by floor, giving injections to nearly 1,900 employees at their desks – at no charge. (Source: Houston Chronicle)

Everyone at First Response Finance (#403) gets a “winter bag” packed with lip balm, an ice scraper, porridge, throat soothers, honey and lemon to see them through the darkest months. (Source: The Sunday Times)

Gym Dandy


Some organizations have a company gym. Others may subsidize or pay for gym fees. Reebok (#4) took this to the next level in 2010 by converting a brick warehouse at Reebok’s headquarters into an employee exclusive CrossFit “box” or workout center, with six coaches and extensive equipment [named CrossFit One]. About 425 employees at Reebok are taking part in Canton. This benefit reinforces the company’s new mission: to get consumers moving. Participants lost over 4,000 pounds collectively during its first year. (Source: Reebok)

In Canada, Accenture (#442) has an interesting perk for traveling employees. If offers the unique “Athletic Minded Traveller” program that includes reimbursement for use of hotel health clubs. (Source: eluta.ca)

Great Little Box Company Ltd. (#496) has a corporate HQ that features a fully-equipped onsite fitness facility (with subsidized membership and personal training services), outdoor sand volleyball court, book exchange library, outdoor gazebo and rooftop deck, and even a dock for employees who wishing to commute by kayak to Mitchell Island. (Source: eluta.ca)

Arc’Teryx Equipment Inc. (#623) provides employees with a wide range of onsite amenities including a fitness facility with an indoor bouldering cave. (Source: Outside Magazine)

gentle giant moving cross fit green goldfish

Submitted by Mitch Curtis,

I was intrigued by the Green Goldfish Project, and wanted to tell you about a unique Wellness benefit at Gentle Giant Moving Company (#778), a small business based in Boston. We have John Zimmer, an in-house chiropractor and renowned Cross Fit trainer that works every day with movers, office staff, and executives in the custom built Cross Fit gym right inside of our warehouse. Our company has always focused on strength and fitness, but over the past few years, John has helped ingrain it even further in our company culture. Everyone here finds his services to be a HUGE benefit, as everyday gym access with a personal trainer can be quite expensive.” (Source: Gentle Giant)

The Full Monty

whole foods green goldfish #77

Whole Foods (#77) pays 100% of healthcare premiums for its employees.

Alterian (#164) pays 99% of the premiums and covers the deductibles of its medical plan and gives employees a $50 monthly health stipend that can be used for health club memberships, vitamins and such. (Source: ChicagoBusiness.com)

starbucks green goldfish insurance benefits #93

Since 1988, Starbucks (#93) has offered full healthcare bene?ts to eligible full and part-time partners. All employees (yes – even part timers who work 20 hours a week) are eligible for health insurance benefits. In addition, the Thrive Wellness Campaign inspires Starbucks partners to take advantage of wellness opportunities and lead active, healthy lives, which, long-term, will help sustain comprehensive benefits at Starbucks. (Source: Starbucks)

Reimbursements and Stipends

Employees at Nerland (#398) are reimbursed their entry fee once they successfully complete any sort of athletic achievement, such as a marathon, 5-K, spint-tri, or bike race. (Source: Outdoor Magazine)

Kashi (#404)offers employees health-insurance discounts for competing in sports leagues and a $400 stipend to spend on “natural healthy-lifestyle” products like a surfboard or cooking classes. (Source: Outside Magazine)

Leveraging Programs and Activities

Groups of employees at Root Learning (#199) gather for yoga every Thursday evening in the company lobby.

Savings.com (#226) supports a healthy lifestyle. The office is currently participating in the P90x program, which is a 90 Day commitment to health, body, mind and energy reserves. The company paid for the employees to get the P90x videos, which have become part of the company’s library of books and DVDs. Savings.com provides a catered lunch for all employees every Tuesday. In addition, it has a fully stocked kitchen with snacks, drinks, and health conscious foods. (Source: Los Angeles Business Journal)

clayco green goldfishBeyond building design and construction projects at Clayco (#320), many employees build toned bodies in a decked-out gym—complete with a personal trainer on the payroll. And after squeezing a quick workout into the day, they can shower off in bathrooms stocked with hairspray, Tums, mouthwash, floss and more. Trainer and wellness director Brian Imholz believes he’s the only full-time trainer in the country with such a job. About a third of Clayco’s 350 local employees regularly work out at the gym.

This is a place where you want to perform as well as you can, because you want to work for a company that takes care of you,” says IT director Tom Dutton.

When Dutton started at Clayco more than a year ago, he weighed 314 pounds. But he began regularly hitting the gym, drawing inspiration from quotes by Einstein and da Vinci painted on the company’s walls. Now he glides on the elliptical machine while answering emails. So far, he’s lost 104 pounds. (Source: St. Louis Business Journal)

Going the Extra Mile for Wellness


As part of its employee support network, the fast-growing energy company NuStar (#10) makes the corporate jet available in times of crisis. In 2010, when an employee working on a construction project in the Caribbean needed medical attention for a pre-existing ailment, NuStar jetted him back to the states to see his personal physician. The company also dispatches the plane when needed to send employees to support a coworker in need — flying employees from headquarters, say, to support a colleague in another location who had a death in the family.

Liberty Mutual (#180) offers “Best Doctors.” This free and confidential service is invaluable during those times when you or a family member receive a serious medical diagnosis. Through this program, founded by doctors affiliated with Harvard Medical School, you can consult with some of the world’s top specialists to gain the insight and additional information needed to help confirm diagnosis and choose an appropriate treatment. Best Doctors is available to employees enrolled in the Liberty Mutual Medical Plan. (Source: Liberty Mutual)

At Dixon Schwabl (#696), a Victor, N.Y.-based advertising and public relations firm, many of the company’s 82 employees began considering whether or not to decline health benefits altogether rather than take on higher rates. In response, the firm introduced a sliding scale benefit for health and dental insurance. For employees with the lowest annual salaries, the firm covers the majority of health-care costs. Those making the highest salaries pick up more of the cost, with top earners paying up to 100 percent of premiums. (Source: GreatPlaceToWork.com)

Balance is enforced at BGT Partners (#738). To further encourage a friendly workplace, employees are expected to say “hi” every morning and “goodbye” every night. And during reasonable hours, no less. According to CEO and co-founder David Clarke, all offices recognize a fairly strict 9-to-6 work schedule. “Our managers will walk around and kick people out if they’re in the office any later. We want people to take care of themselves, and if you’re not happy that’s gonna start hurting your work.” (Source: AdAge.com)

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – I love this example from Southern California. Kaiser Permanente (#210) sponsors bi-weekly farmer’s markets at their campuses. (Source: Los Angeles Business Journal)

All of the examples in this post were taken from the Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


  1. Being fit and healthy has so many advantages on your mood. So I can definitely see how a healthy employee would be more happy and productive. Promoting the idea of health & wellness within the company will surely produce more energetic and producing individuals.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here