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Employers Find Returns in Workplace-Wellness Investments

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By Lorraine Mirabella

Workplace workouts at Agora, which built a gym in the basement of one of its nine buildings, also help build camaraderie, promote work-life balance and attract job candidates, the company said. The firm’s 600 workers also have opportunities to work out at Baltimore clubs MV Fitness Athletic Club and Charm City Yoga.

“We never invested in this thinking we would see a dollar-for-dollar return,” said Agora CEO Myles Norin. “From the beginning, we planned to measure our success based on the number of employees who take advantage of the program and tangentially from the stories of the impact it has on their lives.”

Workers in better health stay at their jobs longer and are absent less, said Vanessa Hedgebeth-Bell, Mid-Atlantic human resources manager for M and T Bank, which hopes to expand wellness offerings this year.

“The return is a more engaged workforce, a happier workforce,” Hedgebeth-Bell said. “We want them to have a better personal life and professional life, and it’s hard to do that when you don’t feel well.”

The banking company hands out “wellness” wall calendars each year with health tips. It sponsors flu clinics each fall. And each spring, employees are invited to form five-member teams to compete in walking and fruit- and vegetable-eating competitions. Employees track the number of cups of fruit and vegetables they consume and wear bank-supplied pedometers to track steps. Winning teams get fruit baskets at the end of each week.

Last year 800 employees participated, walking more than 32 million steps and eating more than 165,000 cups of fruits and vegetables, Hedgebeth-Bell said.

Peggy Miller, a relationship liaison in the business banking department, headed a team a few years ago and said employees in the group offered one another moral support, though they chose not to compete against others in the company. They pooled money and bought fruit and vegetables to eat at the office each day.

“Every one of us commented on how much better we felt not eating chips and snacks throughout the day,” Miller said. “Everyone appreciated having the fresh options available to them.”

©2014 The Baltimore Sun
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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