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Founded in 1914, Easton Utilities
(EU) provides service for electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, cable TV, internet, digital voice and IT professional services. Like most public power companies, EU has an aging workforce, with an average age of 43. The company realized that a wellness program would be needed to keep their employees healthy and productive.
This goal was also personal for EU president Hugh Grunden: after having a heart attack in 2000, he returned to work energized and committed to caring for his health and for the health of his employees. He not only encourages healthy lifestyle choices in the workplace—he is a model for making them. He eats healthfully, has lost weight and is a committed gym member.
Beginnings of Wellness
EU’s wellness program began in an unstructured way with health education events and “lunch and learns” to use local resources to talk about health topics. One of the first programs was Weight Watchers at Work, in which employees collectively lost more than 200 pounds. EU paid for half of the program’s cost, and if employees reached their goal, EU would reimburse for the remainder.
A wellness committee was formed to provide input for the yearly plan design, as well as implement and communicate about upcoming events. EU has a wellness budget, and the company’s insurance carrier pledges money to be used for wellness initiatives. The pledged money is used to cover expenses for on-site biometric screening and to fund incentives for employees to complete an online health risk assessment. EU also developed a long-term plan with a yearly wellness scorecard for employees, including biometric screenings, health risk assessments, annual physicals and participation in wellness activities.
In addition, EU made changes to become an inviting place for employees to practice healthy behaviors. An empty space next to the main break room was turned into a fitness room for weekly classes taught by a certified trainer. To encourage healthy snacking, fresh fruit is available for 25 cents in every break room.
For the past three years, EU has tracked participation, health risks and employee satisfaction. Since 2009, there has been an average of 92 percent employee participation in the wellness scorecard program. Over three years, the high-risk group declined from 14 percent of employees to 10 percent; the medium-risk group decreased from 36 percent to 33 percent, and the low-risk group increased from 50 percent to 57 percent.
In the last year, more than 75 percent of employees who completed a satisfaction survey said their health and wellness knowledge has “increased due to participation in the wellness initiative.” Sixty-eight percent have “made improvements in health and lifestyle as a result of the wellness initiative.”
Significantly, EU’s insurance carrier will be refunding an estimated $100,000 over the coming year. The current loss ratio is 72 percent, which is the lowest in five years. In addition, the turnover rate remains steady at 3.5 percent, and there have been no short- or long-term disability claims since the wellness plan’s inception.
What started as an idea from the company’s president has developed into an integral part of the fabric of the company. The health and wellness of each employee matters to Easton Utilities, as both a company philosophy and a business model.