Working at Change
Mike Bryce (left) runs with Andrew Scibelli, manager of FPL’s Employee Health & Well-Being Program. [Photo: Scott Wiseman]
Mike Bryce got the bad news in 2005 just as Hurricane Wilma was thrashing Florida: A good friend and co-worker had died unexpectedly. Bryce, director of human resources at FPL’s nuclear division, had reason to worry that he might be next: At 5-foot-8 and more than 250 pounds, he was far overweight. He also knew that many of his health indicators, from his blood pressure to his cholesterol level, showed he needed to eat better, exercise more and take better care of himself.
To create a plan for healthier living — and to get help in following through on it — Bryce, 47, turned to his company’s wellness program. FPL’s Employee Health & Well-Being Program, created in 1991, offers the company’s 14,000 employees health education, wellness counseling and health assessments. Many FPL locations also have on-site exercise facilities and some even have on-site medical clinics. The company also gives workers incentives to make healthy choices. Employees who complete health assessments, for example, pay lower health insurance premiums. And smokers who participate in company-sponsored stop-smoking programs can earn extra money for their health reimbursement accounts. The program even aims to improve what workers eat by subsidizing the cost of healthy foods in employee cafeterias.
“You can still eat unhealthy, but if you do, it’s going to cost you more,” says Andrew Scibelli, manager of the Employee Health & Well-Being Program.
Scibelli says the effort has resulted in healthier employees, judging by their health assessment numbers and other indicators such as fewer employees who say they smoke and more who exercise in company gyms. FPL’s healthcare costs, rising between 5% and 9% a year, are increasing slower than the national average of between 10% and 14%. Scibelli estimates that for each dollar FPL invests in the program, it gets $3 back, but he says that’s not the point: “We look at it as more of a value on investment rather than a return on investment.”
Bryce took advantage of just about everything the program offers, particularly the exercise facilities. He also credits FPL colleagues he runs with. “A lot of it is a peer pressure thing,” he says. “If somebody wasn’t there to run in the morning, you could count on getting an e-mail or a voice mail, recognizing that fact.”
The day he officially started trying to lose weight — Jan. 1, 2007 — Bryce weighed 256 pounds. “Tying my shoes was a problem,” he jokes. His goal was to get down to 160 pounds and, by October, he was down to 156. His blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal.
Apart from feeling better, Bryce thinks he’s a better employee now, with more energy to do his job. He has a sharp, new wardrobe, too. “That has made my wife very happy,” he says. “She likes to shop.”
| Links: Learn about American Heart Association-recommended wellness programs.
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Creative Approaches for Small Companies
While big companies like FPL have the resources to fund comprehensive wellness programs, many small companies don’t. The Rollin’ Oats Market & Cafe in St. Petersburg, for example, offers its 20 full-time and 15 part-time employees discounts on many of the store’s health-related products. “We really encourage our employees to eat organic and eat natural foods,” says Mike Asher, the store’s general manager. To encourage that, employees who eat in the store’s cafe get 50% off. They also get 15% to 20% off organic groceries and 25% off supplements and herbal remedies. The effort seems to be working. Most of the employees take advantage of the discounts and, Asher notes, “We have very little downtime that’s actually due to illness.”
Rollin’ Oats Market & Cafe