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RHINELANDER - According to a recent survey, employee wellness programs lead to better attendance and increased productivity at work.
The push for healthier employees is led by large corporations, and according to the survey, they're starting to see returns on the investment.
Smaller companies are trying to catch up, including some here in the Northwoods.
Superior Diesel kicked off an employee wellness program two years ago.
They partially subsidize YMCA memberships, host wellness challenges a few times a year, and bring in health and nutrition experts to help employees make lifestyle changes.
General manager Brian Wendt says his company started the program because of rising insurance costs.
He's hoping to see a reduction in claims as employees shift to healthier lifestyles.
"We have seen a return. We can't put a dollar figure to it yet, but over time we feel that there's going to be a definite advantage to the organization," says Wendt, adding that employees have been more collaborative since the program started.
Jenny Mork is an accountant at the company, and she co-chairs the Health and Wellness Committee.
The committee creates company-wide challenges with prizes like a Wii Fit, brings in wellness speakers, and helps employees track their progress.
Mork says the program has created a sense of support, and that's led to changes in and out of the office.
"We'll have meetings like, "Let's go walk this trail. We can get extra points." And everyone has a camraderie to get together and do that," Mork says.
Rhinelander GM & Toyota started chipping in for their employees' YMCA memberships two months ago.
Marketing manager Megan Aus says she's been a big advocate for the program, and hopes it will make a difference personally and professionally.
"We really do value what our employees do here and they spend a lot of time in our actual building, so if they are able to get a better discount at making their life outside the company better, we just felt like it was a no-brainer to offer something like this to our employees," Aus says.
Sales manager A.J. Turgeon says it's part of a healthy work atmosphere.
"The company encourages a balance of being healthy mentally, physically, and anything Rhinelander GM can do to encourage that, they're willing to do that," Turgeon says.
Aus says about 25 percent of their employees are members, and she hopes more will enroll.
"Being active, you have a lot more clarity and you're able to focus a little more at work. So when people come to me to ask about our program with the YMCA, I'm definitely a big advocate of just at least having them check it out for a month or so," she says.
That can lead to long-term change.
"You'll definitely have more energy, you'll be happier, it'll keep you more active and it's all positive," Turgeon says.