As a part of our ongoing efforts to improve the health and well-being of all of Hawaii’s people, the Hawai‘i Health at Work Alliance (HH@WA) recently invited its participating employers to attend a pilot series of workshops on worksite wellness. Each of the three workshops — called Collaborative Learning Groups — was open to representatives from up to six different HH@WA member companies.
“These Collaborative Learning Groups have been designed to help employers implement and facilitate worksite wellness programs, not only by giving them access to HH@WA Wellness Advisory Council mentors, but also by teaming them up with like-minded peers in a group setting,” says UHA CEO Howard Lee. “Our goal, now and always, is to provide greater relevance, value and actionable insights to HH@WA members.”
Each group met once a month over a four month period and were supervised by a team of adviser/mentors with experience and expertise in particular aspects of worksite wellness:
- Creating Affordable Healthy Work Spaces and Wellness Policies
- Implementing a Champions Program and Wellness Challenges
- Reducing Barriers to Worksite Wellness
These groups focused on attainable goals and takeaways at every meeting, e.g., “Be able to make simple and affordable changes to your selected workspace.” Participants were asked to bring their real-world problems to each session to receive guidance and proposed solutions from their facilitator and mentors, and to help their own companies and others make progress toward a healthier worksite.
One participant was Mark Sousa. As Director of Golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club, Mark is responsible for a staff of 15 people. He was inspired to take part in the “Creating Healthy Work Spaces” group by a desire to encourage healthier habits in his employees. “Some of our employees smoke, and many drink lots of sugary soft drinks,” says Mark. “I wanted to find out how we could better inform our workers about the benefits of adopting a healthier lifestyle, not just at the worksite but in their lives in general,” says Mark. “Participating in the group seemed like a great way to access the knowledge of best practices in this area from experts who have had success.”
Over the course of his group’s gatherings, Mark and the other participants discussed topics with their facilitator such as: growing capability and inspiring motivation; overcoming barriers and resisting temptation; and how to create a company-wide wellness policy. “The meetings were really motivating,” says Mark. “We got to see what other organizations are doing in the wellness area. Everyone was eager to share their ideas — not just the ones that worked, but also things to avoid.”
For their group project they focused on affordable ways to improve the work environment with what they had on hand, such as cleaning and organizing their space, repurposing existing furniture and other assets — even just a fresh coat of paint. As a final project, his group prepared a presentation to be shared with all HH@WA participants to showcase what each company implemented through the course of the program.
As a result of his participation in the group, Mark has instituted some changes around the golf shop at Mid-Pac. “We cleaned up and re-painted the employee break room. It’s a much brighter and more pleasant space now,” reports Mark. “We’ve also put up colorful posters provided by the Collaborative Learning Group, which highlight healthier lifestyle habits, especially related to the hazards of smoking. And we’ve removed the soft drinks from the vending machine and installed a new water cooler.”
These changes may sound minimal, but many employers have been finding that even simple changes in the workplace environment can have a big impact on employee attitudes and habits. Mark, for one has already seen some behavior shifts. “Since we did these things, I’ve seen fewer people smoking on the job and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback about the other changes as well. I thought we’d get more pushback from people on removing the soft drinks, but we’ve found that people seem to prefer the water cooler — we’re replenishing those 5-gallon containers a lot more often than we thought!
“I’m really glad I got to participate in the group,” concludes Mark. “Our hope is that this new focus on healthier habits will lead to fewer days lost to sick time. We also think that healthier, happier employees are likely to be more productive around the workplace, and to stick around longer in their jobs. And that’s good for our business any way you look at it.”
Front row, L to R: Diana (Hawaii Pacific Health), Val (UHA Health Insurance), Michele (Mid-Pacific Country Club)
Back row, L to R: Mark (Business Consulting Resources), Erica (UHA Health Insurance), Kelii (UHA Health Insurance), James (AXA Advisors), Malcolm (JN Group Inc.), Mark (Mid-Pacific Country Club), Kyle (Wealth Strategy Partners)