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Staying fit in the office

Companies are now realizing that “investing” in the health of their employees translates to increased productivity in the workplace.

By Mayang Reyes

There’s a new trend among office workers. Some of them have started their own versions of The Biggest Loser, the reality TV show where obese participants compete to lose the most weight. In the office version, employees sweeten the pot with cash contributions which the winner—or “biggest loser”—gets to claim at the end of an agreed-on period of time. In some cases, the just-for-fun activity works, albeit in an unsustainable manner.

Studies suggest that ailments are acquired through time due to work-related issues such as stress. This, in turn, results in unhealthy eating habits such as snack bingeing or making do on fast food or instant noodles and soups when employees eat at their work stations.

Office Gym

When Holcim Philippines moved to their new office in March of 2009, it opened an in-house gym equipped with state-of-the-art facilities comparable to high-profile fitness centers in the country.

In the past, the company offered its employees subsidized memberships to commercial gyms. There were few takers, as most cited lack of time and the additional commute needed to exercise elsewhere. An on-site gym meant convenience and better access to employees. In addition, fitness coaches with backgrounds in sports science work with a fitness consultant. They make sure an employee gets his needed workout session depending on his health status.

Fitness coach John David Reyes recalls a 214-pound employee who lost 26 pounds. He also cites the company COO who is a fitness buff. “People see him at the gym first hour in the morning, which really sets a good example to the employees,” Reyes added.

Holcim said investing in the program has yielded “excellent returns” in terms of the “higher productivity and quality” they have noted in their workers.

Holistic program

Power distributor Meralco offers its employees a program called the Brave Circle Chain, which targets the fields of nutrition; sports and exercise; socio-spiritual, psychological and emotional therapy; and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

The program started in 2004 as a result of a company-wide health risk assessment. It showed that some employees had common lifestyle ailments like obesity, fatty liver, elevated lipid or high cholesterol. Thereafter, Meralco changed the focus of its John F. Cotton Hospital to preventive rather than curative care and called the facility The Corporate Wellness Center. In-house dietitians help evaluate an employee’s nutrition and food choices. A computerized database allows health profiling and monitoring, and a body fat analyzer monitors changes or improvements in an employee’s weight.

“Management believes that keeping employees healthy at all times would reflect positively on their performance—less absenteeism due to sickness, better quality of work, higher productivity, and better customer service in general. In return, more customers will be satisfied,” said Nina Carmina Pablo, administrator of the Corporate Wellness Center.

Corporate Fitness

Shell Philippines is also due to launch its Be Well program. Dr. Rose Rivera, Country Health Manager of Shell, said the program was designed to empower employees to take control of their health.

For its Be Well program, Shell has purchased cardio machines like treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical and weight machines. It is also making available Wii fitness consoles in select locations as a more fun option for employees.

An employee’s fitness progress can be monitored via an online health risk assessment. “The company can also generate statistical data to track the progress of the employee groups,” Rivera said.

The company has also asked its employees for reasonable contributions on selected activities to reinforce commitments to remain fit and well. In turn, company units have been asked to “integrate existing resources into the Be Well Program” to show that the company is serious in making it sustainable.

Full article appears in HealthToday’s December 2010-January 2011 issue.

State-of-the-art facilities at HOLCIM’s gym
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