Zen Zone cuts stress, health costs

Wellness has come this far:  Promega, a biotechnology tools company in Madison, WI, offers a Zen Zone. 

This is a place where employees can go on its eco-centric campus to relieve stress through classes in yoga, meditation or reiku therapy.  Soon, the company will be teaching tai-chi, the slow-motion Chinese exercise drill.  Also in the Zen Zone is a sauna,  relaxation room and a tranquil outdoor patio.  The company subsidizes on-site massage therapy and acupuncture.

As health care costs continue to soar in America, more and more private companies are doing whatever they can to keep their employees healthy and out of  hospitals, which can cost more than $5000 per day.

Promega is on the cutting edge of the wellness movement, but it is far from alone.  Royle Printing in Madison, WI,  subsidizes health club memberships and offers extra vacation days for losing weight and keeping it off.

Subzero, a manufacturer of cooling units in the Madison area, helps employees buy bicycles, and it reduces employee health plan contributions by 20% if they participate in wellness activities.

.  Many companies now offer walking paths, on-site flu shots and annual biometric screenings.

But Promega one-ups them all with most of the above, plus a wellness center, a mothers’ room, a farmers’ market on the campus for purchase of healthy produce on Thursdays, a 7×24 fitness room in each of five buildings, two volleyball courts, a basketball court, and a Promega vegetable garden on campus.  Bill Linton, the founder of Promega, adamantly supports the wellness initiative, and that gives his human relations staff  the clout it needs to get creative on the wellness front.

Companies are starting to see the concrete benefits.  Toni Stoikes, benefits manager at Subzero, said that a deep dig on claims data over the last three years shows a downward trend on catastrophic occurrences.  That means fewer expensive admissions to hospitals.

Dr. Raphaela O’Day, a wellness expert, said that some studies now show a positive wellness effect of 2.5% of payroll for productivity and presenteeism.  On a $50,000 salary, that translates to a savings of more than $1200 per year.

She added that creating a “culture of health” results in employees being thee times more likely to take action on health issues.

Middle-sized and large corporations are rapidly figuring out that reducing health costs goes hand-in-hand with keeping healthy and out of hospitals. The gold rush is on.


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