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MMA Wellness program matures into employee Wellbeing support

by Laura Muhlstein, HR Director

January 31, 2012

Working with employers in the employee benefits business, we’re often asked how we approach wellness with our own employees. Much like any other employer, our approach has evolved over time. We began years ago, not knowing what we didn’t know. Over time, however, we learned several lessons and have gradually embraced a more well-rounded approach to our employees' overall wellbeing.

In 2005, we started with a team-based weight loss competition with huge cash purses for the winning team. While the short-term weight loss was significant, the only long-lasting impact is the memory of our president, Tim Fleming, wearing sweats and blowing his whistle as he led his team in a lap around the building. Tim’s team later conceded, with CEO Bill Jeatran’s team emerging victorious…and 213 pounds lighter.

As we continued to learn, we focused less on short-term incentives and more on long-term impact. We continued to see year-over-year changes in our health assessment results, but it still didn’t feel like a cohesive approach to employee wellbeing.

By 2010, we started to act on our own belief that there’s more to it than just fitness challenges or healthy eating competitions. Anyone who has listened to or spoken with our health management consultant, Rosie Ward, knows that she bases much of her work on Gallup’s five components of wellbeing. Promoting the wellbeing of employees is more complex than encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits, and Gallup and others have research that supports this.

So in 2011, MMA rolled out its “A Balanced You” platform, which encompasses all the ways that MMA supports an employee’s physical and mental, career, social, financial and community wellbeing. Components vary and include things like healthy food guidelines that promote physical health and MMA’s Charity Challenge, which encourages volunteering with peers and business partners. The platform is reinforced in management and email communications, our monthly employee newsletter and through events hosted by employee-based committees.

We still offer annual no-cost health assessments to all employees and participation in our Wellbeing Rewards program is tied to reduced health insurance premiums. However, we now put less focus on things like spending time at the gym. Instead more emphasis is now placed on helping each employee, a unique person who happens to be a part of the MMA team, identify what wellbeing means for him or herself and take steps toward improvement.