Employers recognized for pledge to health of workers

Published 9:55 am Thursday, October 8, 2009

More than 30 Albert Lea employers received recognition on Tuesday for their commitment to promote employee health as part of the employer pledge portion of the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project.

The pledge, originally mailed out to all Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce members in May, stresses the important role employers play in helping the community improve health and longevity.

During the recognition event at the Albert Lea Business Development Center, Chamber Executive Director Randy Kehr said because of the employers that signed the pledge, more than 4,300 residents in the community have been impacted.

Email newsletter signup

At the time the pledge was introduced, some businesses were already making healthy changes to their work environment, while others were just getting started, Kehr said. Businesses are still jumping on board with the initiative.

The pledge includes guidelines about healthy food choices, smoking policies, movement and other general topics. It also incorporates a place for companies to come up with their own ideas for improvement.

Some of the changes being made include the following: Offering healthier food choices in cafeterias, vending machines and at meetings; amending smoking and tobacco use policies and cessation benefits; hosting walking groups; providing bike racks and shower facilities; and establishing wellness committees.

Blue Zones Health Initiative Director Joel Spoonheim gave a few specific examples of changes that have been made at companies.

Alliance Benefit Group has had 100 percent participation in the Vitality Project.

Daisy Blue Naturals is incorporating simple yoga movements into its meetings.

 Mrs. Gerry’s encouraged its employees to get involved in the walking moais and logged 4.2 million steps from their employees alone.

At Trail’s Travel Center the servers have started wearing pedometers while they work.

Spoonheim said a number of other employers are encouraging employees to walk during their lunch or snack breaks, and others are encouraging fruit or granola at employee meetings instead of doughnuts.

“It’s about giving them a choice,” he said. “It’s been a huge success.”

He said the Vitality Project set out to change environments, and work is one place where people spend a lot of their time. The project’s leaders hope to spread the message of how to create a vital, engaged workforce.

Employers had the opportunity to meet individually with project staff to discuss the initiative and wellness activities for their work site. University of Minnesota nutrition expert Leslie Lytle, who is also the co-director of the Vitality Project, also toured numerous work sites and offered suggestions for changes.

Spoonheim said he hopes employers will continue to reach out to other employers who may not have jumped on board yet, he added.

Employers who have signed the Vitality Project pledge include: Alamco Wood Products, Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau, Albert Lea Family YMCA, Albert Lea Schools, Albert Lea Tribune, Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, Albert Lea Medical Center, Alliance Benefit Group, American Bank, Americana Insurance, Arrow Printing, Cargill, city of Albert Lea, Crossroads Church, Daisy Blue Naturals, Freeborn County, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, Granicrete Minnesota, Green Lea Golf Course, Innovance, Manpower, Mrs. Gerry’s, Peterson Savelkoul and Benda, Quimby Financial Services, Riverland Community College, St. John’s Lutheran Home, The Children’s Center, Trails Travel Center, Tri-State Tax and Accounting and Refunds USA, United Employees Credit Union, United Way of Freeborn County, US Bank and Zumbro River Brand.

Kehr and Spoonheim said the Montessori Children’s House of Albert Lea jumped on board this week.

Businesses interested in participating in the pledge can contact Kehr by phone at 373-3938 or by e-mail at director@albertlea.org.