Chamber committee unveils new worksite wellness program

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce last month unveiled a new program aimed at worksite wellness.

The program, created by the chamber’s worksite wellness committee, gives a list of activities and topics employers can use to motivate their employees to live healthy.

Randy Kehr

Employees have the chance to earn points for activities like exercising, drinking water and volunteering. After they earn a certain number of points, they can redeem them for Wellness Bucks — essentially Chamber Bucks that can be used at area businesses.

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Chamber Director Randy Kehr said while it does take some investment by the businesses to provide the Wellness Bucks, he hopes it will be another tool businesses can use to encourage their employees to work toward improved health.

He said the health of employees directly impacts a company’s bottom line and noted that local businesses making the effort are seeing a slower increase in the cost of health insurance.

“Plus if you have healthier employees, you have less absenteeism and less worker’s comp claims,” Kehr said.

The program is one of a handful of initiatives the worksite wellness committee has promoted to improve health for employees in the Freeborn County area since its creation in 2010.

The committee has also created a resource guide for smaller businesses and hosted a wellness fair and seminar. It has connected health resources to businesses in need and given awards to employers excelling at worksite wellness.

“I know that the community is really making great strides,” Kehr said.

He said in 2009 when the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project came to Albert Lea only 4 percent of the workforce in Freeborn County worked on tobacco-free grounds. At the end of 2011, that number had increased to 24 percent.

He said the Albert Lea school district has made “tremendous” improvements for both students and employees and noted that many other large businesses are implementing similar programs.

Businesses interested in finding out more about worksite wellness can contact the chamber at 373-3938.