Boost Your Bottom Line with a Wellness Program

By Sherry Leonard

If I hadn’t experienced it, I wouldn’t have believed our wellness program could reduce attrition by 50 percent, absenteeism by 80 percent, and increase our insurance premium by 50 percent, while improving our overall company’s performance. Our program saved us $380,000 in the first year – that’s almost $2,000 per employee!

These fantastic results are exactly what we experienced over a nine-month period. As the president of a lean call center company, CaLLogix, in New Hampshire (an expensive part of the country for a call center to be located), my focus is on being highly responsive to our clients’ changing requirements, delivering exceptional service, and managing a profitable company.

Attrition, absenteeism, and rising healthcare costs negatively affect both service and the bottom line. Our ability to provide superior service depends upon our staff being ready to take the important calls coming into our center. When fifteen people are absent on a single day in a 200-person call center, we have to scramble to cover the calls those agents would have taken. We used to average fifteen absences, but now we average two; that’s much easier to manage.

We initially designed our wellness program to address a few big challenges for our employees: smoking cessation, weight loss, and stress reduction. Our goal was to help our employees become healthier and happier by reducing smoking, eating healthier, and better managing the stress they face in their personal and professional lives.

Employees are better able to serve customers when they are healthier and their stress is managed. Not only has our wellness program increased the health of our employees, but it has also solved some of our key management issues. Here’s how we’ve designed our program:

Smoking Cessation Program: We offer this two times per year. More than half of the program participants stopped smoking initially, and 7 percent are smoke-free one year later.

Conscious Success: This program teaches employees how to quickly reduce stress through easy-to-use mindfulness techniques that can be implemented at any time to immediately calm the nervous system and increase effectiveness in the present moment.

  • Monday Minute: Conscious Success sends out a weekly newsletter with stress-reduction tips, and we also post this on our internal site.
  • Meditations: We hold brief stress-reduction meditations a few times a week, using recordings provided by Harvard Pilgrim and Conscious Success.
  • Webcasts: Conscious Success offers a monthly webcast where techniques are discussed and taught and questions are answered.
  • Awaken Your Inner Radiance Book: We bought this book for our supervisors and administrative staff to help them learn how to reduce negative thought patterns and live a healthier life.
  • Conscious Success Program for Leaders: Our supervisors participated in a variation of the Conscious Success program that focuses on reducing negative thought patterns and stress that affect leadership and management abilities. A 360-degree assessment of participants’ emotional and social intelligence was conducted at the beginning of the program, and they will be evaluated again a year later. We are coaching our supervisors on the results of the assessments to help them further develop their emotional and social intelligence competencies.

Healthy Eating Programs: We organize and run this program internally. It includes:

  • Healthy Recipes: In celebration of National Nutrition Month, we research and post a week’s worth of healthy recipes and healthy dietary guidelines and tips on our internal website.
  • Healthy Start: To encourage a healthy start to the day, during Customer Service Week we offer a snack each morning consisting of apples and peanut butter, granola bars, yogurt, or orange juice.
  • Happy Healthy Day: On Valentine’s Day we wish employees a happy day and introduce them to the delicious health benefits of oranges and dark chocolate.
  • Summer BBQ: At some point during the summer, we offer a relaxing, team-building lunch outside.

Theme Days: To encourage a relaxed, enjoyable, motivating, and happy atmosphere at work, this gives our representatives a fun break, since their home lives are often quite stressful. Some themes are: 50s Day, Patriot’s Day, Celtics Day, Red Sox Day, Ugly Sweater Day, Hat Day, Super Hero Day, and Halloween (with appropriate) dress up.

Customer Service Week: Many of the above-mentioned programs are offered during Customer Service Week. Our most recent theme was Refresh – Recharge – Reconnect. During this week we offered Healthy Start, “Souper” Heroes soup-and-sandwich lunch, puzzle challenges each morning, blood-pressure screening, smoking-cessation programs, flu shots, mini-office yoga classes, and opportunities to reconnect by having supervisors write compliments about their employees on paper leaves that decorated big paper trees on the walls.

+500-Step Challenge: A few times a year, we give pedometers and a log to all employees and encourage them to record the number of steps they take each day. Each time we offer this challenge, we get greater participation from our employees. In addition, many employees participate in our walking club, which meets three days per week at lunch. Our employees are now aware of the number of steps they take each day and have become more active. During Customer Service Week, we have a twenty-four-hour step challenge that gets the whole office moving.

Incentive Program: Agents who consistently meet or exceed goals in key areas – such as attendance, call quality, and up-selling – receive tokens they can redeem for cash and other rewards. Agents can also earn tokens for active participation in key programs and initiatives. Examples include the call center’s walking program, peer-mentoring program, and the wellness program’s kick-off survey.

We fully believe in walking our talk. Our management team participates in the wellness programs, dresses up for theme days, and creates much of the content for our employees. We also celebrate our achievements with our staff. In celebration of our sixth anniversary as a company, we gave each employee a chocolate-dipped strawberry, a glass of sparkling cider, and a note thanking them for their commitment and outstanding support in fulfilling our promise to our clients and their customers.

We’ve noticed some interesting results of this initiative:

  • Employees are more likely to participate in smoking cessation and eat healthier once they’ve participated in the Conscious Success program.
  • Each time we offer the +500-Step Challenge, participation has grown – and the group has become competitive. Now, during ten-minute breaks on rainy days, we see groups of employees walking the halls rather than sitting in the break room. In total, during our step challenge weeks, our employees have walked 2,710 miles and taken over 5,420,000 steps.
  • The number of employees asking for meditation breaks has grown, and attendance keeps rising in these sessions.

Here’s a specific instance where we’ve seen the program improve our customer service:

An irate customer, who tried to place an order online, called in and was not pleasant to our representative. The agent, who had been in our Conscious Success training that day, did everything right: she apologized to the customer, did not make excuses that may have frustrated the customer even further, didn’t become defensive, showed incredible patience with the caller, maintained a positive attitude throughout the call, and turned what could have been a horrible call into a great experience for the customer!

The provider for our smoking cessation program is Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; the provider for our stress reduction program is Conscious Success LLC, and the provider for our incentive program is Snowfly.

Sherry Leonard is president of CaLLogix and has twenty-two years of experience in call center outsourcing.

[From Connection Magazine September 2012]

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