Patti Schauer

5 initiatives to kick-start your wellness program

By Patti Schauer on May 7, 2014

Developing a workplace wellness program is a chance to reinforce and build connections with your brand and each other, while providing leadership opportunities for employees at all levels.

Not to mention the very obvious benefit of developing a healthier work environment and lifestyle for your employees.

Wellness is about a commitment to your employees and the overall health of your organization. To make it work, you need to commit to building the framework around which your employees will take ownership and develop the programs needed to engage over time. There is great strength in allowing your employees to build the program with you. You’ll accrue a higher level of participation and dedication to the elements they develop together.

The benefits will not only impact their personal health; they will impact the health of your organization as a whole.

Our wellness program’s first initiative was an employee survey. The survey gave us direction to better align with our employees’ needs. Interestingly, employees indicated they knew what they needed to do to stay healthy, but were having a hard time incorporating these ideas into their daily schedules. The survey also showed, for us, wellness is about more than just diet and exercise. Alleviating stress and attaining a better level of personal financial balance were also important to our employees. From these findings, we developed our activities.

Here are five activities that have been extremely successful for our agency. You can develop plans for your own business around these to help kick-start your own program.

1)     Plan Activities (stress reduction) – Maybe it’s softball. Maybe it’s bowling or biking. Whatever your approach, getting people together for fun activities and exercise can help reduce stress. In addition to growing an active group of bicyclists, another fun activity we started was a “bags” tournament. Teams were quickly formed, brackets created, and trash talking started soon after. It was a fun-filled 60 minutes with lots of laughter and only one sore shoulder.

2)     Lunch and Learns (nutrition and diet) – The YMCA has joined us to not only shared how to cook quick, nutritional meals, but also to discuss where to find these ingredients and why they are important. Those who attended feel they are less intimidated when preparing foods that might include unusual items. It becomes a great way to gather over non-traditional, healthy meals that allow employees to explore and share alternatives on their own.

3)     Walking Lunches/Meetings (exercise/stress reduction) – Core is located along a rather hidden stretch of the Milwaukee River in Walker’s Point with many walking paths available. There is nothing like being outside on a beautiful day. We try to do group walks at least once a month over the lunch hour. In addition, we have started doing walking meetings. Often, employees will see something interesting on the walk and take pictures to share with the agency. A little activity goes a long way to stimulate our brains.

4)     Taking the Stairs (exercise) – We’re on the top floor of our building. It’s a good chance for the tried and tested “take the stairs” approach. We have designated days where each time you take the stairs up the full seven stories, you get a sticker. The top three winners are recognized at the end of the week. Interestingly, employees will try to see where they are in relation to others and making sure, on their breaks, they get in some additional flights before time is called.

5)     Healthy Potluck (nutrition and diet) – Our healthy potluck lunches not only include everyone bringing in a dish to pass, but also sharing the meal while watching a documentary on nutrition and diet. Like the lunch and learns, employees will try other recipes as well as continue the dialogue of that day through our internal social media platform, Yammer.

Starting a wellness program can be intimidating as there are so many directions to go. However, if you listen to your employees’ needs and tailor activities to those needs, you will have a successful program.

5 initiatives to kick-start your wellness program


Patti is Core’s VP of finance and human resources. She whips us into shape in more ways than one. Core’s wellness program, and its wide acceptance and adoption by our employees, is the work of both Patti and Christine Ruth, our accountant. And you may enjoy knowing Patti was named among Milwaukee’s Fittest Execs by BizTimes Milwaukee. At the gala event, she even took home the gold in the planking challenge … holding out for more than nine minutes. That’s right, she held a plank for nine minutes. Just think about that next time your arms start quaking after 30 seconds.