Public Sector Consultants’ long experience with health data and research has propelled the firm into an aggressive employee wellness program – a program that just drew state acclaim and responds to larger trends in health and the U.S. workplace.
On April 24, PSC was officially honored for its wellness efforts with a Diamond Award in the 2014 Governor’s Fitness Awards.
The firm was celebrated as one of two Diamond honorees in the small employer division of the “Outstanding Healthy Workplace” category.
The Diamond Award “recognizes workplaces that have sustained comprehensive programs providing health and fitness opportunities for employees, and are strategic and integral parts of the organization.”
“We do so much research and writing on health policy and healthy behaviors, it’s wonderful to be able to put the knowledge into direct, daily action,” said PSC President Peter Pratt, who heads the firm’s Health Division. “At PSC, we always are striving to create balance for ourselves between excellence in our work and excellence in our quality of life. As we know, modern life offers so many opportunities to not be healthy, so to be able to help our employees improve their habits is gratifying.”
PSC’s efforts on health are multifaceted:
• Since 2005, the firm has operated a healthy workplace program to focus attention on behavior.
• Each year, the firm sponsors the Healthy Habits Challenge, a game to motivate employees to incorporate positive habits into their daily lives.
• In 2012–2013, PSC had 93 percent of its workforce take part in a wellness challenge competition with the Small Business Association of Michigan and the Michigan Fitness Foundation.
• The PSC Wellness Committee regularly surveys employees for ideas to improve health, and sponsors small events, such as yoga sessions and group walks and informational sessions.
“The buy-in from the owners of the firm to the work of the Wellness Committee has been awesome,” said Jacqueline Lafay, a consultant in the Health Division. “The firm has provided flexible desks to allow some of us to work standing; pays for our memberships to the local YMCA; and gives incentives and prizes to staffers for our Healthy Habits Game. PSC makes a clear, consistent investment in our health. And a healthy workplace is a happier, more productive one.
“Just as important, the support from my fellow staff members is incredible. Year after year, they ask about playing the Healthy Habits game, and they are always bringing new ideas to the table to continually improve the health of our office culture. We enjoy our indulgences, but we are learning together how to do it in moderation.”
“While we are doing this because of the personal enrichment opportunities, we are most appreciative of this award, and the entire awards program, for bringing more attention to the cause of healthy living,” Pratt added.
PSC offers this program because it cares about the health and well-being of its employees, but the firm had policy-related objectives, as well.
At least one large-scale study of multiple analyses of workplace wellness programs found a $3 return for every $1 invested. Other studies have found positive results for employee health and behavior, though multiple researchers caution that the body of research is not robust enough yet to provide firm conclusions on health and behavior.
But these gains aren’t necessarily distributed evenly.
In the health insurance marketplace, it’s common for large employers to operate their own health plan, or be “self-insured” or “self-funded. With this model, Pratt explains, if wellness programs lead to healthier workforces that consume fewer health services, the employer and employees can directly benefit via savings on claims and with lower premiums.
Small businesses, however, are traditionally grouped together in “fully insured” plans. In this structure, a single small business that uses a wellness plan and produces a healthier, less-costly workforce can’t directly benefit from those gains, since that firm’s claims “experience” is grouped with that of other firms that may or may not be improving, health-wise.
It’s a goal at PSC to provide additional data and research to advance policy reforms so that businesses of all sizes – and their employees – can reap the maximum benefits of healthier workplaces.
“As an employee, I appreciate PSC’s dedication to the health and wellness of the staff by providing opportunities to participate in activities that promote well-being. Our Healthy Habits game, for example, is a great way to engage staffers and encourage healthier eating and physical activity,” said Amanda Menzies, a senior consultant in PSC’s Health Division.