Exercise & Fitness

How KC Stays Healthy at Home and Work

Hallmark Business Connections helps companies establish wellness programs

No matter where employees work, living a healthy lifestyle is important on a personal and professional level. If your employer doesn’t offer a wellness program or incentives, then perhaps it is time to start a discussion to launch one.

As the business-to-business unit of Hallmark Cards, Inc., Hallmark Business Connections (HBC) works with more than half of the Fortune 100 companies to establish corporate wellness initiatives, employee recognition programs and customer engagement strategies that have proven successful in-house as well.

“We’re very proud to say we walk the talk,” says Jennifer Patel, wellness engagement director for HBC. “It’s important for us to utilize the tools and programs that we provide for our own clients.”

Patel heads the company’s groundbreaking wellness engagement program, HealthWorks, which earned HBC recognition as a 2013 “Healthiest Employer” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal and inspired its clients to implement similar health and wellness programs for their employees.

In fact, HBC motivates more than 20 million people every year to live healthier lifestyles through its flagship office in Minneapolis and branch offices in Duluth, Minn., and Kansas City. “Because we have employees in three locations, it was important for us to build a program that was flexible to work for the culture of each organization,” Patel notes.

HBC’s senior leadership team established a wellness council to conduct surveys and interviews with employees from each office. The results gathered led to three core areas of focus under the HealthWorks program: physical activity, wellness/nutrition and financial health (understanding the relationship between wellness and financial stability.)

All 225+ employees are invited to participate in multiple on-site events including health fairs, financial planning seminars, smoking cessation and at-work weight loss programs, classes on grocery shopping, flu shot clinics, biometric screenings and lunchtime yoga sessions. Outside of the office, employees are encouraged to partake in 5K events and HBC’s 14-week Run/Walk/Pedal program.

Each activity completed has a point value. Participating employees can rack up their points and earn up to $250 a month in gift cards of their choosing. “We have partnerships with over 200 gift card retailers,” Patel says, adding that when employees are empowered to choose their own reward, it tends to strengthen their engagement overall.

Monitoring the program’s progress is a top priority for HBC. “We base our results on participation and how deeply employees engage with the program,” Patel explains. “We look at our participation efforts, track that monthly and then year-over-year to see if we need to refresh a program. Lunchtime yoga, for example, had less participation this year than last year and even less than the year before, so maybe we’ll switch things up and try Zumba.”

In addition to its point-based incentive program, HBC has done a number of things around its offices to promote health awareness. There is a dedicated HealthWorks area in the break rooms, notices in employee restrooms, posters and easel boards in common areas and articles in HBC’s monthly newsletter. The company also hosts its annual HealthWorks Week, an entire workweek devoted to wellness-related topics and programs.

Baskets of fresh fruit are routinely brought into the break rooms, “and it’s amazing how much the employees appreciate that,” Patel remarks. “We also worked with our vending companies to provide skim milk and low-calorie snacks, and raised the price on unhealthier items. Hallmark’s corporate headquarters in Kansas City has its own cafeteria and makes sure the more nutritious food options are priced very attractively to the employees.”

This year, HBC is implementing a new health risk assessment program. “One of the things we strongly promote is the importance of prevention,” Patel says. “Preventative care is a part of our health insurance benefits, so we strongly encourage our employees to make sure they are getting those annual checkups so they know their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. That will help us gauge some baseline data. We’ll do it again a year from now, and again a year from then, so we can evaluate trends and find out how many people are smoking or how many people are exercising on a regular basis.”

From a business perspective alone, the benefits to having a corporate wellness initiative are invaluable. “We strongly believe that if employees are engaged and healthy, they will be happier and more productive in the workplace,” Patel says. “We also know that wellness programs can contribute to reducing health care costs.”

Prior to joining HBC three years ago, Patel was the national wellness marketing director for UnitedHealthcare. “I was thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of Hallmark because they have over 100 years of experience engaging people on a personal level, and since health and wellness are such personal areas of someone’s life, I couldn’t think of a better fit.”

Story by Kathryn Jones