Apply Now
Contact Us

NMC Makes Strides in Workplace Wellness

Posted by Dylan Hartnett Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015


Checkout this great picture of the NMC Color Run Team! These fabulous NMC folks were featured in the Omaha World Herald for being apart of a wellness friendly workplace. Here is the article below written by Bryan Redemske and published on Feb. 1st, 2015:

If you were to ask the CEOs and leaders of a dozen companies around the Midlands what their most precious resource was, you’d most often get the same answer: our people.

The most advanced machinery or processes in the world don’t have much value unless the people tasked with making it all work are fully engaged and committed to producing superior products or services.

Helping businesses reach this point with their employees has been the work of WELLCOM — formerly the Wellness Council of the Midlands — since 1982.

“We were founded upon the mindset of a strict business strategy,” said Rebecca Vinton, president and CEO of WELLCOM. “The goal was to create better business, and we have not wavered from that.”

WELLCOM is a nonprofit dedicated to helping companies provide wellness programs, training and benefits to companies across the Midlands. It was founded by the CEOs of Union Pacific, Mutual of Omaha, Valmont Industries and Central States Health & Life Co. in a two-hour meeting nearly 33 years ago.

“Back then it was the model organization of its time,” Vinton said. “We now work with more than 250 companies to help them integrate wellness programs into their business.”

Vinton said the key to incorporating a successful wellness program is to make it operate like every other part of the business.

“It has to be integrated into the way they do things,” she said. “It’s not just an ‘activity of the month’ club. It’s a part of the business.”

There are big benefits available for companies willing to dedicate time and resources to such efforts. By focusing on well-being, businesses can show employees that they care and are willing to invest in them not just as an asset, but as a person.

Each year, WELLCOM honors local businesses with Well Workplace awards for their wellness efforts. Companies aiming for such an award need to demonstrate an integrated program that collects data and catalogs results in order to evaluate ongoing progress. And it needs to be built into the fabric of the company.

Kenneth Bird, CEO and president of Avenue Scholars, saw the benefits of that kind of investment as superintendent of Westside Schools. In the years prior to his retirement in 2008, the district earned gold, silver and bronze well workplace awards from WELLCOM.

When he founded Avenue Scholars in 2008, Bird knew a wellness program would be a key part of the organization.

“It’s important to the employee base,” Bird said. “Healthy employees are better engaged, and from my standpoint it’s the right thing to do for employers large or small. You don’t have to be U.P. or Werner or OPPD to do this. It’s important for employees to have the support they need.”

The Avenue Scholars wellness program is run by Brad Ekwerekwu, who balances the program with his regular duties as the career team leader. Ekwerekwu, who earned his doctorate in health education and wellness promotion at the University of Missouri, participated in a handful of WELLCOM seminars prior to taking over the program two years ago.

Today, Avenue Scholars’ 27 employees enjoy a program that provides wide-ranging benefits. A 16-week program in the summer and fall delivered local, farm-fresh vegetables to the office once a week. Meetings that once featured snack trays loaded with cookies and cakes now have plates of fruits and vegetables. Longer meetings include breaks that require attendees to get out of their chairs and walk.

Multiuse water bottles have been handed out, encouraging employees to stay hydrated. Weekly yoga classes started in January, and the office has its own recycling container downstairs. Employees were able to get personal health screenings, including full lab work, and later could review the results one-on-one with a University of Nebraska Medical Center physician.

“This is part of the culture of the whole organization,” Ekwerekwu said. “These things are a relevant conversation — how much are we sitting, moving, drinking?”

Going further, Avenue Scholars has a contract with a counseling firm, which makes its services available to employees and their families, free of charge.

“It’s an awesome resource,” Ekwerekwu said. “This is demanding work that’s really predicated on taking care of others. So how do you take care of yourself?”

That whole-person approach has served Nebraska Methodist College for many years. Under the guidance of Dennis Joslin, the president and CEO, the school has achieved the platinum well workplace award from the Wellness Council of America.

“We really look at well-being from a holistic standpoint,” Joslin said. “Yes, there’s a physical element, but what about the social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual elements?

“Not everybody will want to do the Corporate Cup run or Trek Up the Tower, but what about a book club or a biking group? We have a volunteer group that coordinates programs based on the interests of our employees.”

For Joslin, having a comprehensive wellness program is a key component of the school’s mission of promoting the health and well-being of the community it serves.

“It’s central to everything we do,” he said. “And it’s not just about how many steps were logged in the walking contest or who participated in the Biggest Loser contest. Those are important, but we’re looking at the employees themselves. Are they healthier and happier?”

Through its wellness offerings, Joslin says Nebraska Methodist College has been able to see a demonstrable impact on its bottom line by not just decreasing absenteeism, but also increasing something called “presenteeism” — being focused and engaged in the job.

“This is something we look for and promote early in the process here,” Joslin said. “It translates to how we do our work with our students. It’s how we invest in each other. It builds the strength of the organization.”

Topics: campus life, fitness, wellness

About the Author