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Column: WOW! County wellness programs go lean financially

By Melissa Cushing, Goodhue County Human Resource Director

Today, the average age of a Goodhue County employee is 45 years old and nearly one-third of our current workforce is able to retire. Evaluating these statistics and the implications of a changing workforce, Goodhue County made a conscious decision to invest time and energy into promoting an employee wellness program.

It is a fact that our workforce is aging and we needed to help our employees recognize the necessity of engaging in their personal wellness. Because of this, Goodhue County created an employee-driven wellness program. This has been in place since 2004.

The Wellness Committee or WOW — Working on Wellness as it is currently named — created a mission statement, "Creating a Culture of Health and Wellness," along with a vision statement, "To create a supportive environment that encourages healthy lifestyles and increases the overall health our employees."

The newly formed committee consisted of employees from various departments; these adventurers were basking in the glow and excitement of forging in a new wellness direction. Like any innovative committee, the members had numerous ideas about how to promote and engage wellness with employees. Along with the ideas came the necessity to pay for those ideas.

Next for our new team came the realization that our enthusiastic committee would receive no financial assistance from the county budget. At that point the WOW committee was thinking about making lemonade out of lemons. Unfortunately, we did not even have funding to buy the lemons.

We regrouped, shifted our focus and we came up with several wellness programs that required no financial support. The group realized that our co-workers are made of many smart, talented and creative employees. Since the beginning of our wellness initiative, we have utilized a nutritionist from Public Health to provide training sessions over lunchbreaks about healthy eating. We have utilized an assistant county attorney and a probation officer to teach yoga before and after the work day begins. Also after the work day ends, we have had a Public Health nurse train employees on meditation.

We had a walking contest, Tour de Goodhue, where employees logged over 13,000,000 steps. The committee took advantage of the beautiful bluffs in Red Wing and led bluff hikes after work. We created five walking routes of various lengths from one mile to three miles and all of them wind through Red Wing.

We promoted drinking water as a healthy beverage by promoting Water Only Wednesday, which was named after our WOW committee.

Finally, one of the most popular events is promoting men's health in November for our Movember program. Male employees take a selfie at the beginning of November with a clean shaven face. At the end of November, they take another photo showing a fully grown beard. Employees vote on the before and after photos for their favorite beard.

Through the years, our WOW committee has grown to become a recognized leader promoting a healthy lifestyle. To this day, the committee does not receive funding from the county budget. Over the years, we have found creative ways to receive dollars for wellness through grants and other various resources but that funding is usually one time only; once the dollars have been spent, the funding source is exhausted.

The message we hope to convey through this article is that even if you do not have a financial resource, you can still promote and support a healthy environment for your employees.

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