Leaders share benefits of promoting work health

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Healthy employees equal happy employees.

“When we have a satisfied staff and higher employee morale, that in turn affects patient satisfaction,” said Erin Heberlein, the manager of the Penrose-St. Francis Health Services Wellness Center. “Hospitals are graded quite frequently on their patient satisfaction.”

It’s easy to single out which of the hospital’s departments has unhappy workers because there is normally more turnover.

“So what health and wellness can we adjust and improve for that department to help their mental well-being and employee satisfaction, and then, improve those [patient] scores,” Heberlein said.

That type of thinking is why the health system is a previous Business Journal 6035 Lifestyle winner and again is nominated for an award again this year, which will be presented Aug. 23 at the Pioneers Museum. The 6035 Lifestyle: Changing Attitudes at Altitude event includes a free expo from 10 a.m.-noon and an awards luncheon from 12:30-1:30 p.m. for $35 per ticket.

“I think that the 6035 is a wonderful event because it encourages companies to participate and get involved with [health and wellness] programs,” Heberlein said. “For us to be effective at what we do, we have to be healthy. We have to prioritize our own health so we can effectively take care of our patients and community.”

Steve Schaefer, the CEO of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs, says promoting employee health isn’t just important in the health care industry.

“I think it’s something that if you look at our country we aren’t always the healthiest people,” he said. “I think all of us, if we are healthier, we give more to those we are serving or working for — be it in health care, food services or at any job really.”

The former 6035 Lifestyle Healthiest Executive winner says a company having a good health and wellness program can be beneficial when attracting a desirable workforce.

He explained how a rehabilitation nurse striving to live a healthier lifestyle joined the company’s wellness program a few years back.

“The first time she went on one of our program’s hikes it was up Pikes Peak,” Schaefer said. “She didn’t even make it to Barr Camp, but two years later, after a lot of hard work, she made it to the top of Pikes Peak in 11 hours. People like that are the inspiration that I have for our program and who I want working for me.”

The nurse is now a champion of the company’s health and wellness program and often leads its hikes.

“We also have a local coach that works with all of our employees,” Schaefer said. “It doesn’t matter if they want to compete in an Ironman competition or just want to run their first 5K — they talk to him and he customizes a training program for them so they can be successful.”

For last year’s healthy executive winner, Judy Kaltenbacher, the tax partner in charge at Stockman Kast Ryan + Co., encouraging health and wellness throughout the company is a reflection of her personal lifestyle.

“It’s something that is extremely important to me personally and I try to bring that to the work environment,” she said. “When you have healthy employees, you are just a more productive firm.”

During the company’s busier seasons, Kaltenbacher helped institute health challenges and the monitoring of employees’ water intake as well as their daily exercise.

“Another thing is we provided meals and I really pushed to make sure there always were healthy alternatives,” she said. “Even for other events like birthdays, I try to make sure there are healthy alternatives for people.”

Kaltenbacher believes businesses don’t think enough about what it means to foster a healthy work environment.

“I just know that personally the way I eat and exercise I feel so much better every single day because I have more energy and a clearer mind,” she said. “Also, our health care [insurance] costs went through the roof, and if we are able to help be a part of mitigating the trips to the doctor, then I think we have an obligation to do that.”

Heberlein said it’s the “right thing to do and ethically correct” to promote health and wellness to staff.

“It’s also going to improve the bottom line because you are going to have less absenteeism,” she said. “You will have higher productivity because healthier employees are going to be more productive and have less sick days.”

Meanwhile, in preparation for the upcoming 6035 Lifestyle event, Kaltenbacher is taking on a new challenge.

“I learned each year the healthiest executive kind of challenges themselves to do something outside of the box and I had bought a road bike like two weeks before the event last year so I am going to go ride over from Copper [Mountain] to Vail,” she said. “It will be interesting but I’m looking forward to it and being able to tell people about it at the event.”

Go to csbj.com for more information about the 6035 Lifestyle event.

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