New Employee Health & Well-Being Program Proves Fitness Isn’t a Mission Impossible

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 8:45 am PDT

By:

Mark Alders, VP, Total Rewards, Avery Dennison, Corporate

Last fall, we took a dose of our own medicine. To get employees excited about being healthy and demonstrate its benefits, four teams of employees from across our company took part in a friendly contest called Mission Possible Wellness Challenge. Their mission? To get fit and enjoy doing it. Over three months, teams competed to outdo each other in a variety of metrics, including physical activity, steps taken, calories burned and sleep efficiency.

Avery Dennison employee on a hiking adventure

The results were impressive. Those 40 employees burned enough energy to power an average house for five months. They also walked nearly 4,000 miles. In the process, they shared inspiring photos and videos of their workouts on our intranet, supporting each other and baiting other teams with plenty of friendly competition.

 

Mark Alders, vice president of Total Rewards and a self-described fitness evangelist, not only took part in the competition—he also paid close attention to the results his colleagues were posting and the fun they were having. At the time, he and his team were just a few weeks away from launching a corporate health and well-being program. But when he saw how the challenge sparked enthusiasm among his coworkers and, more important, helped them find an exercise plan they could stick with, he and his steering team decided to capitalize on many aspects of the challenge, including the positive “Mission Possible” program name.

Mark Alders participating in Tough Mudders competition

“I’m a huge fan of encouraging people to take small steps to health through better choices, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or ordering the salad instead of the fries,” said Alders. “I believe that’s how people make permanent change in their life—one small step at a time. The original challenge didn’t say you had to run a marathon or work out at the gym two hours a day. It encouraged people to simply find something they enjoyed doing and slowly make it part of their life. And that’s the idea behind Mission Possible.”

Launched as a pilot program for U.S. employees and their spouses last April, Mission Possible consists of quarterly fitness challenges that can be scaled based on how a person exercises; gym rats can push their workout to the extreme, while those just coming off the couch can take things more slowly. Participants use whatever physical activity tracker they have to log and share their progress online. Highlights of their progress are reported weekly on the company intranet. And they’re supported by nearly 70 on-the-ground “health ninjas”—colleagues who check in with participants on their goals and progress, invite them to exercise with other coworkers and help them fine-tune their workouts. (Right now, employees outside the U.S. take part in the program by participating in fun quarterly contents that focus on sharing things like their own inspirational fitness stories, or motivational photos and quotes. Alders hopes to eventually take the full program global.)

Avery Dennison EU employees on a biking adventure

So far, the results have been encouraging.

“We’ve had one employee already lose 14 percent of her body weight. And we have a few hardcore employees who regularly log 28,000 steps per day. But mostly, we’ve seen a good number of employees who are just taking those small steps and finding exercise they like enough to do regularly, and keep with it.”, says Alders.

The key, he believes, is developing a program that’s encouraging without being preachy—one that doesn’t require employees to be all in or all out.

“Most health and well-being programs you grew up with felt like they were run by a librarian or an angry nurse. They were about pushing out a recipe once a week, or some really prescriptive exercise plan. Our program is more positive. If you’re sitting in front of the TV or computer all the time, and maybe you typically walk 2,000 steps a day, then a win for you is 2,500 steps per day. Don’t worry about your colleague who might be doing 12,000—this is about running your own race,” Alders said.

Avery Dennison employee hiking

In the coming months, Alders and his team will continue to shape the program based on employee feedback. He says that although a healthier workforce likely pays productivity and financial dividends, the impetus for the program has more to do with Avery Dennison’s overall approach to employee safety and well-being and the company’s ongoing effort to create a great place to work.

“We want our employees to be happy and healthy,” Alders said. “This is not a company that’s only interested in squeezing every last bit of productivity out of people. We believe that if you help employees take care of themselves, you’re a stronger company in every way.”

To learn more about Avery Dennison, visit us at: www.averydennison.com

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