Whether it’s a workout buddy, Zumba class, or a Spartan team, working towards wellness alongside others creates a sense of accountability, motivation and fun.

So why is it that the place many spend most of their day with the largest group of people–the workplace–is often the least healthy? From hours at the computer and stressful projects to cupcake celebrations and 3pm Starbucks runs, there are many office activities that promote unhealthy behavior over workplace wellness. And while numerous large companies have incorporated wellness programs and incentives for their employees, it is often more challenging for smaller organizations.

The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, is now making it easier for small- to mid-size businesses to incorporate a healthy culture. From their ongoing work here in the Coachella Valley, CHMI has identified that, while larger companies can bring in healthy chefs to change menus and provide workout rooms for employees, resources are lacking for smaller organizations.

“We hope to provide a framework on how to create a continual and self-sustaining program,” says Alex Chan, Director of National Health for CHMI. The workplace wellness program, which is designed to be no or low cost, will have four key components: physical activity, nutrition, mental health, and how to build support for the program. Free templates which can be tailored for individual businesses and a turn-key tool kit will be provided.

Details of the program will be presented and distributed by the CHMI at an open meeting on September 30 at the UCR Riverside campus in Palm Desert. The presentation will answer questions such as:

  • What are the things you can do today to improve the health of your employees?
  • How do you communicate what you have in place, and what does it mean to employees?
  • How do you value the cost of investing time and money in such a program?

Invitations to the event are required and can be obtained by contacting Tricia Gehrlein ([email protected]). All valley businesses–large and small–are encouraged to attend.

“This effort started with the Coachella Valley,” said Chan. “What we have implemented in other cities was learned from your local stakeholders [who have come together through the CHMI]. You all should take a lot of pride in that.”

The CHMI program was first introduced at the kickoff breakfast for the Workplace Wellness Challenge, part of the United Way/Tram Run Challenge’s Nine Weekly Walks.

“Joining the Workplace Wellness Challenge now is easy to do and a good place to start,” says Kristal Granados, CEO of the United Way. The program began with the Nine Weekly Walks on August 20 (free 5k walks in 9 valley cities over 9 weeks), but companies and individuals can join all the way through October 15.

After companies register, employees begin to record all health activities for the sake of fitness (walking, running, drinking water, eating healthy), and a bit of competitive fun. Fitness tracking for participating teams is compiled via fitness platform Wellable.co, and the teams with the highest points will earn wellness awards. Registration, participation and the 9 walks are all free.

The walks and Wellness Challenge will culminate on October 22 with two iconic events – the Palm Springs Aerial Tram Road Challenge 6K Run/Walk, and the Desert AIDS Walk & Wellness Festival at Ruth Hardy Park.

“This is about being preventative, being proactive, and looking at how we can collaborate to keep a healthy community,” said Mayor Linda Evans of La Quinta.

The Clinton Foundation is making it easier for local companies to incorporate employee wellness.

The Clinton Foundation is making it easier for local companies to incorporate employee wellness.

Companies can join the pool and/or challenge other organizations. Points are averaged per employee to even the playing field, so the size of your company doesn’t matter. Activity can be entered manually or via Fitbit (or similar) technology. Extra points are earned for participating in any of the 9 weekly walks, and those who attend 6 of the 9 walks are entered into a raffle that is drawn at the Tram Run awards ceremony. Last year’s prize was a $1,000 package for accommodations and spa services at the Rancho Los Palmas Resort.

A representative from the Coachella Valley Water District whose team won the Workplace Wellness Challenge last year said the program is “beyond easy” to implement. HR posted the challenge on the company’s intranet, on flyers and via paycheck insertions. “If you make it competitive and make it fun, employees will take it from there. HR wins–and you don’t have to do much for it.” She added that employees were chasing after each other saying, “You’re drinking water! Make sure to get your points!”

How did last year’s participating companies benefit? The United Way asked participating employees how they felt about the Wellness Challenge. 87% recorded that the program motivated them to increase their physical activity and to live a healthier life; 75% said the challenge had a positive impact on their health reporting losing weight, drinking more water, eating better, and managing stress. Most importantly, the challenge helped strengthen their workplace relationships, and they were more productive at work.

“As a union between the United Way, Tram Road Challenge, Workplace Wellness Challenge, and the Nine Weekly Walks culminating with Desert AIDS Walk and the Tram Run, this is the largest non-profit health collaboration the Coachella Valley has ever seen,” adds Granados. “It’s important for employers to give their employees the opportunity to participate, because employees are telling us this is what they want, and that they feel more connected by participating.”

To attend the CHMI presentation on September 30, please email Tricia Gehrlein [email protected]. To register for the Workplace Wellness Challenge, contact Kristal Granados at the United Way [email protected] or call (760) 323.2731. For more information on the Nine Weekly Walks, visit www.UnitedwayoftheDesrt.org. For information about the Tram Road Challenge 6K or Desert Aids Walk, visit: www.kleinclarksports.com/tram


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