Workplace health and wellness is important

ADDISON COUNTY — It’s June, and that means that it is National Employee Wellbeing Month. It is an opportunity for businesses to implement or improve their employee wellness programs. For many local businesses with effective wellness programs already in place, June is yet another month in a long-term effort to bring wellness and fitness into the workplace. 
Wellness programs within the workplace benefit not only the employees, but also the employers. These wellness programs go beyond health benefits to encourage regular wellness and fitness activities among their employees. The employees’ desire to improve their health creates a happier and healthier workforce that reduces costs for employees and the company, according to Senior Medical Director of UnitedHealthcare of New England Dr. Neal Galinko. 
An estimated 70 percent of employers already offer wellness programs in their companies, with eight percent more planning to follow in the effort during the next year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. 
The most common wellness initiative among local businesses is providing or subsidizing gym memberships for employees, including in Addison County. For instance, Middlebury Dental Group provides gym memberships at the Vermont Sun Fitness Center for all of its employees, and J.W. & D.E. Ryan’s Plumbing and Heating in Vergennes subsidizes 50 percent of their employees’ sports programs, from personal training to golf memberships. 
At the Middlebury Dental Group, gym membership has become a social experience for the employees. People at work coordinate their schedules to go to the gym together and to take body pump and spinning classes together, acting as fitness buddies who push each other to achieve more. 
“Doing things like this outside the office is great for health and team building,” said Dr. Adam Fasoli, one of the two dentists at Middlebury Dental.
For many people, working out together makes it easier to find time for exercise.
In addition to external health and fitness programs, many local businesses also provide job-focused initiatives that promote health and wellness within the day-to-day functions of the workplace. Some companies, such as Middlebury Dental and Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury, put their efforts into improving on-the-job ergonomics  — that is, helping the body move efficiently and without undue strain at workstations — to ensure a physically comfortable and healthy working environment. 
Ryan’s Plumbing and Heating offers health and wellness programs that are specific to the type of work its employees do. The company hosts monthly safety meetings to inform its employees of health and safety concerns that they encounter daily on the job. The topics addressed at meetings range from ladder safety to back safety. 
Further, the company gives its employees an allowance toward footwear. It may seem trivial, but is essential to knee and back health, according to office manager Tanya Scuteri. 
Counseling Service of Addison County goes even further with its health and fitness initiatives within the workplace. In addition to a wellness center and treadmills in the workplace, CSAC encourages its employees to set health and fitness goals and has a buddy system in place to foster community alongside goal completion. 
Despite the wide range of employee wellness programs, many employers work toward fostering wellness not only in individual employees, but also in the workplace community. Participating employees in programs have also reacted positively. 
“They seem to like it a lot,” Middlebury Dental’s Fasoli said with a laugh.

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