Wellness support and outreach make for good chemistry

Company leaders know, instinctively, that supporting health and wellness activities is a valuable benefit for employees. Research has established that active work-based wellness programs help build teamwork, boost morale, reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity. But, like anything else that requires employee involvement on a personal level, it takes time, effort and ongoing communication to build momentum and participation.

Charkit Chemical Corporation, in Norwalk, has 55 full- and part-time employees, with 40 in Norwalk. This chemical distribution company offers a wide range of products to the specialty chemical, flavor and fragrance, personal care, food, pharmaceutical, imaging, water treatment and metal treatment industries. Founded in 1982 by Charlie Hinnant, Charkit’s president, Charkit joined CBIA’s Health Connections program in 2011. Bryant Hinnant, Charlie’s brother, is Charkit’s general counsel, part of the Charkit senior management team, and served as the Company’s original wellness champion.

Charkit  started out promoting health and wellness conservatively – everyone on their team liked the idea, but people were all very busy with work and life, and many had their own physical fitness regimens already in place. Employees were encouraged to complete CBIA’s online personal health assessment and CBIA Healthy Connections and other wellness articles were shared with the employees. There was some enthusiasm to start but no formal effort or large movement to jump on the fitness bandwagon.

“When it comes to personal health and a healthy lifestyle, people often have good intentions. But left to their own devices, motivation typically takes time, gentle and consistent prompting, and a significant change in personal health or circumstances to exact real change,” Hinnant says. “Some of our employees were golfers, some were runners, we had a few gym lovers, but we had a lot of ‘couch potatoes’ as well.”

Charlie Hinnant decided to build an onsite gym and make it available for free to employees. Charkit added a weight room, universal exercise machine room, and bicycles, rowing, and jogging equipment. Charkit also added lockers and two shower areas, and a television monitor for cable shows or videos. Initially only a few employees used the gym, but that number is now up to 12 regular users,  plus a significant number of other employees who work out as time permits. Videos on training, biking and related subjects were purchased, and made available to employees as well.

About four months ago, Hinnant turned the wellness champion role over to Christian Gomez, an accountant at the Norwalk facility. Both acknowledge that every company or small business can’t build a gym at their office, but say there’s still much that can be done to encourage health and wellness and to involve employees in activities and events. For example, Charkit has sponsored flu-shot clinics and hosted fitness meetings and discussions. Gomez talks regularly to his fellow employees to gauge their interest and to measure participation, and Charkit management pays entry fees for community walks, charitable athletic events, sponsors activities in several local programs, and is very open to ideas and suggestions for new programs.

“In addition to working out, our employees have been involved in cancer walks, and we sponsor a co-ed kickball team,” Gomez says. “We support other team-building interests as well such as community food and clothing drives. If someone comes to us with a good idea, we’ll take it up the ladder as required to obtain funding, communicate it to the staff, and actively promote participation.” The support and outreach is appreciated, he stresses, and he turns to the CBIA Healthy Connections health and wellness portal and other resources for ideas and suggestions.

“Even though I’ve only been in the role a short while, I can see the difference in people’s attitudes and impressions,” Gomez observes. “While it’s all across the board, almost everyone here in Norwalk does something of interest to them related to improving their health and wellness, whether formally or informally. They appreciate the opportunities and the fact that our company is taking a role in helping them reduce stress and improve their health. What they’re doing doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they’re choosing to do something.”

Hinnant agrees, and adds that when companies demonstrate an interest in their employees’ welfare and health, people notice and this drives participation and strengthens teamwork. “In many ways, we’re just in our infancy when it comes to wellness,” Hinnant reflects. “We’ll continue looking for ways to participate, be it through softball, bowling, soccer, charity events or whatever interests our staff and fits their schedules. There’s only so much you can do when we all have our ‘day jobs,’ but as we get more experience and our efforts mature, so will participation and the direction of our programs.”

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If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!