Why wellness works

Written by: Linda Matzigkeit
Published on: Dec 14, 2017


As a nonprofit organization managing more than a million patient visits annually, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta provides specialized care that helps children get better faster and live healthier lives. It takes a team of more than 11,000 employees to care for all of the patients and families we serve, and we developed our People strategy to help ensure our employees feel supported so they can focus on the work they love.

As part of our People strategy, we launched a robust employee wellness program, Strong4Life, with one simple belief: If we take better care of ourselves, we will in turn be able to better care for the children we serve.

That simple belief has stood the test of time. Our employee wellness program is now in its 10th year, and our data shows that 97 percent of employees surveyed see Strong4Life as a benefit to them. Over this last decade we’ve learned a lot, and I hope sharing our journey will inspire you to think about your teams, and how an employee wellness program can support your employees in a way that helps your organization carry out its mission.

Redefining corporate wellness
When we started Strong4Life, corporate wellness was not a new concept: Many organizations offered onsite fitness facilities or discounted gym memberships. With the support of our Board of Trustees, we were empowered to redefine that concept, developing our own holistic approach that would ultimately infuse wellness throughout our culture. We created a dedicated team of in-house experts, including fitness coaches, nutritionists, and wellness specialists, who developed, implemented, and evaluated programs focused on reducing stress and improving nutrition and exercise habits, no matter where employees were in their personal wellness journeys.

Today, nearly 65 percent of employees participate in at least one wellness offering per year. Our Strong4Life team supports 15 signature programs, 3,000 on-site fitness classes, and more than 50 nutritional classes throughout the year for all staff, in addition to 1,200 individual nutrition and fitness consults. We also leverage 70 employee Strong4Life “champions” to extend our messaging across departments, teams, and campuses.

Measuring return on investment
Although it can be tough to measure ROI for employee wellness programs, we are proud that 73.3 percent of Children’s employees meet healthy targets for three out of four biometrics screenings (blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and BMI) compared to only 36.8 percent from other organizations. According to data from Anthem, Children's employees are among the healthiest in the nation when compared to other corporations and healthcare systems.

We also see that employees are setting and reaching their own personal wellness goals. For example, this year’s Mission: Slimpossible, an annual program where teams compete to lose weight, helped employees shave 475.4 pounds and 154.4 inches from their waists; decrease BMIs by 77.7 points; and log 21,076 miles (or 44,512,719 steps). Additionally, more than 75 Children’s employees completed their first triathlon this year by participating in our new TriPossible program.

Meeting employees where they are
The biggest key to our success: Listening to our employees and re-inventing our programs accordingly. Every year, we survey our employees to find out their needs and, based on that data, we enhance our offerings. For example, last year our data showed us that employees’ preferred form of exercise is walking, running, and hiking, so we provided 500 Atlanta Track Club memberships free of charge. Collectively, the Children's Atlanta Track Club Team ran more than 400 races in 2017, ranging from 5Ks to half-marathons.  

With Children’s expanding its footprint to better serve the needs of our growing patient population, it’s more important than ever that we continue to prioritize wellness as part of our People strategy. Giving our employees the support they need to take better care of themselves now will ensure they are at their best when our future patients need us.

Linda Matzigkeit is Chief Administrative Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which has been ranked among the country’s top 100 employers by Forbes magazine 12 years in a row.

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