Kyocera, the local producer of cell phones, solar energy products and semiconductor packages, has discovered that wellness can promote team-building and morale.
The company implemented a Web-based wellness program nearly a year ago to offer professional advice on nutrition and fitness, with a unique interactive component -- a wireless device that employees can attach to a shoe to measure and monitor their activity level throughout the day.
Employees who choose to participate generally wear the device continuously, logging in to a Web site that automatically charts and records their daily activity levels in time, distance, calories burned and total footsteps walked or run.
"It keeps you focused on your health at work and at home," said Dan Brown, manager of the company's production technology center. "It also inspires friendly competition among co-workers."
Brown should know. He was recognized for walking 1 million steps during a recent eight-week competition that he completed in a mere six.
The voluntary program has attracted 359 participants at Kyocera, from line workers to executives. That's about 50 percent of the local work force, with involvement approximately equal among men and women.
The program is provided by Sonic Boom, a third-party health consultant founded to make employee participation in wellness fun and compatible with the workplace.
"Sonic Boom has proved to be significantly more cost-effective, user-friendly and successful than other wellness programs used by Kyocera," said Muriel Schutte, a corporate HR supervisor for Kyocera. "We can customize the program, and friendly competitions keep staff excited about participating. The 'Million Steps Challenge' was really successful."
Schutte credits SonicPed, the computerized accelerometer worn on the shoe, as a key to the program's success. The device creates visibility and an awareness of how much, or little, one does throughout the day.
While the real prize is a healthier lifestyle, employee recognition and rewards add motivation. Kyocera employees can earn points or "Boomer Bucks" by completing activities such as daily challenges, eating right and exercising. They can also reward one another when "caught" doing something healthy. Points accumulated can be spent on items ranging from water bottles to iPods to flat-screen TVs.
Deanna Svehla, a Kyocera cash management assistant, said she feels healthier and has been able to keep off the 40 pounds she lost before starting the program.
"It's brought me closer to my co-workers," Svehla said. "We'll go to a healthy lunch together, talk about the program and meet on weekends to walk. It has also brought me closer to my family, as I am now walking with my husband and son, which gives us the opportunity to talk and spend quality time together."
Long-term wellness requires lifestyle adjustments, and there's evidence of this at Kyocera. Employees even purposely park further away from their destinations to get additional steps, and these habits continue away from work.
As more companies recognize the intrinsic benefits of wellness, Kyocera employees believe they are on the right track. The program's cost is regarded by management as an investment in a healthier, happier, more productive work force.
Submitted by Kyocera.