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Wellness goes extreme: scuba, sailing, mountain climbing

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

In a bid to improve employees’ fitness and reduce health costs, some U.S. employers are going far beyond subsidizing health-club fees or hosting lunchtime walking clubs.

They’re taking their wellness initiatives to the edge. Three examples:

1. Climb every mountain
As part of Lincoln Industries’ wellness program, 74 of its employees climbed a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado this year. The Nebraska-based company bused the employees to Colorado and paid for their time, meals, backpacks and water.

The climb was the culmination of its “Go Platinum” wellness program, in which employees submit to quarterly physicals to measure their body fat, blood pressure and flexibility. Based on the results, each employee is designated as bronze, silver, gold or platinum.

Platinum employees can participate in the climb, and 75% of them eventually do. Employees who smoke must quit or at least participate in a tobacco-cessation program to become eligible.

The self-insured, 530-employee company pays an average of $5,000 per employee, per year for health care, so the wellness program has “a huge impact on our bottom line,” says Andy Timm, people-relations manager.

2. Underwater people
Oklahoma City is a long way from the ocean, but Chesapeake Energy Corp. encourages employees to stay healthy by taking scuba diving lessons.

The push is part of the company’s “Living Well” program, which pays employees up to $1,000 a year for improving their health through exercise.

About 50 of the company’s 2,000 employees have taken diving lessons. Employees who participate earn points toward their $1,000 incentive.

Scuba is one of the many courses offered at the organization’s fitness center, along with ballet and aerobics.

3. Sailing builds more than muscles
Employees that sail together will stay together. At least that’s what the owner of Laserfiche, a Long Beach, Calif., document management firm, believes.

The company started a competitive sailing team last summer. The sailing crew is made up of employees from several departments, including execs.

Employees who sail get to know each other, says Michael Dwane, a regional manager involved in organizing the team.

“You’re talking sailing, but you’re talking life, you’re talking company lessons,” Dwane says. “It’s not just about being competitive; it’s about opening new horizons, experiencing new things, bonding as a company.”

About 10% of the company’s 200 employees are part of the Flying Fiche’s sailing crew for this season’s 30 days of racing. Laserfiche equips employees with their sailing supplies, including gloves and sailing shoes.

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