Verizon Call Center offers healthy choices for employees

hcahill@thestate.comSeptember 1, 2013 

  • Wellness incentives The Affordable Care Act allows companies to offer more wellness incentives.

    •  Increases maximum insurance premium reduction allowed for employees who meet wellness incentives from 20 percent to 30 percent.

    •  Makes some companies without wellness programs eligible for grants through 2016 for establishing programs that meet certain criteria.

— Verizon’s Elgin Call Center is bringing fresh produce to its employees as part of a continuing effort to increase awareness of and promote healthy lifestyles.

The call center hosted its fourth farmers market day on Wednesday to encourage employees to boost their overall health with fresh foods and new recipes. The produce featured a mixture of locally grown peaches, squash, turnip greens and tomatoes and was displayed on two picnic tables.

“They don’t have time to go downtown or anywhere else for lunch,” said Michael Gingrich, manager of WG Foodservice Concepts. “This brings it to them. There is excitement about the produce section.”

The farmers markets are just one component of Verizon’s award-winning wellness program. Some large companies have offered such programs for years, aiming to keep their employees healthy to reduce absenteeism and insurance premiums. With new incentives included in the Affordable Care Act, more companies will begin providing wellness programs.

Gingrich, with the help of Kelly Zanczewski, associate director of Verizon’s Health and Wellness Center, create healthy recipes that employees can re-create in their homes. Organizers say that allows employees to take the healthy lifestyle choices they have learned to their families.

The farmers market is part of an ongoing effort to teach employees different ways of living healthy. The center offers an extensive fitness room where employees can work out on breaks and even on their time off. Free health screenings are also offered for employees to monitor personal health.

“We work closely with the cafeterias to provide healthy options and do café healthy samplings,” Zanczewski said. “We drive them to exercise on all different levels to help them control their blood sugars and weight.”

Verizon’s Elgin Call Center is a platinum member of the American Heart Association’s Fit-Friendly Worksite program. The call center qualifies by offering its employees a variety of healthy eating options, by promoting an active and healthy culture and by encouraging physical activity in the workplace.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, a gold member of the Fit-Friendly list, stepped up its efforts this year with a “Get In The Habit” program. “We want employees to get in the habit of wellness,” said Barbara Kelly, vice president of human resources, “not just introduce an activity for a quarter and then drop it. We want long-term change.”

BlueCross BlueShield encouraged participation by offering up to 16 hours of vacation time for employees who complete challenges such as increasing time spent in physical activity, keeping a food journal and trying healthy recipes at home.

Staff writer Joey Holleman contributed to this report.

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