How One CU Went About Improving Employee Wellness One Step At A Time

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ORLANDO, Fla.-A walk begins with a single step. The same can be said of a credit union's wellness program, according to one CU that has taken the idea and run-and made some missteps along the way.

And it's been a long way: the credit union estimates its staff has now walked 164,512 miles, or been around the world six and a half times.

Nancy Crisler, VP-human resources and education with South Florida Educational FCU in Miami, said her credit union's wellness program has not just benefited employees, but the credit union as well, as Miami has some of the costliest health insurance rates in the country at an estimated cost of $20,000 annually for a family of four.

SFEFCU launched its employee wellness program prior to Crisler's arrival more than 22 years ago, driven by the then CEO's interest in staying healthy. "The CEO wanted people to join him walking along a long hallway in the building," recalled Crisler. "If you walk 25 miles in two months you get a two-hour lunch."

Crisler said 51 employees met the initial walking challenge, before branches got wind of the program and asked to participate as well. "We then began to look to what other areas we could expand into. We wanted to reward employees for taking responsibility for their personal health," said Crisler. "We put basketball hoops in back parking lot; incorporated softball into picnics. We used a vacant room for some basic gym equipment, such as a bike."

The credit union's 210 employees, who must sign a waiver prior to using the health equipment, eventually created a full gym in the main office. Crisler recommended credit unions take advantage of free resources available through Welcoa, AARP, and the CDC's LEAN (Leading Employees through Activities and Nutrition) program.

The credit union does track employee progress and identify walking champions. Employees are limited to three miles per day or 15 miles per week. One recently retired employee had logged 8,800 miles.

Initially South Florida Educational FCU offered a points-based system that rewarded employees, but Crisler said it has scaled that back. "We had been giving some pretty big rewards for walking. It got a bit out of control," she said. "But now we have just brought back the two-hour lunch. The two hour lunch doesn't cost much, and it gets people active. Rewards and recognition do no have to be costly to be effective."

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