PepsiCo Satisfies its Thirst for Wellness in Workplace

Practically every company champions the idea of happy, healthy employees.

PepsiCo — its Rogers office, in particular — is expressing that priority through actions, including ongoing participation in the American Heart Association’s “Fit-Friendly Worksite” program. From installing an oatmeal bar and in-office walking route to negotiating health club discounts and offering onsite fitness classes, PepsiCo is promoting workplace wellness.

The benefits of such an approach are equally wide-ranging. According to a 2009 policy statement in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, wellness programs help increase worker productivity, reduce absenteeism, lower turnover rates and reduce health care costs.

Specifically, AHA research has shown that companies can save between $3 and $15 for every $1 spent on health and wellness within 12 to 18 months of implementing a worksite wellness program.

Brad Hoener, vice president of sales for The Quaker Oats Co. on PepsiCo’s Walmart team, said the company shares the AHA’s belief in the benefits of workplace wellness. PepsiCo’s HealthRoads program takes employees through a lifestyle screening process, and rewards those who complete the program with discounts on their contributions to health insurance premiums.

“That’s a tangible way to help your employees,” Hoener said. “I don’t know what the statistics are, but clearly PepsiCo wouldn’t be doing it if there weren’t a financial benefit, because in theory you’re encouraging people to improve certain parts of their lifestyle or be healthier.

“That’s going to save health care costs, no question.”

 

Healthy Partnership

The AHA is one of a handful of charities with which PepsiCo chooses to partner because they are consistent with what the global food and beverage company does from a corporate perspective and are consistent with its values. PepsiCo’s Rogers office is completing its second year as a “Gold Level” member of the Fit-Friendly program, and Hoener is working on ways in which it will participate in 2013.

“This is not a program that’s going away anytime soon,” he said.

To achieve “Gold” status, participating entities must implement programs and activities to encourage physical activity, nutrition enhancements and health risk assessments, among other things. To reach “Platinum” status, participants must measure the outcome of their efforts and show a 10 percent annual improvement.

“The requirements, just to get to gold, are tough,” Hoener said.

At the Rogers office, which houses about 100 PepsiCo employees, though, Hoener said workplace wellness already was on the radar.

“There was already a natural demand for it, so we’re just trying to solve the demand,” he said. “We try and keep the program fun, and rotate it through the year so that more people can get involved.”

That might mean yoga classes or fitness boot camps are offered at various times. PepsiCo also has offered cholesterol challenges, during which participants are screened, and then eat oatmeal for breakfast every day for 30 days.

About 50 people took part in the most recent cholesterol challenge, Hoener said, resulting in a 6 percent reduction in the group’s overall cholesterol level. Those kinds of programs result in a more meaningful partnership than if employees simply donate time or money to a charity.

“It’s not just about us giving back to the [American] Heart Association, but the heart association also helps us,” Hoener said. “The Fit-Friendly program gives us the parameters by which we can evaluate ourselves.

“If we say we want to provide all of these benefits for our employees, are we really doing that? It’s a way to hold ourselves accountable and measure how we’re doing from an objective point of view.

“There’s a special camaraderie that comes with it, too.”

That much is evidenced by the group of PepsiCo employees who meet for regular pickup basketball games before going to the office, Hoener added. The camaraderie also results in increased participation in events like the AHA’s annual Heart Walk.

The increased productivity and boosted morale that stem from all of PepsiCo’s efforts might be harder to measure than an employee’s cholesterol level, but Hoener said the benefits can’t be denied.

“Anyone on my team, if they want to go work out during lunch, go work out during lunch. … It’s not like you have to be at your desk, sedentary, and go do that on your own time,” he said.

“If you’re doing your job well and getting your work done, and want to go work out over lunch, I guarantee you you’re probably going to be more productive that afternoon than if you go eat a huge lunch and you’re in a food coma by 3 o’clock.”