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'Maintain Don't Gain' and wellness screening payout encourages healthy living

Taking Blood Pressure

To encourage wellness in its workforce, SDN Communications used to reimburse its employees for gym memberships. Instead, for the past six years, the company has given employees the opportunity to earn bonuses through voluntary, annual health screenings.

They may earn up to $750 apiece each year. The amount varies from employee to employee, depending on the results in six test categories, including cholesterol ratio, blood pressure, and a tobacco use/lung test.

“Employees appreciate it more when they can decide how to spend the money,” said Amy Preator, SDN’s director of human resources.

The company also encourages wellness among its employees by organizing fun, in-house competitions and by bringing in outside experts for presentations.

Joel James, Mike Riedel and Amanda Bormann are among the SDN employees who participate in confidential screenings. They appreciate the company’s emphasis on wellness.

Mike Riedel playing hockey

Screening results provide an incentive to get healthier, said Riedel, lead network operations data technician, who has been with SDN for nine years. He admits to being competitive by nature. Annual screening results give him an incentive to improve, he said.

The free screenings also can help identify a potential health issue before it becomes a more serious problem, said Joel James, manager of network operations. He has been with the company for 18 years.

Screening results can be eye-opening and motivate self-improvement, James said.

“Once you get started, it’s hard to stop, especially when you’re making headway,” he said.

Bormann, an executive assistant, is the relative newbie of the trio, with two years of experience at SDN. During the past 16 years, she has worked for four different employers in three states, and she loves working for SDN.

“I’m still honeymooning with SDN. I’m still having a love affair with this place – every last thing about it,” she said. The company’s emphasis on wellness contributes to her high degree of satisfaction.

She participates in the company’s “Maintain, Don’t Gain” program, which helps employees avoid gaining weight during the holiday season. Participants contributed $5 each to a pool and weighed in with Preator in late October. In early January, the names of two successful weight maintainers will be drawn, and the two people will divide the money.

Bormann, who is one of the contestants, is within 3 pounds of her goal weight right now. She is self-motivated to stay slim and healthy, she said, but the “Maintain, Don’t Gain” program provides an extra level of accountability.

During summer months, employees are encouraged to get together during breaks to walk, run, skate, blade, or bike. A city recreational path runs near the company’s headquarters in west-central Sioux Falls. Participants log their miles all summer and try to earn $20 gift cards at a sporting goods store or a free lunch.

Brenda playing tennis

In addition to boosting productivity, putting an emphasis on employee wellness can help a company attract and retain good employees, Preator said. Offering financial incentives to employees helps the company come out ahead in other ways, too.

“We’re looking at any way we can to keep insurance premiums at an affordable rate,” Preator said. “Our insurance broker says that whatever we’re doing, keep it up. It’s showing up in the numbers.”

SDN’s emphasis on employee health helps it pay 75 percent of the cost of employee health insurance, including dental and vision coverage. That’s a great benefit.

In addition to being a potentially good financial benefit for everyone in the company, wellness incentives offer personal, intangible rewards.

“Getting exercise is like taking a happy pill,” Preator said.

That’s a benefit with a value that’s difficult to measure.

SDN Communications is a regional leader in providing broadband connectivity and cybersecurity services to businesses in communities such as Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Worthington, and the surrounding areas.

Nikki Playing Kickball