Companies Taking Fresh Look at Health

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

I used to work for a large newspaper chain that when I traveled wouldn't blink if my expense report included drinks with dinner. But if I went to a gym that cost a few dollars to use, my expense report got rejected.

Corporate policy, I was told.

I argued that corporate policy was crazy. A Bloomin' Onion and some 12-ounce curls were fine but trying to burn them off in the morning was not? A happy hour, yes? A half hour on the treadmill, no?

From a long-term, bottom-line standpoint, didn't it make sense to encourage employees to attempt to stay healthy?

I lost that argument. (And, for the record, I should say that the Times-Union won't pay for alcohol.) But with health care costs soaring, more and more companies seem to be agreeing, or at least taking pre-emptive measures, establishing wellness programs, promoting activity in their workplace and their community.

"I think it's a trend that will continue," said Jim Murphy, president of CitiStreet's Jacksonville division. "Certainly there are social aspects for why you want to do it. But there also are business aspects."

CitiStreet recently was recognized by the Wellness Councils of America as one of "America's Healthiest Companies." Some of that can be traced to CitiStreet's willingness to spend money supporting good causes, internally and externally. But it's more than that.

Take what will happen Thursday night in the streets of downtown Jacksonville. More than 1,500 people will run or walk in the CitiStreet 5k Corporate Run. CitiStreet isn't just the title sponsor. It has 126 employees entered in the annual event.

"I think it's something worth doing," said Murphy, who will fire the starting cannon before walking the 3.1-mile course.

CitiStreet probably won't win the "team spirit" award, given to the company with the most entrants. …