Magazine article HRMagazine

Ante Up for Wellness

Magazine article HRMagazine

Ante Up for Wellness

Article excerpt

Promoting healthy lifestyles for employees requires leadership from HR-and other executives.

Getting fit is challenging. Staying fit and being well is a lifelong endeavor. At Sprint Nextel, wellness matters. We want our employees to live strong, healthy lives and to be their best at work, too. This benefits our customers and helps us manage costs. Talking about wellness is one thing. Leading the way is quite another. Sprint executives have decided to lead by example, and it's making a difference.

How did we begin? Very personally. I shared one of my family's health challenges with employees in an employee wellness newsletter. When I asked my peers on the executive team to do likewise, many expressed a willingness to join in leadership of the wellness initiative. Sometimes, we HR professionals assume that people aren't willing, when in reality we just have to ask. Members of the management team began coming up with ideas on their own, and the energy soon moved through the organization.

Health Issues: In the Open

Every month, we publish the Stay Healthy! e-newsletter for Sprint employees and their dependents. Each newsletter addresses a health topic that has personal significance to one of our executives and includes tips to help employees prevent and address health conditions. For example, because February is American Heart Month, we take the opportunity to encourage employees and their families to become familiar with ways to lower their risks for heart disease.

Because heart health has special meaning to my family, last year I volunteered to be the featured executive. I let employees know that my sister has arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a chronic heart disease that requires a defibrillator to protect her. I told them that this disease runs in families so, after her diagnosis, I began to reduce my risk factors. It became important to "know my numbers," including blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol. I had some simple, painless tests done to establish a base line and give my doctor the information she needs to make sure that we catch potential changes in my readings. I wrote about how I was working hard to change my habits by eating more fruits and vegetables and walking more.

My colleagues also volunteered to share their stories. For example:

* Bill White, senior vice president of corporate communications, wrote about how exercise helps him manage stress, underscoring that unhealthy levels of stress can lead to physical and mental health conditions, including obesity, anxiety and depression.

* Joe Mandacina, vice president of corporate communications, bravely told the story of his testicular cancer diagnosis 20 years ago and how early diagnosis saved his life. He reminded us of the necessity of getting annual physical exams and how dietary choices can affect cancer risk.

* Peter Campbell, senior vice president of information technology, let us know that diabetes killed his mother and that he, too, had been diagnosed with diabetes. He was a smoker, he was overweight, and he was tired. He decided to get serious about making changes. With the support of his doctor, wife and colleagues, Peter began eating healthy meals, increased his activity level and lost 40 pounds. These anecdotes are powerful and give us the means to introduce employees to wellness resources that they might not otherwise take the time to learn about-and use.

Learning about protecting and improving personal health are important. Actually making changes is even more important.

Companywide Events

Our executives put on their sneakers last spring and, with the support of hundreds of managers and employee team leaders, got thousands of employees out of their chairs. Sprint partnered with ShapeUp, a provider of wellness solutions headquartered in Providence, R.I., to bring employees the 12-week Sprint Get Fit Challenge. Sales executives Jaime Jones, senior vice president of consumer sales, and Judy Train, vice president of small-business sales, served as co-sponsors of the initiative. …

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