Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Employee Fitness Investment Pays off for SC Johnson Wax

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Employee Fitness Investment Pays off for SC Johnson Wax

Article excerpt

RACINE, Wis. (AP) _ Armstrong Park looks like a great place for a spa retreat.

Its 146 acres have walking and running trails, an aquatics center and a recreation center. There are a gymnasium, an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, weight-lifting equipment, an aerobic exercise studio, hot tubs, massage services, meeting rooms, and a video library. The park also has a pair of softball fields, a golf-driving range, tennis and volleyball courts, an archery range, horseshoe pits, playgrounds and picnic areas.

But the park is a corporate entity and private preserve for 2,700 area employees at the headquarters of SC Johnson Wax, the maker of many familiar home, personal care and insect control products. And it's part of a deliberate strategy by the company to keep health care costs in line by helping employees stay in shape. Retirees also may use park facilities.

"In the Milwaukee area, an overweight employee who smokes costs a company between $500 and $800 a year more than a nonsmoking, normal-weight employee," said Dr. Marvin G. Parker, SC Johnson Wax's vice president of corporate medical affairs.

At the park, located about eight miles from headquarters, employees of both offices and the manufacturing plant (also in Racine) are offered fitness classes and healthy eating plans, guided by a staff health promotion coordinator. Every year there is a fitness challenge competition, with points and prizes for regularly exercising, quitting smoking and losing weight.

Parker said the plan, described by Runner magazine as the country's best employee fitness program, is driven by a philosophy that healthy and vital employees translate into a healthy and vital company. "This credo states that we will foster and support leisure-time programs for employees and retirees. It's a deep-rooted part of our corporate culture," said Parker.

Johnson Wax says it spent $5,587 per employee or retiree (current employee rate was $4,536) for health care overall in 1993-1994, 15 percent less than it had in 1991-1992. The company estimates it additionally invested more than $2 million toward running facilities at Armstrong Park, including costs of operation, staff, depreciation, taxes, and other expenses in the same period _ approximately $900 per current employee. …

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