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2013 Healthiest Employers: Citizens Energy Group

Tom Harton
August 15, 2013
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winner OR finalist 500-1,499 EMPLOYEES

logo-citizens-168.gifThe latest twist in Citizens Energy Group’s well-tested Healthy Citizens wellness program uses the same technology found in any smart phone.

The company is awaiting delivery of its first accelerometers, devices that take pedometers a step further. The accelerometer doesn’t just measure steps, it measures movement of all kinds, and it’s what Citizens will use to further monitor the collective activity level of its 1,200 employees.

With the data Citizens collects it can further fine-tune its 10-year-old wellness program, which, in partnership with Spectrum Health, offers a full menu of activities and education meant to make a difference in the lives of Citizens’ employees. Employees can use the results in conjunction with Spectrum health coaches to establish and reach individual goals.

Regardless of the offerings and incentives, employees come up with their own reasons for getting involved.

For Ann McIver, Citizens’ director of environmental stewardship, the motivator was her approaching 45th birthday.

She’s been with Citizens since late 2000 and has regularly participated in health screenings to get information about cholesterol, blood pressure and the like. But in January this year she decided to get more involved.

“I made a commitment to lose 45 pounds by my 45th birthday” in November, she said. McIver and a coworker formed a two-person team to participate in Citizens’ Biggest Loser weight-loss challenge. They were among 89 participants who safely lost a collective 625 pounds in eight weeks.

And McIver is one of 46 who signed up for a follow-up program, called Biggest Improver, in which employees are supported in their quest to keep the weight off. Those who meet their goals get a pair of walking or running shoes.

McIver’s personal goal is already met. She’s lost almost 50 pounds, and her November birthday is still months away. Now she’s involved in Citizens’ Healthy Peddler program. She’s ridden the equivalent of the 150 miles it takes to get to Hammond. Now she’s on her way to St. Louis.

She logs her miles, in part because she knows her health coach will be looking for the results. As for her ramped-up participation in Healthy Citizens, McIver said “I saw the program as a way to get the encouragement and motivation I needed.”

The decade-long process of changing Citizens’ wellness culture was hard work, and the success of the program is due to Citizens’ recognition that wellness isn’t a “one size fits all” proposition, said Russ Clemens, Citizens’ manager of compensation and benefits. Whether its Zumba classes, walking or biking programs or involvement in the Indiana Sports Corp. Corporate Challenge, Citizens prides itself on offering programs that get families involved and fit a variety of tastes and lifestyles.

Employees have responded: more than 95 percent expected to participate in this year’s health screenings. That’s up from 92 percent last year, when results showed that 16 percent of employees had reduced cholesterol, 19 percent had blood pressure improvements and tobacco use decreased 32 percent.

Citizens offers seven different corporate gym memberships, and 27 percent of employees take advantage of that program. Twenty percent of employees are actively engaged in a coaching program to improve their health. And in the last year, Citizens’ cost trend, average claims and cost per claim have all dropped for participants in on-site and telephonic health coaching.•

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