Rising to the ‘challenge’

LIHUE — Competition is fierce among the 18 teams involved in the 2016 Worksite Wellness Challenge.

Kauai Marriott Resort has more than 100 people signed up and is hosting in-house competitions, tracking their healthy activities and awarding prizes to the most active team members.

The Grand Hyatt has formed running groups, Qigong classes, and hula workout groups, as well as organized a weight loss challenge in which 108 participants lost of 800 pounds.

Grove Farm has ferreted away their “unhealthy” snacks in a harder to reach cabinet, and put the fruits and vegetables center stage in the break room.

Wilcox Medical Center started their own in-house farmers’ market, installed additional water dispensers, and has reworked their cafeteria to spotlight healthy food choices.

“Everyone was super pumped up after the kick-off and in every meeting, someone is saying they’re going to win,” said Karen Silver, coordinator of the third Worksite Wellness Challenge, which began in February and runs through October.

Other groups are working toward goals like building a yoga and meditation center, removing soda from vending machines, and making the entire property non-smoking.

“The point of this is to make people think a little bit more about the choices they make in their every day lives, as well as motivate companies to create policies that lead to healthy practices in the workplace,” Silver said.

The Worksite Wellness Challenge, which is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, is run through Get Fit Kauai. It began in 2010 at the annual Mayor-a-thon with seven participating companies.

“This isn’t the third consecutive year,” Silver said. “They’ve taken a year off in between every event to retool the program.”

The Kauai Marriott won the challenge in 2014 and the company’s team is fiercely guarding its spot at the top.

“We were very pleased when we garnered the first place award last year and look to continue to lead in creating a healthy work environment,” said Lori Uyeda, payroll administrator for Kauai Marriott. “There is growing momentum and much excitement about healthy living amongst our Kauai Marriott ohana.”

Marriott, however isn’t alone in setting its sights on first place. Syngenta, which was runner-up last time around, is close on their heels.

“The first challenge was really motivating,” said Beth Tokioka, Syngenta spokeswoman. “Coming in second, so close to first place, makes us even more determined to take the top prize this time.”

She said in 2014, the Syngenta team set up a fitness committee, stocked vending machines with healthier options, and created a one-mile fitness track around the facility where they offered morning exercise classes.

“We don’t want to give away all of our secrets this time, but some of our plans are to provide more exercise options on site, promoting healthier versions of popular dishes, and providing inoculations for field workers here at the site,” Tokioka said.

She added the company is looking at “many other initiatives that we think will take us over the top to number one.”

The first week of June, for instance, the company had a mini health fair for employees and they’re planning an even bigger health fair in September.

“We’re having a great time working with our mentor, Jaeda Elvenia from Wilcox Health Systems,” Tokioka said. “Whether we take the top prize or not, we all win when we take care of ourselves.”

Each company involved completes a scorecard at the beginning of the challenge and then another scorecard at the end of the challenge.

Different changes to policy and other efforts to increase wellness at the workplace are awarded points, and the points are added up at the end. In October, the company team with biggest difference between the two scorecards’ points is the winner.

The five areas of focus are general health, physical activity, nutrition, tobacco control and stress reduction.

Bev Brody, coordinator for Get Fit Kauai, said she’s pleased with the result of targeting the natural urge to compete and using it to promote wellness.

“Humans are very competitive, whether they admit it or not,” Brody said. “I thought, if we could come up with a fun challenge that requires team effort and has prizes, we would be able to improve health and wellness through policy and environmental changes.”

Uyeda, who was dubbed the 2014 wellness champion by her team from the Marriott, said the challenge is fun and brings out a competitive edge, but it’s about more than winning.

“At work, happiness is about being healthy and excited about your future, and being part of a team with a true sense of purpose,” Uyeda said. “When we feel good about ourselves, we’re inspired to also create great experiences for our customers and to serve our communities.”

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