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Fitness enthusiasts help drive wellness program

Fitness enthusiasts help drive wellness program

CHICAGO — Zurich North America employees who are interested in fitness have served as “wellness champions” in the company's wellness program, helping to engage other Zurich employees and boost participation in the company's health initiatives, says Sarah Staggs, head of benefits for Zurich.

It's “really important to harness the passion of those employees who are already in the position of valuing wellness and want to be really championing that perspective in the workplace and … in their own lives,” Ms. Staggs said.

Ms. Staggs, a member of the Business Insurance 2014 Benefit Management Honor Roll®, spoke about the roll out and successes of Zurich's HealthFirst Plus wellness program during a Wednesday morning breakfast hosted by the Chicago chapter of the Worldwide Employee Benefits Network.

During the last four years, Zurich has organized wellness committees at 12 U.S. locations and among remote workers, Ms. Staggs said. The committees include employees who volunteer to educate and coach their coworkers about health and wellness goals.

“We found the people who already have the passion and their passion is to get other people involved,” said Ms. Staggs, who added that each committee is paired with a Zurich executive who assists the group.

Activities organized by the committees have included health-related lunch and learn presentations, onsite yoga and meditation programs and couch to 5K training, in which employees who are inexperienced runners train to run a 5K race. Employees can often be found training for an annual stair-climbing competition inside the stairwells at Zurich's Schaumburg, Illinois, headquarters, Ms. Stagg said.

While Zurich's wellness program is supported by corporate leadership, such as through financial incentives given to employees who meet certain health metrics, Ms. Staggs said employee engagement and leadership has been crucial in helping Zurich employees embrace the program.

“We need to have people on the ground in (our) offices who are committed to the concept of well-being,” she said. “You can't just direct it from the center.”

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