River Falls Area Hospital
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Workplace Wellness program helps employees achieve good health
Brandi Poellinger encourages Kirk Mueller during a wellness coaching session.
Interested local businesses should call Brandi Poellinger at
Perhaps you'd like to drop a few pounds, pack healthier lunches or learn to manage your stress. You might need a better night's sleep or a smarter savings plan. Whatever your health-related goals, the new Workplace Wellness program can help you reach them.
This free program enables River Falls businesses to offer no-cost health screenings and wellness coaching to employees and their spouses. River Falls Area Hospital is currently offering this program to local businesses but anticipates making screenings available to community members in the future.
'More energy to enjoy life'
"The program is a real benefit, especially to smaller employers that may not have access to these types of services any other way," said Brandi Poellinger, a Workplace Wellness program ambassador. She noted that worksite wellness programs have been shown to help increase morale, lower stress — even improve employee retention.
Kirk Mueller, an employee at area business Sajan, which provides translation services, said the wellness resources have made a difference in his life. "Sajan has been gracious enough to make the program available on work time, and the proof is in the pudding," he said. "Now, I have more energy to enjoy life. I feel like I'm working better and am probably a better person to be around, too."
A helpful reality check
Mueller said that his initial visit with his health coach was a type of wake-up call. "It helped me know where I was physically, mentally and emotionally in terms of my health," he said.
About 40 percent of employees who go through the health screening process sign up for wellness coaching. Mueller knew right away he'd be one of them. He selected a time for his first coaching session, at which he established his first goals. Now, he sees Wellness Coach Kali Higgins each quarter to check in, celebrate milestones and refine his plan if necessary.
For Mueller, the goal-setting process uncovered more health areas to work on than obvious physical ones. "I think people hear 'wellness' and automatically think about losing weight or running a 5K," Mueller said. "I wanted to become financially fit, too. My coach helped me see that all aspects of health fit together. It's a cycle."
Setting achievable goals
The process of setting goals, said Poellinger, is employee-driven. Sessions are led by either Poellinger or Higgins. "We're the coaches, but we don't dictate," said Poellinger. "We talk about the person's health by the numbers — cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure — and discuss risk factors. But it's really up to the employee to set his or her own goals."
Poellinger and Higgins help participants think creatively about what they can and are willing to do to make healthful changes. They also help make sure goals are broken down into achievable actions that move employees in the right direction.
Mueller said that his wellness coaching started with open-ended questions such as "What does 'healthy' look like to you?" Higgins encouraged him to break big goals like "lose weight" down into smaller milestones.
Now, Mueller is walking for 30 minutes, three times a week. This increase in physical activity has helped him drop 12 pounds in three months for healthy, sustainable weight loss. He also found a part-time job for extra income to keep working toward his financial goals.
"It feels really good to be making progress — to recognize achievements and make new plans," Mueller said.
Source: Healthy Communities Magazine, winter 2014
Reviewed by: Brandi Poellinger, a Workplace Wellness program ambassador
First Published: 11/04/2013
Last Reviewed: 11/04/2013