Health as a Core Value: Employee Wellness Front and Center at Detroit-Area Financial Firm

Freedom One Financial Group employees after a weekly game of kickball.

Creating a culture of health and well-being is important to Mark Wayne, the president and CEO of Freedom One Financial Group in Clarkston, a 401(k) plan advisory firm he launched 23 years ago.

For Wayne, a cyclist and more recently a devotee of hot yoga, having healthy employees simply adds to the company’s overall success.

The growing firm, which now numbers 60 employees, counts among its ranks several employees who have lost 50, 60 or 70 pounds. A nutritionist who visits the office every two weeks is consistently booked solid, and employees are creating personalized health goals, such as completing 100 pushups at once or running their first marathon.

Mark Wayne

When contacted recently, Wayne had just returned from an awards ceremony where employees were recognized for meeting their goals during the company’s most recent health competition. Out of 35 people who entered the three-month contest, about a third won different levels of prizes, including three who won grand-prize trips on a Caribbean cruise.

“It was really cool,” Wayne said. “About half the people met their personal goals.” Collectively, the contestants lost several hundred pounds.

“We joked that we lost a person in fat percentage.”

Today, the company offers a number of wellness perks to employees:

  • Smoking-cessation incentives
  • An onsite fitness center with showers and lockers
  • A rotating roster of trainers, who hold boot camp, aerobics and weight lifting classes on site
  • Nighttime WeightWatchers classes
  • Reimbursements for joining local yoga studios or fitness centers
  • Regular consultation visits from a professional nutritionist
  • Discounted health premiums for employees who meet certain benchmarks through biometric screenings
  • Team fitness competitions

The idea to create wellness programs for employees started eight years ago, when Freedom One took occupancy of its new headquarters.

“We moved in in December of ’03, built a 35,000 square-foot building in Clarkston,” Wayne said. “We take up the second floor and lease out the first floor. And we started getting the idea to build a fitness center in the building because in the end, we realized that the building looks great, it’s very high-end, we have great technology and nice digs, but frankly human capital — what’s going on in our heads — was 95 percent of what we are….

“It made sense to us that the better we could help our team members take care of the physical side, the better that was going to translate to happier, healthier employees.”

The decision to embrace workplace wellness also had nothing to do with wanting to lower premiums, Wayne says. In fact, Freedom One spends about $90,000 per year in support of its fitness regimen.

But Wayne doesn’t flinch when asked how he justifies that kind of spending. For him, it’s about instilling health and positive attitudes in his employees, so they can in turn offer good ideas and solutions to clients.

“If you feel good about yourself and you’re energetic, and you’re connecting the dots and you have the energy to give that extra oomph, we think that how our team members are going to relate to the clients will pay for itself many times over,” he said.

What is your company doing to encourage employee wellness? Tell us in the comments section below. We might feature your company’s example in a future post.

If you’re a business owner, human resources director, wellness program director or employee benefits coordinator, check out our “Leading Michigan to a Healthier Future” discussion group on LinkedIn.

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