New Englanders can agree: this most recent winter was a tough one, requiring constant vigilance of our properties as well as our physicality. With record snowfall in Massachusetts, we’ve had to deal with the many unpleasant aspects of the season: excessive time spent indoors, constant snow removal and the threat of roof collapses—all of which create mental and physical strain. But at the Museum of Science, Boston, employees who didn’t have a chance to make it to their local gyms had help staying healthy last winter.
According to a 2013 study by Rand Health, there is an upward trend of American employers offering some form of a wellness program. The lifestyle management programs offered by approximately half of all American companies often provided screening to determine disease risk factors as well as support for issues with nutrition and weight, smoking, fitness, alcoholism and other substance use disorders, and stress; about a third of the programs also provided general health education. And while on a national level, only about 20 percent of employees participated, half of the Museum’s employees participated in its 2013 program.
The Museum is now in the fifth year of its wellness program, which offers stress relief and weight-loss regimens. The reasons for its popularity and success stem from the Museum’s goal to help its employees find a healthy lifestyle fun while incentivizing with competition. This year, the Museum has nearly 120 employees participating in the annual Active for Life physical activity challenge, a corporate fitness competition sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The challenge fosters a sense of community and wellness as employees work in teams to earn points by running, climbing stairs and swimming laps.
Since 2012, the Museum has also seen benefits from its use of the iDiet, a weight-loss program developed by Susan B. Roberts, PhD, professor of nutrition and professor of psychiatry at Tufts University. The program focuses on encouraging healthy nutritional instincts and developing better food habits, and the Museum’s participants have collectively lost over 915 pounds.
If the hard data of participation rates and weight-loss statistics aren’t enough to indicate success, the Museum has continually received positive feedback from its system of surveys and individual conversations with employees. The Museum credits the success of the wellness program in part to its dedication to communication. With its desire to create a “museum culture that promotes healthy lifestyle choices through initiatives that spark and spread interest and passion . . . to staff . . . family, friends and the communities [they] serve,” the program thrives on listening to its employees’ suggestions for improvements, some of which have included adding hula-hooping and mindfulness courses. Some staff members have even lent their expertise to offer classes like tai chi and salsa. So perhaps the success of the program is derived from the Museum being a tight knit and caring community, devoted to its members.
Did You Know?
As part of its wellness program, the Museum hosts monthly sessions of “quiet time” for its employees intended to alleviate stress. Participating staff gather in the Museum’s Charles Hayden Planetarium to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the regular workday and are presented with visual tours of outer space and peaceful music. These half-hour shows allow Museum employees the chance to relax, regroup and return to their tasks feeling rejuvenated.