Health, wellness and laughter in the workplace

“Healthy employees are happier employees,” says Diana Brown, Human Resources Manager, summing up the goal of the Wellness program for VR staff. “And, this increases their ability to be productive employees.”

Diana’s enthusiasm for health and wellness is contagious. She is engaging and always smiling and laughing. “How can we make our work environment one that fosters a holistic approach to overall heath in body, mind and soul? That's the aim of the program.”

Diana Brown, Human Resources Manager and VR Wellness Coordinator

Diana Brown, Human Resources Manager and VR Wellness Coordinator

Diana plans and coordinates wellness events for staff at the West Columbia campus and works with each office to organize activities, events and provide them with a variety of information and resources.

“Each office has a wellness coordinator, someone who accepts that responsibility as a passion,” she explains. “It's something these individuals do because they recognize the importance of it, not just in their own personal lives, but also in a broader sense.”

Many offices offer “Lunch and Learn” activities that focus on topics such as stress management, heart and kidney health, the impact of smoking, taking breaks to reduce the impact of sitting all day, and healthy food substitutes. Some offices also conduct wellness walks, steps challenges or organize other events. “For example, the Columbia DDS (Disability Determination Services) office has a yoga session on Tuesday afternoons.”

Wellness coordinators also send out email reminders, newsletters about what is planned for that office, special recognition, and information on health awareness months. They may plan employee breakfasts and employee birthday parties once per month, or once per quarter, depending on the size of the office.

Monthly fund raisers not only help raise awareness about different health-related issues but contribute to strengthening community relations. Employees make donations to wear jeans or dress business casual for a day. Participating organizations have included: United Way, SC Charities Inc., Low Country Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy, Lupus Foundation of America, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, Midlands Ride for the Kids for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Camp T.A.L.K.

“Through our relationship with the Red Cross, we do two blood drives on site each year,” adds Diana. “One at the state office, and the other one at DDS.” A number of local offices also organize blood drives.

Diana encourages employees to check out the resources that PEBA (SC Public Employee Benefit Authority) provides to State Health Plan primary members, including adult vaccinations; diagnostic colonoscopies and routine screenings; diabetes education; flu vaccination; no-pay copay for eligible members with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure or diabetes; preventive screenings; and the tobacco cessation program.

She and other members of the Human Resources Department coordinate the various screenings that are available throughout the year.

“We've also done fun stuff like have Remington College come out to offer manicures for the employees,” says Diana. “The idea is that if you look good, you feel good. That's also part of the holistic approach.”

Diana’s aim with the Wellness Program is to provide a balance of resources that is both informative and fun.

“Health and wellness is an individual's choice. It's each individual's responsibility to utilize the resources available. I'm thankful for the employees who participate because it shows that they value their personal health, and what we're trying to do. We should be serious at work while we're working, but we should take a break, too, and have some fun in the process.”

“And,” she adds with a big smile, “there should be laughter in the workplace.”