Rusty Owen says the accounting profession tends to be somewhat of a sedentary lifestyle, with employees sitting at a desk and computer all day except for going out at lunch to grab fast food.
Owen himself, director of marketing and business development at Johnson, Price & Sprinkle, says his marketing job at the Asheville-based accounting firm often has him on the “wine-and-cheese circuit,” attending corporate and client functions where plenty of food and beverages are served.
“I’m a big guy to begin with, and I could easily weigh 400 pounds if I wanted to,” he says. “About two years ago, I realized that I needed something to get myself and other people at JP&S in better shape, so I approached our CEO Ben Hamrick about the possibility of embarking upon a wellness program. Ben was totally on board with it.”
JP&S has accounting offices in Asheville, Boone and Marion, so Owen began conversations with officials at the YMCA, which has branches in those three cities.
“Ben and our company partners voted that JP&S would pay 90 percent of annual YMCA membership fees for any of our employees interested in joining,” Owen says. “Our company has gotten a lot of notoriety from this.”
Johnson, Price & Sprinkle has a total of 55 employees, and about 35 are participating in the YMCA program.
“Some can’t join because they have health issues that make it impossible to go out and run two miles or whatever,” Owen says. “But for us others, the YMCA puts together a good schedule of activities such as Zumba classes, water sports, weightlifting sessions and so forth, plus they host short seminars on stress management and nutrition.”
Owen says a group activity that the YMCA hosts every Friday evening is wallyball, which is a game like volleyball that is played inside a racquetball court. All walls are in play and there are teams of usually four against four.
“Wallyball has been an interesting company tool, because the CEO and an intern might be playing shoulder-to-shoulder or nose-to-nose on the court,” he says. “Then when everyone gets to work on Monday morning, communication barriers that might have existed between people don’t exist anymore.”
Sick Days Decreased
Owen says sick days at JP&S have decreased and BlueCross BlueShield premiums have gone down. The company also recently had 45 employees and family members take part in a Chamber Challenge 5K.
“We are also working with North Carolina Prevention Partners that is involved in something called WorkHealthy America,” he says. “We are one of about 10 businesses in Asheville they are tracking for two years to chart our health progress. We’ve made a lot of changes at JP&S. Our company used to have pizza Fridays, and now there is still pizza, but also salads and fruits and other healthy alternatives.”