Restek’s newest facility isn’t about developing its latest product, manufacturing or customer service.
No, it’s about employee wellness.
Restek, in its 30th year of business, recently broke ground in Bellefonte for what will be a 17,000-square-foot wellness center, which the company hopes to use by April for its employees and their families.
“It all began with the beginning of the company and Paul Silvis,” Restek President Bryan Wolcott said. “He had dreams and expectations about employee wellness, satisfaction and engagement. He has always been about trying to make it a great place to work.”
Silvis’ vision has evolved from the early days of organizing small activities.
He rewarded employees in 1992 with the Millhouse, the company’s 23-year old wellness center, because the company had its first $1 million sales month that year.
“We still use the building, but, boy, we’ve outgrown it,” Wolcott said. “We have about 350 employees, and it’s just not a suitable space for its purpose, and Restek has wanted expand on that for about 10 years, but for a small company to make that big of an investment, well, we’ve had to balance our needs.”
Restek is ahead of the curve in employee wellness programming.
Consider that 67 percent of employers identified employees’ poor health habits as a top challenge to maintaining affordable benefit coverage, accrding to a 2010 survey by Towers Watson the National Business Group on Health.
Combine that with a national trend toward a more health conscious population — this was detailed in March article about the Centre Region’s booming wellness industry — and it is clear why local companies are also on board.
Other local companies like Minitab and Videon Central and the staff at Innovation Park have also gotten in on the action.
Minitab’s director of fitness and wellness Susanne Marder was hired as an independent contractor by the company about 12 years ago.
“It became such a popular program, so much that it became hard to accommodate employees,” she said.
Marder was brought into the fold as a full-time employee to expand class offerings and to provide a broader scope of personal training in the company’s 8,480-square-foot gym. A recent survey, she said, concluded about 90 percent of the company’s employees participate in at least one of this wellness programs a year and that about 60 percent use the gym several times a week.
The gym, Marder said, is free to use for employees and their dependents.
“It’s become a part of the culture of the company,” Marder said.
Videon Central, which has a fitness room and showers for employees to use at their convenience, has followed in the tire tracks of its founder and cycling enthusiast Todd Erdley.
“Todd is a huge biker and a huge advocate for it and wanted to bring that mindset to the company,” Videon Central spokeswoman Rebecca Lundin said. “It was Todd’s idea to get people more involved, and it’s had added benefits. People are spending more time together and training together. It also helps save on health insurance. That’s not the primary purpose, but it’s one of the nice side benefits.”
Erdley’s company has biking, running and general summer fitness programs that offer rewards based on the honor system. If employees bike, run or work out a certain number of times, they eventually are rewarded, sometimes to buy a new bike, new running shoes or to get their bikes tuned up.
“I’ve always been a runner, so free shoes are a nice enticement,” Lundin said.
The Innovation Park coolBlue community, an employee engagement program, recently completed a 326-mile “walk to Ohio State.”
They managed the long trek over a 10-week period in which employees set out on foot a few miles a day on Innovation Park’s walking paths. The journey, walking, should take about 107 hours.
“I originally wanted eight to make it eight weeks,” coolBlue events coordinator Michelle Cook said. “A specialist came in and said to make it longer. They said eight weeks was too short. Most of the people who did it, did it in six or seven weeks.”
Cook will also try to launch a cross-country skiing program for coolBlue this winter.
“We’re just trying to get people out and about,” she said. “It’s not all about fitness activities. One of our most successful events is when we partnered with the Center for Performing Arts. We had 73 people come to listen to one of their groups.”
Restek employees won’t have to go far for fitness.
Possible activities in the new wellness center, near Restek’s main building, will include a gymnasium for employees to play games like soccer, volleyball and basketball. The company, which has had personal trainers for about 20 years, will launch more spinning and yoga classes, boot camps and other activities.
The wellness center will have space dedicated to free weights, bikes and elliptical at minimal costs to employees.
“There are 2 costs, and the first is nominal membership fee that might be like $10 a year,” Wolcott said. “The other cost is for personal trainers, another nominal cost that’s just a few dollars.”
Building a positive, active culture could also have additional benefits if employees are happier and healthier, like making employees less likely to leave.
“People are more inclined to stay at a place where they see themselves fitting in, being a part of the culture and where their personal needs are met,” Wolcott said.
And, sometimes, that means offering more than four walls, a ceiling and a cubicle.