By Walter Whitfield
College athletics is in the midst of the biggest arms race in its history. Stadiums upgrades worth hundreds of millions. Athletic centers housing 100 plus seat theaters, games rooms, on-site barbers, and state of the art weight rooms. Clemson University built a kiddy slide to give athletes an alternative to the stairs. A slide!
But where are the stories of the employee investments and upgrades? Athletic department employees are most often the unsung heroes. They are football’s version of the offensive line. They are basketball’s version of the 6th man. They are golf’s version of the caddy. They are the experts that get little credit and no front page story after a big win.
Yet, they endure a tough schedule. Early mornings. Late nights. Long weekends. Season after season. And much of that time spent worrying about the health, safety, and satisfaction of student-athletes and fans. This daily grind can play a huge part in a person’s health, both physically and mentally. Personal and family life is sporadic. Hobbies are few. Relaxation time limited. More so, healthy habits are tough to develop or even harder to keep up.
Fortunately, many companies understand the value of investing in employee wellbeing. A great investment tool is workplace wellness. Workplace wellness programs are health promotion activities, organizational policies, and employee benefit resources that are intended to support healthy behaviors and lifestyles while at work. These programs include education, health risk assessments, health coaching, and behavioral/lifestyle management. Some programs have including wealth management and leadership coaching.
Today, healthcare costs are increasing at universities across the country. East Tennessee State University’s Director of Athletics Dr. Richard Sander has seen health care costs double in just a three-year span. Workplace wellness could help athletic department’s curve employee healthcare costs. Also, work environment improvements could help universities with retention and recruitment of great employees, increase productivity, and decrease employee absenteeism.
Coach Garrett Kreamer, Tyler Junior College’s quarterback and wide receivers coach, said he spends much of his day at the football office and practice field. He thinks workplace wellness services integrated into his weekly preparations could help him ease stress while remaining fit and productive during the season.
Quick meeting between a few colleagues? Take a short walk around the sports complex and discuss the topic at hand. Prolonged computer work? Group stretch breaks could limit the monotony while doing wonders for the musculoskeletal system. Looking for a team building exercise? Morning or afternoon group workouts can develop unity and promote teamwork. Staff in need of a little pick me up? Lunch and Learns could give the staff a chance to hear a presentation on stress management while eating healthy. These suggestions are small but can show employees they are cared for.
So the next time a discussion comes up about possible investment projects, invest in the unsung heroes. Show them you not only care about their hard work, but you care about their wellbeing.
Walter Whitfield is an employee wellness consultant and founder of Lavoro Workplace Wellness where he helps businesses improve their workplace through employee wellness strategies. He has worked with corporations like Chevron, BP, and Seadrill. Walter is a former college athlete for Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns where he competed in cross country and track, winning Sunbelt conference titles in the 3k Steeplechase and 5k. He is married, has 3 kids, and loves all things New Orleans Saints and Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns.
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