CAM’ program boosts participation up to 60%

Offerings bring cultural change’ at ADP

A stress management program grounded in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) techniques has boosted program participation, helped reduce employee stress, and engendered a significant change in corporate culture at the Buffalo, NY, office of Automated Data Processing (ADP) Inc.

"When we first became participants [in the program], we were doing the traditional flu shots and cholesterol screenings," recalls Barbara Ulrich, SPHR, director of human resources. "It opened up new ways to improve morale with minimal cost. Participation was just phenomenal compared to the traditional programs we had."

The CAM programming was introduced to ADP in 1993-94, as an outgrowth of the Mary Lasker Healthy Heart Grant, a three-year program. The proceeds of the grant were used to fund wellness programming through the Industrial Park Wellness Model, created by Lisa Marie Donohue, MA, LMT. At the time, Donohue was part of The Wellness Partnership Inc. (TWP), a consortium of Donohue; Glenn Orser, president of ErgoWorks; and Sharon Lawrence, president of Nutrition Dynamics.

"Each of us had their own company and came together under the umbrella of TWP to work on certain projects — such as the Mary Lasker Healthy Heart Grant," explains Donohue, who remains a partner in TWP, but now also serves as "Director/Catalyst" of Beyond Boundaries in Kennesaw, GA.

Through the back door’

The Industrial Park Wellness Model involved the participation of a number of companies in the same industrial park, which included ADP. Because of the traditional mindset at ADP, "we introduced CAM programming through the back door," Donohue explains.

For example, one of the programs was called "Hands-on Health: Stress-busting for Everyday Life." In this program, Donohue tried to arm ADP employees with "one-minute-manager" ideas for fighting stress. "We introduced self-massage techniques using objects like tennis balls, spindles, and rolling pins," says Donohue.

She chose those props because "people have them; they don’t have to run out and spend a bunch money — and neither does the company. They’re portable, so you can keep them at your workstation or in your briefcase."

The techniques were simple. In one exercise, the employee would take the tennis ball and place it between himself and the wall. He could then move the ball up and down, working on his back muscles. The same technique could also be used for side muscles.

Donohue explains the "back-door" effectiveness of such activities. "The employee sees the connection between mind and body, on centering and grounding. But if I started talking about spiritual health and mind/body immediately, they might not have listened."

Deciphering stress cues

Donohue teaches employees by helping them see connections between emotional responses and physical discomfort. "Why is it that when so-and-so walks down the hall towards you, you get the same pain every time — in the same place? After having this pointed out often enough, the employee begins to think, Maybe there is a connection," she notes. "This leads into deciphering stress cues."

She introduced a number of programs at ADP, including the ever-popular on-site chair massage. "For special events, we were able to get Blue Cross coverage," she recalls.

Her stress management programs evolved into teaching Locus of control.’

"This involves knowing that at any time, despite the stress level of the situation you’re in, you can go home,’" Donohue explains. "In this class, we share techniques on centering and grounding."

Donohue is extremely careful when she gets into the area of spirituality. "I tell employees that faith, belief, religion, and spirituality are four separate but interconnected things," she notes. "When I talk about spirituality in the workplace, I say that spirit is really the thing that drives us. I challenge employees to define their spirit."

She then brings in everyday work experiences. "I ask employees if — on a day when everything at the workplace gets jammed or stops working — they’ve ever thought that something higher was intervening," she says. "You can’t ignore those messages. But if we got more in touch with them, a lot of our work would have more flow, joy, and effort."

Other programs offered included progressive muscular relaxation, learning to breathe, and using different muscle groups. "We also do a lot of programs in the cubicle, which we look at as a mini-gym,’" Donohue notes. "We use the walls, and dynabands to hook up to existing office equipment. We call it stretching in a shoebox.’"

Did those programs have a positive impact on employee health at ADP? "Absolutely," she replies.

A satisfied customer

Ulrich is more than pleased with the results. "Our associates have been able to take away practical applications of things they could do at their desk," she says. "We are a customer service organization, and sometimes dealing with the public can be less than pleasant — and very stressful. We were cognizant our employees needed relief."

However, ADP had been providing traditional employee morale-boosting programs, like trivia contests, and "we felt we had been meeting the needs of our employees," Ulrich says.

The CAM programming changed all that. "Lisa led us in a cultural change in the types of programs we provide for our employees," says Ulrich. "She brought us an awareness that the employer needs to take care of people so they can take care of business."

ADP used to get 10% participation in its traditional wellness programs, and maybe up to 30% for flu shots, says Ulrich. "After Lisa came, that jumped to 50% to 60%."

The uniqueness of the programs was part of their appeal, says Ulrich. "I would say they definitely were non-traditional. For example, we had an Adopt a Couch-Potato’ program. It worked toward the same wellness goals, but with a different way of looking at things."

ADP reaped more than just higher participation numbers. "We started to experience a number of workers’ comp inquiries about carpal tunnel syndrome," Ulrich says. "Lisa was able to develop simple exercises for our people that really helped our organization deal with this issue."

Donohue says the popularity of CAM will only grow in the future. "It is more user-friendly, a hotter commodity than traditional programming, less invasive, and more cost-effective," she asserts.

CAM is more user-friendly because "People are very curiosity-laden, and CAM attracts a multipurpose user," Donohue explains. "People seem a lot more comfortable with CAM and anxious to participate. They’re always dabbling in herbs these days, so they’re already on the bandwagon. And it can attract new wellness users."

CAM is becoming hot with employers, too, she says. "Quite often, when I went marketing with HMOs, employers would ask, What you done for me lately?’ They want leading-edge ideas, and there’s only so much HMOs can offer."

Then, of course, there’s cost. "When you’ve been through everything imaginable for a lower-back problem, including MRIs, movement programs and acupuncture can be attractive alternatives," she says.

As for ADP, their approach to health and wellness has been changed forever. "We’ve just moved into a new facility, and we’re very adamant from the top down that we need to have a fitness center," says Ulrich. "We’re now doing lunchtime stress management seminars to help people cope with everyday life, from family and financial problems to the everyday work environment. Even our food choices have changed.

"We understand that this is a job; but employees have a life outside of work, and we’re doing a lot to help them balance work and family," she continues. "We won’t lose sight of what’s important; we want to keep our employees, be flexible, let them have a comfort zone in which they feel they can talk about what their needs are. That was not the mindset here years ago."