I am the Manager of the Employee Wellness Program for NJ TRANSIT, a state organization providing public transportation across the state of New Jersey and into New York and Pennsylvania. NJ TRANSIT employs about 11,000 train conductors, bus drivers, mechanics, police and many other people who help keep New Jersey moving! I have been a part of this initiative from the start, which began a little over one year ago.
This is me!
I began my career in general business. After many years in the field, I pursued my passion for workplace health awareness and promotion. I obtained my Registered Dietitian credentials and combined that knowledge with my corporate experience by becoming the Employee Wellness Program Manager for NJ TRANSIT. To enhance my ability to bring wellness to my diverse population, I became a WELCOA member and achieved Faculty status. I know that blending my business experience, my clinical expertise and my foundation built through my WELCOA training have provided the tools I need to bring an innovative Wellness Program to NJ TRANSIT.
There are many health concerns that face the NJ TRANSIT community, but in many cases, these health conditions could detrimentally impact employees’ ability to perform their jobs safely. Diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea are major safety concerns for those on the road.
With the initiation of the Wellness Program, we are beginning health promotion with education. We host "Ask the Dietitian" tabling events where employees can come to me and ask any nutrition related questions they have. The Lunch & Learn seminars we have offered and will offer describe the concept of wellness and give evidence based information regarding good nutrition, Diabetes, heart disease, cancer prevention, physical activity and smoking cessation. We are also planning cooking demonstrations to offer more interactive and tasty learning experiences. I also partnered with our EAP department to bring a Stress Management session to many locations. We are hosting Health Fairs with Biometric Screenings to encourage people to know their health status and take advantage of all of the preventive services our medical benefits offer.
I headed up a weight loss competition. I was steadfast in giving the participants feedback and tips to help them succeed. The greatest weight losses recorded for the 11 week program were 4.7% and 4.5%.
I work closely with the cafeteria manager for two of our largest facilities. Together we initiated healthy lunch combinations that are good examples of lower calorie, lower sodium options available in the cafeteria.
I understand how important a healthy, supportive environment is to the success of a wellness program, and I am taking steps to make our wellness message multifaceted.
The feedback has been wonderful. Employees are genuinely happy to see us and attend events. They feel as though the company is caring for them by bringing more information and services out into the field, which has greatly increased morale and company pride. I am striving to make all of the initiatives of the Wellness Program appropriate for the very unique and diverse population I serve here at NJ TRANSIT.
As manager of the program, I do always try to lead by example. I have one analyst who reports to me, but I also try to be a good example of health to all my coworkers. I always show empathy and look to help people find the way to stay well that works for them in their own personal situations. Wellness is certainly not one size fits all, and my hope is that through my leadership, people feel empowered to seek out how best to be "well" in their own lives.
My advice to other leaders in wellness is to remember that we are all individuals with different personal challenges, strengths and weaknesses. To help someone find their own way to health, you must help them find their own path.
One of the Wellness Program’s messages is "Know Your Numbers" - really know your health status so we can help you prevent or manage any health issues you face. Many people have feared that their jobs could be in jeopardy if they reveal any illness to the company.
I want our employees to feel empowered, not judged, by taking control of their health. I never want the program to feel like a blanket being thrown out to "cover" a problem very superficially without treating the root causes or issues. And confidentiality is paramount in all of our interventions.
By coupling this message with education, the result is encouragement and support, not blame or criticism. I am grateful the employees have expressed their concerns and hesitations about participating in Wellness events. By facing these issues directly and honestly, the employees’ response has been very positive and they are embracing the program.
A challenge facing many NJ TRANSIT employees as they pursue a healthier lifestyle is the nature of their work. Bus drivers sit for much of the day. Many train conductors are on the trains for long stretches of time. Mechanics face many musculoskeletal issues due to the nature of their work.
I want this program to work for every single NJ TRANSIT employee. I am interested in offering a wide array of healthy options so that all people find activities that really speaks to them, things they will truly enjoy and can fit into their lives. By visiting as many facilities as possible, I can really learn what a day in the life is for most of our employees. By making this program a realistic fit with the challenges our employees face, the more likely they will embrace these healthy initiatives and make them a part of their everyday lives.