Health & Wellness

2011 Atlanta's Healthiest Companies

Best Self Facebook contest winners

When we asked our readers to nominate the companies they thought embodied the spirit of health for their employees for Best Self’s Healthiest Companies Contest, we were excited by the response. It was wonderful to see so many local companies who truly care about fostering an environment of support when it comes to wellness in the workplace.

Whether it’s organizing a walking group, providing nutritional snacks, or health education, these Atlanta companies know how to keep their employees motivated and feeling their best. These are the top three companies that received the most votes from readers and supporters.

Verizon Wireless


Nominated by: Donna Sumners, Senior Wellness Coordinator 
and Jacob Harmon, Wireless Consultant

Number of employees: 500+ employees

Company Bio: 
Verizon Wireless is a Fortune 500 telecommunications company providing wireless service to its customers. Our South Area Regional Headquarters is in Alpharetta, GA with over 3,000 employees.

Explain what your company does to promote health and wellness.

Verizon Wireless has 43 on-site health and wellness centers across the country. For the employees in the Atlanta area, we not only have an on-site facility, but we also offer services such as massage therapy, nutrition education, one-on-one nutrition advice, personal training, cholesterol screenings, free flu vaccinations, blood pressure screenings, fitness incentives, glucose screenings and diabetes education, mammography, and osteoporosis screenings. We also offer lunch and learn programs including heart health, cancer prevention and more.

Our buildings are smoke-free and we offer several cessation programs for employees looking for help in quitting smoking. Our most popular program, “QuitNet,” allows them access to online support, phone support, and free cessation aids to help them quit. Our cafeterias all have healthy options and our own “Coaches Choice” entrees. Our vending machines all have “Balanced Choice” options for healthier snacking.

We provide health and wellness updates to all employees across the country with our Quality at Work e-mails. In these e-mails that go out on Mondays (Motivational Mondays), Wednesdays (Wellness Wednesdays) and Fridays (Fitness Fridays), we not only give them tips on how to stay motivated and healthy, but we also highlight our employees who have made changes in their lifestyles for the better.

Verizon offers many discounts to gyms, clubs, etc. At all corporate headquarters Verizon offers a full gym to employees for free if they visit at least five times a month. Verizon sponsors many 5K, 10K, half, and full marathons and invites all employees to join. Verizon continues to find new ways every day to help promote a healthy job and life for all of its employees.

Is there a yearly event that your company sponsors and/or participates in?
We have several yearly events. Our biggest event last year was the Kaiser Permanente Corporate Challenge. With over 700 employees registered to participate, we won Most Participation and Most Fit Company. We are looking to increase the number of employees registering this year to over 800.

We also sponsored our own 50,000 Pound Challenge last year. Each month we would weigh our employees and give them nutrition and exercise tips to help them reach their weight loss goal. In August, we helped them prepare for the Corporate Challenge and in October, we matched the weight loss during the month and donated the same number of food products to our food drives; combining our weight loss challenge with our community initiatives. By the end of the year, we lost over 65,000 pounds.

How has this health-conscious company improved the lives of its employees?

We have several employees who have improved their lives by changing their health habits. We have success stories of employees who have stopped smoking and have remained smoke-free for over two years. Our biggest highlight is from two women who have lost a combined 230 pounds and have come off of their medications for high blood pressure and diabetes. Our employees are also healthier in that we have given them free flu shots, as well as all the other screenings we provide.
Many employees are members of gyms that discounts are given to and use the gyms in our corporate headquarters. Verizon also showcases many employees who have had major weight loss and have changed their lives. Verizon helps to enrich its employees’ lives not only through healthy living, but giving back to their community as well.

Is there a specific person in the company who champions these efforts?
Our programs start from upper management. Our president and Area and Regional presidents all support and participate in our on-site fitness facilities and programs. However, we also have a team of “coaches” across the country that motivates all employees to participate in our wellness programs. We also have our own “Wellness Promoters” throughout the company who help us encourage the employees. These Wellness Promoters are employees who have succeeded in reaching their goals – whether it was running a 5K, losing 10% of their body weight and want to help others see that sometimes the biggest, hardest step is getting started.



Nominated by: Jo Ann Labbie, Chief Learning Officer

Number of employees: <100 employees

Company Bio: 
GH&I is a full-service accounting, audit, business advisory, tax, and financial services provider. Clients of GH&I include a wide spectrum of middle market businesses including corporations, closely-held businesses, partnerships, joint ventures, and startups; and estates, trusts, nonprofits and individuals.

Explain what your company does to promote health and wellness.

We have education sessions about nutritional health, emotional health, and fitness classes. We bring in nutritionists, trainers, healthy eating specialists and coaches from the community to provide us knowledge in these areas.

We have hired a fitness coach, Sandi Porter, to have a GH&I’s Losing It contest. Sandi was brought in due to her success with Gwinnett’s Losing It program. This contest is similar to a biggest loser contest though it takes it to a much deeper level where individuals have to write essays with goals, lessons learned, and hurdles overcome. We have fourteen participants and everyone is doing well in the program.

We are located right next to one of Atlanta’s finest fitness centers, Concourse Athletic Club. The company negotiated a discounted rate for their employees plus offers a $5 per visit up to ten visits per month reimbursement program. This arrangement helps with cost reduction yet requires the employees to have some skin in the game.

GH&I works to GIVE, HOPE and INSPIRE our employees being involved with Health Matters at Work® a value-added program of Community Health Charities connecting employees with the valuable information regarding prevention of chronic disease, as well as managing chronic health conditions more effectively.
In 2010, our Young Leaders Group had a volunteer day at the Summer Special Olympics helping participants in their sporting activities. We have a few employees involved in Teams in Training and GH&I is a proud supporter of their efforts.

Is there a yearly event that your company sponsors and/or participates in?

Every spring you will see a group of walkers participating in the Susan G. Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure at Atlantic Station. Every May we have a fun outing for our teammates at the Indian Hills Country Club. The employees get to select from golfing, tennis, or lounging poolside to enjoy their day in the sun. Team GH&I participates in the CPA Sports Softball league where they compete against other CPA firms throughout the summer. We spend a day every August giving back to our community with our Annual Community Service Day staining, painting, and cleaning up grounds at different venues like the Jerusalem House, Edgewood Gardens, Camp Twin Lakes, Piedmont Park, or local schools. Before flu season, we offer a Health Clinic to administer flu shots to employees and their families.

How has this health-conscious company improved the lives of its employees?
GH&I offers flexible scheduling, part-time working options, and an educational environment. We are located in an office complex that offers automotive care, dry cleaning delivery and shuttle services. We also acknowledge a need for continuous improvement and are open to new initiatives along the way. All of these help improve the busy lives of our employees.

Is there a specific person in the company who champions these efforts? 

No. It is more of a team approach.

IDR, Inc.


Nominated by: Lindsay Kiefaber, Branch Coordinator

Number of employees: <100 employees

Company Bio: 
IDR takes pride in standing out and rising above other technology consulting firms. We are responsive, consistent and get positions filled quickly with IT consultants who exceed our clients’ expectations. We are passionate about client service and perform with commitment and tenacity rarely seen in the IT staffing field.

Explain what your company does to promote health and wellness.

IDR takes the health and wellness of our employees seriously. Every employee participates in weekly boot camps (paid for by IDR and during work hours!) at least once a week. We also keep a balance chart, which is a weekly log of our health and wellness (some components are eating, water intake, sleep, physical activity, etc.). We also have quarterly fitness tests which measure our improvement. 

Is there a yearly event that your company sponsors and/or participates in? 

We participate in monthly “Giving Back” programs. Although these change month-to-month many of them are runs or boot-camps benefiting a cause. For example, this past year we participated in a boot camp for the American Cancer Society and a run called “Cupid's Chase” benefiting Community Options Inc.

How has this health-conscious company improved the lives of its employees? 

Our employees are more energized than ever before. By focusing on their health, their lifestyles have improved giving them more energy and time for the things that matter. We are physically healthier and know we are playing for something that matters. Many jobs drain you, and leave you depleted at the end of the day. IDR focuses on filling their employees so they can make the most out of life.

Is there a specific person in the company who champions these efforts? 

Eric French, our president, first had the idea to bring these practices into the office. He has taken it to the next level by implementing it in each of our four branch locations (Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, and D.C.). He not only brought us these practices, but he lives them day in and day out.

Kaiser Permanente's Healthy Company Spotlight

Northwestern Benefit Corporation of Georgia and Goodwin, Wright


Submitted by: Mary Pozatek, Wellness Consultant at Northwestern Benefit Corporation and David Asbury, CEO

About: Northwestern Benefit provides a number of services ranging from strategic business planning to employee training and education, to high touch advocacy of employees and family members. We have built a company based on a combination of best in class strategic consulting and human service.  Northwestern Benefit Corporation of Georgia is affiliated with The Goodwin, Wright Agency of Northwestern Mutual Financial Network (NMFN), which has been a presence in the Atlanta Financial Services community since 1885.

How many employees are in your company? 90

How has your company promoted health and wellness in the workplace?
Mary: At Northwestern Benefit Corporation and Goodwin, Wright, we promote health and wellness to our employees by attempting to engage the employees throughout the year in various wellness programs. We make sure to communicate initiatives at staff meetings and set participation goals around activities. My role within the company is to encourage and promote personal health and wellness by initiating behavior change and creating a culture of wellness throughout the company. I work as a wellness coach to employees in order to facilitate behavior change on an individual basis and lead a wellness committee to engage employees at the organizational level.

What specific components does the program use to promote health?
We have numerous wellness initiatives throughout the year including:

  • Yearly on-site biometric screenings and health assessments at no cost to the employee
  • Physical activity and weight loss challenges
  • Walking/running training groups
  • Lunch and learn sessions for the employees
  • Wellness coaching on-site
  • Active Wellness committee
  • Kaiser Permanente Run/Walk Event registration is covered by the employer
  • Actively partner with vendors to bring healthy food options for snacks, lunches, etc.

How do you get people involved?
We make sure that wellness programs are communicated at staff meetings, through e-mail, posters, flyers and word of mouth. We make sure wellness programs are emphasized as being important to the culture of Northwestern Benefit Corporation and Goodwin, Wright. The importance of health and wellness is stressed from leadership and is emphasized throughout the year. We also provide incentives for participating in wellness challenges and make participating in events such as the KP Corporate Challenge low or no cost to the employees.

How have these health initiatives improved the lives of employees
at your company?
Our employees are able to be active participants in their personal health and wellness on a yearly basis during our health assessments and screenings and many have made lifestyle changes based on the information they have found out during these events. Many individuals have begun exercising more or eating healthier due to participation in challenges.

How has participating in the Kaiser Permanente Run/Walk Event 
helped to promote wellness?
Participating in this event provides the wellness committee with the opportunity to encourage physical activity and engage groups of people in “training” programs leading up to the walk/run. It is also a team building activity where individuals can pair up with co-workers and get in the habit of incorporating physical activity into their daily lives.

What are the incentives given to employees to participate?
Monetary incentives, gift cards, recognition at events and staff meetings.

Do you measure the results in some way?
We measure participation in the yearly health screenings and assessments. Aggregate results are also compared yearly to determine if improvements have been made. For challenges, we measure participation throughout the challenge along with one metric that directly relates to the challenge (steps walked, minutes exercised, weight loss, etc). We also look at evaluations from programs such as lunch and learns, coaching sessions, screenings, etc.

What advice would you give to other companies looking
to start a health initiative?
Our advice to other companies would be to start slow. Have a conversation with senior leadership to make sure they are on-board and ask for their support when creating a plan for wellness programs. Create a working document that can act as your plan as the initiative takes shape.

Comprehensive wellness programs are an ever-evolving process, so it is important to begin with programs that will engage a large number of your employees and build on that year after year to continuously change behavior. With health care costs rising and employee health on the decline, there is no better time than now to begin implementing these types of programs.

Employers that are considering implementing an employee wellness program must also commit to a budget for these initiatives.  There is no question that employee health and wellness is worth the investment. Companies that realize the importance of this investment and commit funds to wellness programs will achieve the largest return in the end.