Refreshed: The business of wellness

Published 10:20 am Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mower Refreshed, in its campaign to promote healthy living, was at the Mower County Fair this year for Refreshed Destination. -- Photo provided

Companies playing key role in Mower Refreshed

Part 2 of 4: See all Mower Refreshed stories here

A Nintendo Wii, walking paths, snow shoes and exercise equipment may not seem like the building blocks of a thriving workforce, but a Brownsdale business is using tools like these to be considered one of the best workplaces in Minnesota.

IBI Data, a marketing services and database company that works mainly with foodservice manufacturers, is one of the many businesses in Mower County with a wellness program for employees that started in 2006.

“If you keep them healthy, you keep them happy — it’s just better for business,” said Sherry Anderson, an IBI data programmer and the wellness coordinator since 2009.

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The program is one of the reasons that in June “Minnesota Business Magazine” named IBI Data one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

The company’s efforts are also something Mower Refreshed, a grassroots community wellness movement, is hoping to share so other businesses can follow suit.


Shared practices

In IBI Data’s break-room, employees can get groovy — or at least be a little more active by playing games like “Just Dance” and other games on a Wii.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. An exercise room offers two treadmills, two exercise bikes, an elliptical machine and other exercise equipment. Employees can spend breaks and lunches walking on paths near the business, even during the winter when snowshoes are available.

The company is kicking off its 10th Biggest Loser competition — a weight-loss program based on the NBC reality show — and Sherry is also starting to promote 5-2-1-0, a health plan to remind people each day to eat five or more fruits and vegetables, limit recreational screen time to no more than two hours, exercise for at least one hour and consume zero sugary drinks.

Sherry praised the commitment of IBI Data President Katherine Harte for her commitment to her 50 to 60 employees.

“She fully believes in anything that can help the staff be healthier and happier,” Sherry said.

IBI Data has stretched beyond traditional health, as it’s also held workshops on financial stress.

But local health officials hope these ideas don’t stay behind the doors of one office.

Mower Refreshed Coordinator Sandy Anderson (no relation to Sherry) is incorporating such efforts into a list of “best practices” in the hope of inspiring other employers.

Another best practice is found at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, where Director Cheryl Corey makes fruit and bottled water available for snacking.

Other workplaces could hold walking meetings instead of staying cooped in a conference room.

“As employers are given ideas on things to do, that’s going to make it easier for them to offer [them] to their employees,” Sandy said.

Mower Refreshed is working to be a venue where these ideas can be shared through online marketing and networking, a concept businesses are taking note of.

“It’s really exciting to know that there is one centralized place where we could go and find out what’s going on,” Sherry said. The key to Sandy and Mower Refreshed is to make sure the price is right.

That means that even if a business doesn’t have money to spend on a wellness program, they could potentially use a list of best practices on the Mower Refreshed website to promote simple ways to improve workplace health.

“It’s not costing that employer anything, but it’s making that employee a whole lot more productive if they’re in that afternoon slump and they go out a get a 15-minute brisk walk,” Sandy said.

Future practices

In 2013, Refreshed Dining is set to launch as a way for restaurant owners to share similar best practices like how to use fewer Styrofoam plates or how to train staff to be aware of gluten-free foods.

The plan would give restaurant owners a place to come together and share ideas.

Mower Refreshed is also recruiting businesses and to participate in a wellness profile to debut in 2013. They plan to use Mayo’s Fit for You, which is a 12-minute health risk assessment that could be made available to businesses or people.

“I think this is, again, going to be one of those tools that Mower Refreshed can help provide our county businesses and organizations with that they might not otherwise be able to afford or have access to,” Sandy said.

IBI Data previously did health risk assessments, and Sherry said about 80 percent of the company’s employees participated. The employees were able to take the ideas and discuss them with healthcare providers.

In June, Mower Refreshed hosted a Take 5 event to help build resilience to stress and anxiety, and the event offered continued education units for professionals and teachers. Sandy hopes teachers can use these ideas in the classroom, and she said there will eventually be another Take 5 event.


Like Mower Refreshed, IBI Data’s wellness program has been a grassroots effort, meaning it’s been staff-driven. From the start, Sherry said they’ve sought reactions and feedback from the workers on what would work and what wouldn’t.

Sherry urged businesses to start small with wellness efforts and then allow the project to grow.

“It just takes one person to start,” and she added that having the company’s support can help the effort thrive.

Austin Chamber of Commerce Director Sandy Forstner, who has been on the Mower Refreshed Workforce Wellness committee, said health and wellness is important for area businesses.

“Healthy employees are better employees,” he said, adding that it helps production.

Forstner said Mower Refreshed has had an impact in the community, but noted the grassroots wellness effort still has a long ways to go.

“It’s a developing program,” Forstner said.