Companies implement wellness programs for a number of reasons; reduced health care costs, decreased injuries and illnesses and reduced absenteeism are the big benefits to the employer. A good wellness program will help employees adopt a healthier lifestyle, reduce stress and create an overall more productive work environment. The first step to implementing a solid wellness program is to form a wellness committee made up of employees.

In 2009 Orion ISO formed a wellness committee called “SOZO”. SOZO is a Greek word for overall mind and body wellness. In addition to being a fun word to say, it’s actually a quite accurate description for what the committee believes in. Obviously exercise, diet and weightless should be a large focus on any company wellness program but the SOZO committee puts a lot of focus into mental, mind and spiritual health as well.

Over the last five years SOZO has sponsored over 40 wellness events. Their biggest event is the annual Health and Wellness Fair. Taking place in January right in the office, the fair sponsors 20-30 vendor booths that focus on wellness topics. Past vendors have included pet adoption companies, blood type screening, chair massages, aromatherapy, healthy food vendors and fitness clubs. “It’s a fun and educational day at the office for our employees,” said Missy Schraut, Orion ISO Coordinator and SOZO committee member. “We bring everything to them so all they need to do is show up”.

The most popular SOZO events are the weight loss and exercise challenges. SOZO has sponsored nine of them so far. The weight loss challenges are organized similar to the Biggest Loser TV show with varying twists. SOZO tries to mix it up by doing individual and team competitions and other variations to keep employees interested and to see which competitions are the most successful. The group has also sponsored three exercise challenges including a step challenge, a biking challenge and a lazy man’s triathlon.

Some of the unique events the SOZO committee has done are things that are just plain fun. SOZO has done a number of baking and cooking competitions, including chili cook-offs, salsa tasting and best holiday cookie recipe. All employees are encouraged to participate by either bringing in their dish or by tasting and voting for a winner.

The group also has provided healthy lunches after the all company management meetings, hosted a number of speakers on health related topics and even had an ugly sweater competition. SOZO also sponsors a flu clinic each fall for employees which is done on site making it easy to receive the vaccine.

The SOZO committee has contributed to Orion ISO receiving a number of healthy workplace awards including being chosen as one of Minnesota’s 100 Best Companies to Work For by Minnesota Business Magazine, a “Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award” from the Minnesota Psychological Association in 2008 and 2011, chosen as one of the “Healthiest Employers in the Twin Cities” by Minneapolis / Saint Paul Business Journal and a “Great Place to Work” in Minnesota Monthly Magazine, just to name a few!

“We know ‘healthy’ means different things to different people. To some it’s weight loss, to others it’s lowering their stress of their jobs by having some fun in their work day, “Cassie McMayer, SOZO Chairperson. “We really focus on putting on events where everyone can find something that will benefit their health in some way”.

Whether it’s petting a puppy, losing 10 pounds, getting a flu shot or putting on an ugly sweater, SOZO encourages wellness for Orion employees on a regular basis.

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