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How wellness is trucking along in one New Brunswick company that’s reversing trends to keep its families healthy.

Sometimes trends tell a story. In 2006, after years of rising group insurance costs, Armour Transportation Systems decided they needed to turn this trend around. “We decided to look and see how we might be able to resolve the situation,” says Alisha Armour, Armour’s Wellness Manager. “We wanted to demonstrate to our people that we not only care about the bottom line of the company, but also care about their health and wellbeing. We wanted to do something to make a change.”

It was the company’s own CEO who brought forward the idea of creating a wellness program. A Wellness Committee was struck with members of the executive and management teams supported by 60 Wellness Reps – one for each terminal in the company’s Atlantic network.

“In order for us to successfully communicate and launch all these wellness initiatives, we felt we really needed to have people at all our various locations who had an interest in healthy living and wellness who could help us convey that message to our employees at that location. So we established our Wellness Committee and found wellness reps at each location,” adds Alisha.

That’s when the Shift Gears, Live Well program was launched. The program’s vision was created in collaboration with senior management and employees. Its goal Printis to enhance everyone’s quality of life and encourage and support an environment of wellness through opportunities that will promote healthy lifestyles and a healthy workplace.

Alisha says the key word in this statement is opportunities. “It’s all about personal choice. We create the opportunities through the programs that we offer but, at the end of the day, it’s up to our people if they choose to participate or not. We create the opportunity and hope our people will participate.” And employees do participate because Armour has created a culture where they feel supported and encouraged.

Another key decision made at the outset was that the wellness program wouldn’t just be available to employees, but also to their spouses – a way of demonstrating that, at its heart, Armour is still a family company, even as it grows larger.

To launch the program, they offered health risk assessments for the employees. “Those helped us identify our top risk factors company-wide,” says Alisha. “They were things like weight control, physical inactivity, smoking and stress/coping ability. That helped us establish the initial core initiatives based on what was needed. Those assessments helped us figure out our top risk factors company-wide, and what could we do to address those issues.”

One of the first initiatives was to develop a healthy meal plan. Partnering with a registered dietician, a plan was developed that followed Canada’s Food Guide and was offered to every employee.

“Since nearly half of our employee population is drivers and they are on the road, the dietician spent time with one of the drivers, who is a wellness rep, looking in the truck to see the size of the fridge and shelving, to see what’s realistic for them being on the road, travelling cross-border, and those types of things. We wanted to make sure that we had a meal plan that would work for our drivers.”

Another program addresses sleep apnea, a common condition in the trucking industry. Armour offers their employees a complimentary sleep apnea test and if the condition is diagnosed, the company makes arrangements for the employee to be supplied with a CPAP machine for as long as they need. The company insurance also covers 80% of the cost of the machine.

“We really tried to be open about it and share testimonials. Some our senior managers talked about having sleep apnea and how, once you get the CPAP machine, it will change your life.”

Other activities take place throughout the year to enhance spirit and boost morale, like Halloween costume contests, Christmas luncheons, and Ugly Sweater Contests. “We have our annual awards banquets where we celebrate the success of our people, like safe drivers, safe workers, million mile drivers, people who have worked here 25 years, retirees. The banquet is a way for the company to celebrate the success of its people.” These activities knit the large company together.

“It’s creating healthy, happy employees, and it boosts morale.”

The biggest challenge? “Reaching everyone. Our drivers, who are such a huge part of our company, are mobile so making sure they’re receiving information and are engaged can be difficult,” explains Alisha.

So to make sure the wellness message gets out to everyone, a wide variety of channels are used, including emails, posters, an internal software system, TV screens at locations, and even notes on paystubs and satellite messages sent to trucks. The key, however, are the wellness reps whose hard work ensures that everyone is aware of what is happening at each location.

dsc_0006_croppedIn 2014, Armour Transportation Systems was recognized with a “Wellness at Heart” Gold Award from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick for making wellness an integral part of their organization through initiatives related to physical activity, tobacco-free living, healthy eating and mental fitness. In addition to receiving the Gold Award, Armour also received an “Award of Distinction” in recognition of their efforts to ensure a health promoting environment for their employees and for showing true innovation and use of best practices.

In the future, they are planning to continue their core programs while trying new initiatives, like “My Good Health”, a web-based portal done in partnership with Medavie Blue Cross that gives employees access to all kinds of health information, such as health calculators, health risk assessments, community outreach groups, and information on medications. Those who participate in the medical assessments receive a “Know Your Numbers” card with all their biometric information. People can keep this card in their wallet and, with this information, they can use the new portal to help them make choices about lifestyle changes.

The employees and families have rallied around Armour and the program. As Alisha notes, “Over the past 10 years, wellness has just become part of our company culture and has just really been embraced by our employees and their families, and that’s the reason our programming has been so successful.”

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