How one of the healthiest companies in Mississippi makes workplace wellness easy

Kellye Smith is a resource specialist for Ross & Yerger, one of the largest privately owned insurance agencies in Mississippi with offices in Jackson, Tupelo, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

In Jackson, Ross & Yerger employs 116 individuals who have on-site access to a gym,  on-the-clock half hour per week to exercise, quarterly health and fitness challenges and occasional food kaleidoscopes, colorful events where employees learn about and sample new foods—mostly, new fruits and vegetables.

So it’s no surprise that in 2016 the Mississippi Business Journal ranked Ross & Yerger the healthiest privately-owned, medium-sized company in the state. It’s a well-earned title, and reflects its commitment to health in the hard data; the company has a 96.5 percent employee retention rate. Its employees’ overweight BMIs and cholesterol levels dropped 11 and 18 percentage points since 2008, respectively.

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Eliminating Obstacles to Good Health

So how does a company in Mississippi, oft-cited as the unhealthiest state in America not only for adults but also for children, do such good work? Smith says it comes from making health an institutional priority for the company, and eliminating obstacles to good health for their employees.

“We’ve seen enough research to know if your workplace is not a healthy environment you’re going to have a hard time keeping people in the most physical sense; if you have sick employees, how good is that going to be to your workforce?” she said.

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A Company-Wide Goal

Good health is an institutional goal at Ross & Yerger. Its leadership team is deeply invested in making sure employees enjoy going to work, Smith says, and surveys employees to ask them what they want—an effort they take seriously and continue to tweak and drive so that it’s part of the work culture. “When you come to work here, pretty quickly after orientation, we’re going to sit down and have a conversation about the wellness program,” she says.

Wellness for Mind and Body

The company doesn’t focus on physical wellness alone, either; employees have access to free counseling, quarterly seminars on stress relief and a CEO, Smith says, who is invested in the happiness of his employees.

“A successful wellness program is if you can prevent one heart attack from happening,” she said. “You don’t have to make everyone radical vegans or marathon runners. Get them to a place that’s easily sustainable so that we can prevent the onslaught of health conditions that we see in the state of Mississippi. To be able to combat that is really what we’re trying to do here.”

Try some tips from Ross & Yerger you could replicate for your own business:

1. Make health a priority
Ross & Yerger’s healthcare system wouldn’t work well without organization. Consider developing a comprehensive wellness plan for your company. 

2. Build camaraderie
Teamwork makes the dream work. At Ross & Yerger, employees can complete fitness challenges together.

3. Set the example!
From the top down, Ross & Yerger prioritizes physical and emotional health.  Invite every person in your company to participate!

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