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Watch: WNY corporate leaders tout the dollars and sense of solid workplace wellness

Lauren Dixon has something to tell all those business owners and executives who fold their arms with suspicion when they hear a pitch to add more heft to their company health and wellness program.

Dixon Schwabl Advertising chose to focus on corporate culture, wellness and philanthropy, and saw its number of job applications grow by 242 percent during a three-year period. The company watched the number of college internship applications grow by 126 percent – and also enjoyed double-digit profit increases in each of those three years.

“When I’m talking to other leaders around the country, I put my data in there from now on. It makes a big difference to some leaders who think this wellness and culture is the soft stuff. It’s not the soft stuff. It’s the important stuff,” said Dixon, CEO of the Rochester company, which has about 100 employees.

Dixon, whose company has landed several times on national great places to work lists, was one of four panelists Thursday in leadership buy-in discussion at the second annual American Heart Association Buffalo Niagara Corporate Wellness Summit in the Lexus Club at KeyBank Center.

She was among more than 170 corporate health and wellness enthusiasts from more than 90 companies who gathered to talk about ways they can help their employees lead healthier, more productive lives – including with a culture of health and well-being in their workplaces.

Organizers shared their message in a region where half of the counties – including Erie and Niagara – underperform in public health measures.

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Dixon was among those who came prepared with company data for business execs skeptical that a robust health and wellness program can bolster their bottom lines.

Eric Rorapaugh, president of SMP Corp., echoed Dixon in what the Henrietta tech company experienced after deciding to put its people first in the workplace.

“Along the way, we realized that happy, healthy people work for happy, healthy businesses,” he said. “You need to have people engaged in different and varying levels than just coming to work.”

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Summit topics included leadership buy-in, intergenerational workforce engagement, building a supportive healthier environment, boosting employee participation, and building a healthier retirement plan.

Participants talked about ways to help employees make healthier choices, including breaks on health insurance premiums, employer-covered health screenings, even cash. Dixon was among employers who shared stories about how their programs have helped save lives and make more meaningful contributions at home, work and in their communities.

“Lifestyle change is difficult,” said Marc Natale, executive director of the regional affiliate of the Heart Association. “Most individuals spend most of their day at work, which may have a positive or negative impact on our health. Unless effective prevention strategies are implemented, the direct health care costs of cardiovascular diseases are projected to triple from $273 billion in 2010 to $818 billion in 2030.” That, he said, will hurt everyone’s bottom line.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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