A Loss Worth Reporting

Companies are learning the gains to be had from helping their employees lose weight.
Kate PlourdJanuary 1, 2008

Feel free to call Mark Ticknor a big loser. He won’t mind.

The 54-year-old CFO of Wesley Willows Corp., a Rockford, Illinois-based adult-care community, dropped 12 pounds after joining a companywide weight-loss program nine months ago. More than half of the company’s 260 employees signed on with the Internet-based Tangerine Wellness program, which sends users daily tips on how to eat healthy and maintain an exercise routine. Employees are also divided into teams that compete for cash bonuses. “Now, instead of taking a 15-minute cigarette break, people are walking for 15 minutes,” Ticknor says.

At the start, 25 percent of participants weighed in at a healthy level while 46 percent were considered obese. Nine months later, the latter group comprises just 32 percent. But there’s more than pounds dropping. Ticknor says the firm has saved more than $150,000 in health-care claims since adopting the $12,000-a-year program. It is better than direct health-care cost reductions, he adds, because it is “confidential, easy to manage…and does not pressure employees to seek or avoid medical treatment.”

For his part, Ticknor changed his habits by not eating entire portions and instead leaving food on his plate. “Now I eat healthy foods — not just doughnuts all the time,” he says.