During his career as a police officer, Tyler Police Department Detective John Ragland has seen how strongly personal fitness can factor into the job.
Extended periods of calm can change in an instant, and not all suspects cooperate when they are asked.
“I think in order to do some of the aspects of our job, it’s incumbent of us to keep ourselves in the condition we need to be in to respond to what we are called to do,” said Ragland, who also serves as the department’s wellness coordinator.
To encourage officers to be healthy and fit, for years the department has had a physical fitness program in place and provides staff many resources and incentives for staying in shape.
Employees are given 24-hour access to a large gym with a wide variety of equipment at the downtown police station. Both police stations feature full kitchens that allow employees an opportunity to prepare or warm up meals.
Pay incentives are offered to employees who meet specified fitness standards. Participation in outdoor activities and community events is encouraged.
At the downtown station, little notes such as “Are you able to take the stairs? Make healthy choices!” are placed next to elevators.
The department’s strides toward fitness have not gone unnoticed, earning it the American Heart Association’s platinum recognition - the highest tier of the association’s Fit-Friendly company recognition program - for four years in a row.
It is also one of the local organizations that Northeast Texas Public Health District CEO George Roberts hopes other local business may strive to learn from or emulate through FIT City Tyler’s new Healthiest Workplaces program.
The program is designed to help and encourage fitness and wellness in the workplace and recognizes businesses and organizations that are doing a great job in Tyler and East Texas.
“If employees are healthy, they are more productive and then businesses can thrive,” Roberts said. “If employees are unhealthy, then that’s going to harm the business.”
Companies that participate in the Healthiest Workplaces program are measured by specific health-related criteria - ranging from having demonstrated a commitment to employee health and well-being, to having lifestyle and disease management strategies annually provided to employees.
Scores are then tallied up and companies can receive bronze, silver, gold or platinum recognition based on their individual scores.
“It’s to recognize businesses that are doing well, but also businesses that are trying to get better,” Roberts said.
Happier and Healthier
Another company Roberts cites as setting a good wellness example for the community is T.B. Butler Publishing Co., which publishes the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In 2012, the company began issuing wellness challenges that offered employees incentives for living healthier, more active lifestyles.
Employees can earn cash prizes for walking, taking the stairs, drinking the right amount of water, getting a good night's sleep, participating in 5Ks and by performing other healthy activities. The program offers cash prizes on a quarterly basis. Some challenges are individual and others are team-based.
“We have seen individuals lose weight, get off blood pressure medications (and) improve their overall health markers….,” Human Resources Director at T.B. Butler Publishing Co. Sherri Hernandez said. “We want them to succeed in their personal goals as well as their professional goals.”
In February, the company took another stride toward helping employees improve their health with the opening of The Press gym. The gym is about 2,000 square feet and sits on the ground level of the Tyler Morning Telegraph. It is available to Tyler Paper employees and the general public.
“The message we hope people take away from our initiatives is that anyone can follow a path of inspiration to a better life,” said Tyler Morning Telegraph Publisher Nelson Clyde IV. “We have provided some tools to get there and we have seen many people use them. They have inspired us as well.”
He added that the company has received inquiries from other businesses looking to either put gyms in the workplace or start wellness initiatives.
Roberts said a list of best practices will be complied during the Healthiest Workplaces program and shared so that East Texas companies will have a clearer sense of strategies that are working.
He added that a healthier workforce could yield many positive benefits for the East Texas community.
“It makes good business sense, because if our employees are healthy they can better serve our clients and customers,” he said. “They are also more productive while at work."
Closer look: For more information about the Healthiest Workplaces program, or to fill out an application to participate, go to www.fitcitytyler.com .