Corporate Wellness Takes Off In Wilmington

By Laura Moore, posted Mar 24, 2016
Barry Wilcox and Phyllis Robertson, of Wilcox Wellness Group, gives a talk at Easter Seals UCP. (Photo by Chris Brehmer)

A healthy employee is a productive employee. Many large companies and organizations such as PPD and New Hanover Regional Medical Center know this and have responded by providing gyms and trainers for their employees. Now the small to midsize companies have options to provide their employees with a chance to improve their overall well-being and possibly, their bottom lines.

Corporate wellness has become less about buzzwords and fads and more about a positive investment in those who make the company a success – its employees. Wilcox Wellness Group says its integrated wellness programs improve employee health and morale, thereby, increasing productivity.

Located in an office at 404 N. Third St. in downtown Wilmington, Wilcox Wellness Group includes Barry Wilcox, president and CEO, and Phyllis Robertson, corporate wellness consultant.

They’ve been aiming to transform from a private coaching practice to working with local businesses on employee wellness programs.

“There’s a lot of big companies that cater to 10,000, 40,000 employees at a time, and they don’t offer the level of personal attention that we do,” Wilcox said. “We recognized that the small and midsized business community is being underserved, and we’re here to fill that gap.”

Wilcox said he and Robertson are focusing on the Wilmington area for customers with the intent of expanding through North Carolina and then other states. Recently, the company finalized a digital coaching feature, after partnering with California-based SelfHelpWorks.

“It’s the exact same approach as what we do but in a form that’s convenient for clients or the employees so they can do it on their own schedule at their convenience and in their privacy,” Wilcox said.

The first step for Wilcox is to conduct an initial consultation with a company to find out what they want their program to be. They also talk to the employees involved, giving confidential assessments.

After 25 years in human resources, Robertson became a certified health coach to help people with the needs she saw firsthand in the corporate world that were left unmet.  

“Management doesn’t always know what’s actually going on with their employees. They have an idea – there may be a lot of absenteeism, a lot of sickness in the company, a lot of stress … they have a sense, but they don’t actually know,” Robertson said. “So we do assessments with the individual employees and get the feedback and analyze that so we have a sense of what the bigger, or the priority, issue may be for the company.”

Then Wilcox Wellness can put together a custom program, with the help of information they  gathered from employees that those workers might not necessarily want to share with their bosses.

“That’s the beauty of something like this – a company can hire us to come in and all of this information stays confidential, but we’re helping them as a group,” Robertson said. “It’s about relationships, and when I was in a training capacity, it had to be superficial because of confidentiality issues. I had to keep the employee relationship at that level. I couldn’t support them with their health and stress issues because there was only so much I could do in that role.  Now, as a consultant, I get to do that. I can work with the individual and maintain that confidentiality. The company benefits and the individual benefits.” 

The Wilcox Wellness Group designs programs based on the “climate and culture” of the individual company depending on its needs and the needs of the individuals within the company.

“We help address whatever may be going on internally that may need support, or they may be doing well and they just want to do better because increased productivity is better for everybody,” Robertson said.

In 2014, Wilcox designed a corporate wellness challenge for Holt Oil Company Inc. Twenty-one employees in management positions participated.

“I thought it was an interesting concept and a great way for our managers to manage stress,” said Hannah Holt, marketing and operations director. “It’s go, go, go in this business, and I was hoping to give them a new perspective on how to manage stress, and they don’t always eat and exercise the way I’d love them to.” 

The Wilcox program focuses on three key areas: stress management, healthy foods and an active lifestyle. Each employee may have challenges with one or more of those areas. 

“One lady in our home office quit smoking and lost 60 pounds,” Holt said. “It’s not just about weight loss or nutrition. It goes much deeper than that, and those who were open to it really benefitted from it.”  

The end game for Wilcox is helping to change negative behaviors and creating relationships that foster long-term growth and positive habit forming.

“We want to have long-term relationships with these companies to keep it going, to take it a little deeper or in a different direction,” Robertson said.  

Six or 12-week programs are offered depending on the needs of the company and what they’re willing to invest, Robertson said. The online wellness program component is individualized for the employee with a module option for smoking cessation. 

“What is unique for us is one-on-one coaching allows us to check on one’s progress because a lot of time somebody can be enthusiastic for a couple of weeks and then hit a wall,” Robertson said. “Our responsibility is to hold them accountable, and that’s what makes a difference.” 

From the sedentary worker to the marathon runner, Wilcox Wellness Group works to either get them walking around the block each night or managing their time more effectively. Robertson said company involvement is important but also recognizes that not everyone will be ready to participate.

“It is important for company management to support everybody and get involved themselves to set an example. An employee may feel forced to participate, but change is not conducive right now,” Robertson said. “We are not discriminatory. We will meet them at whatever level they are at, and if not, hopefully another opportunity to do it will be available down the road.”

-Reporter Cece Nunn contributed to this article.

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