Spansion tracks fitness for fun

by Sep 5, 2014

Gloria Wang Shawber, SVBJ contributor
San Francisco Business Times / Silicon Valley Business Journal
Forget Google Glass: At Spansion Inc., the only third-party device that matters is the pedometer. Specifically, it’s the SonicPed, an activity monitor that’s at the core of the flash memory maker’s Sonic Boom Wellness Program. Each employee is provided with the SonicPed, which tracks walking or running steps, time spent on physical activity, calories burned, and distance covered. “They’re very high tech,” said Kathy Reck, Spansion’s benefits manager. “There are wireless receivers throughout our building that track our activity and sends the information to our personal dashboard.” The numbers are then displayed on leaderboards, under an alias if an employee wishes, lending a competitive edge to the program. “I think the best part of the program is the excitement of the employees who participate. For the first six months after we rolled this out, all anyone could talk about was their pedometer,” Reck said. And the company has seen some major changes as a result of the usage—one employee has dropped 10 clothing sizes, while another has gone from 530 to 345 pounds with plans to lose even more weight. The rollout in 2011 was preceded by three years of rising healthcare costs at Spansion. Starting in 2009, the company’s medical plan had increased by 20 percent for three straight years. At that point, Spansion had a wellness program that included seminars, smoking cessation, and other health information. “It was just very low key and didn’t have a lot of interest or excitement around it,” Reck said. The company’s Sunnyvale building also had a bare-bones gym. Spansion executives thought it was time to overhaul the program, giving Reck and her benefits team the responsibility and funding to form a wellness committee and come up with new initiatives. CEO John Kispert wanted employees to start taking responsibility for their own health, Reck said. The company chose San Diego-based Sonic Boom to handle its wellness program. From dedicated athletes to the less active, “everyone can participate at their own pace. It’s simple and can be done at work as well as home,” Reck said. In addition to providing employees with SonicPeds, Spansion holds annual festive Wellness Fairs at its two US locations (Sunnyvale and Austin, Tex.), which feature health and wellness vendors, food, giveaways, and massages. One of the most popular activities at Sunnyvale’s Wellness Fair is the Splash Down, where attendees can pay to soak a Spansion executive—with the proceeds going to Sunnyvale Community Services. This year, the company introduced a healthy cooking contest and is making plans to construct an expanded fitness center at its new headquarters in North San Jose. Some of the vending machines at work have been filled with healthy options and the monthly Donut Day in Sunnyvale is now Fruit and Donut Day. Spansion also established an International Wellness Day in June, where each of its offices “was tasked with coming up with a company-wide event that worked for its staff and its location,” Reck said. Sunnyvale held a 5K with 100 participants; in Israel, 75 employees went on a hike; the Thailand office had a mini-sport day for 85 people; 50 employees went bicycling in Germany; China organized both a 5K and a hike; and the Malaysia location celebrated with an entire week of wellness activities. “We plan to do something similar every year,” Reck said. “We’re toying with expanding International Wellness Day to family members.” Aside from the health benefits, “we have a secret weapon in that employees earn wellness credits for participating in the program,” Reck said, through milestones such as walking 10,000 steps a day, getting a specific number preventive exams, completing health assessments, and participating in target fitness events. And those wellness credits translate into cash—any employee who earns five credits saves $1,040 off the following year’s medical premiums. The pot was sweetened this year with Spansion offering a $150 bonus or a free tablet computer to those high-achieving employees. “In the long run, the program has saved us more than it’s cost us,” she said.

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