Article: Exercising for A Cause While At Work
Apr 20, 2017
ASD was recently interviewed by Kates-Boylston Publications about our exercise work stations for an Q&A article originally published in American Funeral Director magazine. In the interview, ASD Public Relations Specialist, Jess Fowler, explains the origin and purpose of ASD’s treadmill and recumbent bike stations and discusses how these unique stations boost employee morale. The interview also explains how ASD’s exercise stations give our company an opportunity to help others.
So what did you do at work today? It’s a question asked countless times during the day in homes throughout the United States. And while there are any number of responses, chances are few it will begin with, “I walked on a treadmill while I did my work” or “I pedaled a recumbent bike while working and raised money for charity.” But that’s what happens at the Media, Pennsylvania-based ASD – Answering Service for Directors. On April 11, ASD employees reached their most recent goal of exercising for 1,000 hours on the treadmill and recumbent bike stations as part of the company’s “Exercise for a Cause” program. We asked Jessica Fowler, Public Relations Specialist for ASD, to talk about the company’s recumbent bike and treadmill stations, the importance of exercise and ASD’s “Exercise for a Cause.”
How did the idea of installing the treadmill and recumbent bike stations at ASD headquarters come about?
At ASD, we can’t put any work off for another day. Calls have to be answered immediately. Knowing that, having a healthy staff is crucial to the success of our company. For many years, ASD made exercise equipment available to our staff in our basement conference room. However, our company’s owners noticed they were not being used very often, and decided it would be more beneficial to encourage staff to get up and move around during their work shift.
Many doctors have found that sitting for hours during the day can lead to stiff and dehydrated muscles, making injuries and fractures more common. By staying active during their scheduled shifts, employees are less susceptible to injury due to idleness. After experimenting with several different treadmill workstation models, ASD was able to offer this new incentive to our staff for the first time in 2011.
What was the initial reaction from employees?
Employees began signing up for exercise shifts immediately after the first exercise workstation was installed. Initially, ASD had only one treadmill station but after noticing how much employees appreciated the opportunity to stay active at work, we installed an additional treadmill station and a recumbent bike. Earlier this year, we noticed that employees were eager to use the equipment every day and often had to wait for it to be available, so we added more stations. We’re proud to now have three treadmills and two recumbent bikes for our Call Specialist to utilize, as well as one treadmill workstation designated for our Supervisor team.
How have the treadmill and recumbent bike stations improved employee morale?
Since installing the treadmill and recumbent bike stations at ASD, we have seen a spike in employee morale. The stations help improve our employees’ overall mental and physical health while providing an energy boost to the office. Many of our employees juggle a great deal of responsibilities outside of work and have difficulty finding time to go to the gym. So, by bringing the gym to them, we give our staff the chance to easily make exercising part of their normal routine. This has lead to an overall increase in fitness at ASD. Several of our employees have even created an “ ASD Fit 4 Change” club where they take nature hikes through the park next to ASD or exercise classes when the weather is not cooperating.
How do employees take advantage of this workplace perk?
Employees are permitted to exercise for 1 hour per scheduled work shift. The stations are continuously in use and there is sometimes a short wait list that employees just have to add their names to. In addition to providing healthful benefits, employees that take advantage of the exercise machines are actually paid more through incremental bonuses and other rewards. This helps motivate the staff to work in a less sedentary environment.
Is there a maximum speed for the treadmill and bicycles?
ASD’s treadmill and recumbent bike stations were created in-house at ASD and tested thoroughly to ensure Call Specialists could type with ease while moving their feet. The maximum speed is capped at a slow rate of motion and was designed so that ASD Call Specialists can walk or bike 2.5 miles per hour.
How many exercise sessions take place on an average week?
During an average week, more than 170 exercise sessions take place at ASD. In the past 30 days, we’ve seen the treadmill stations used 358 times by 50 different ASD employees for a total duration of 339 hours. Our recumbent bikes have been used 318 times by 46 different ASD employees for a total duration of 297 hours. Finally, 11 different supervisors have used our Supervisor treadmill station for a total duration of 60 hours.
What have you been hearing from employees about the health benefits?
Many of our employees have commented that the stations help keep them refreshed and alert throughout the day. Employees who use these stations benefit from both exercise and the knowledge that they are contributing to an important cause.
What’s it like working while on a treadmill (or recumbent bike)?
The treadmill and recumbent bike stations allow employees to move at a controlled rate while simultaneously answering calls. As a precaution, employees must sign a safety waiver and wear appropriate footwear when using the equipment. However, there has never been an accident on the exercise workstations because the rate of motion is kept at a very controlled speed. This also ensures that our employees never sound winded or short of breath while speaking to callers. We have also made adjustments to ensure the stations do not make any background noise that could affect the quality of our calls.
How did the “Exercise for a Cause” program come about?
ASD has always looked for ways to give back to others. Our company has sponsored many charitable organizations in the past and our owners were looking for a way to contribute to valuable causes on a more routine basis. This is where the inspiration came for making our exercise stations linked to our altruistic goals. Every hour walked or biked on ASD’s exercise station contributes towards an important cause. When a total of 1000 hours have been worked on ASD’s treadmill or recumbent bike, ASD will donate $1,000 to a charitable organization. This allows our staff to become directly involved in our company’s give back initiatives.
Since implementing our “Exercise for a Cause” program, ASD has donated to 23 different charities. In 2016, ASD employees contributed more than $8,000 to important organizations and non-profits through this program, including Remembering Our Fallen, Roberta’s House, Temple University Preventive Cardiology and many more. This extra incentive allows employees to work together toward a common, greater good and gives ASD an opportunity to give back to others.
A few of the many charitable organizations ASD has recently donated to as part of our "Exercise for a Cause" program
How long did it take for employees to hit the 1,000-hour goal? How many employees took part?
Employees can accrue 1000 hours for a charitable organization in less than 2 months. On average, this goal is usually met in about 45 days.
Tell us a little bit about the Thorncroft Equestrian Center. How was the nonprofit selected as the recipient of the donation?
The Thorncroft Equestrian Center is an organization in our local area that works to develop the physical and emotional well-being of all people including those with special needs. Thorncroft Equestrian Center is a leader in the field of therapeutic horseback riding and related mental health programs.
ASD keeps a long list of organizations and non-profits we plan to donate to in the future as part of our “Exercise for a Cause” program. This list is created primarily from employee suggestions. All of the organizations we support through our program are close to the hearts of our employees. We invite our staff to share with us what causes mean the most to them to help us decide where to send our donations. The majority of organizations we donate to support our local area, like Thorncroft Equestrian Center, help children like the Ronald McDonald house, or support those who are grieving like the Angel Gown project.
What was the response from employees when “Exercising for a Cause” was announced?
Employees began signing up for even more exercise hours in order to help meet our donation goals sooner. Our staff also began to brainstorm different charities and causes we could support in the future.
ASD employees work hard, but there is also time for fun. How important is that balance?
It is very important to us. Walking in to ASD’s Operations Center, it is obvious that our company is much more than a Call Center. We are truly a family. The strong rapport and enduring friendships between our employees is supported by ASD’s company culture. We’re always seeking out ways to make ASD an appealing workplace for our staff. From our annual “Ugly Christmas Sweater” contest during the holiday season to our Virtual Corkboard (a tool that lets our staff share photos with one another), we believe that creating a positive work environment for employees is key to the success of our business. Just recently, we installed a Gazebo Zen Garden and Fish Pond outside of our building so our staff has a scenic and enjoyable place to relax during the lunch break and before their work shift.
Has employee morale had an impact on the company? (In other words, has the work environment led to employees being invested in the company and its success)?
By offering a competitive salary, special incentives and incremental rewards, we have been successful in retaining quality employees whose experience sets us apart from others in our industry. In fact, more than 50 of our employees have worked here for 7 years or longer! We understand that reliable employees are not replaceable. Most call centers are a revolving door of new hires, but ASD has refined our staff’s expertise by fostering a positive work environment. Promoting a supportive company culture has allowed us to retain experienced and skillful employees that have helped our company to thrive.
Will there be another “Exercise for a Cause” in the near future?
Yes, a new charity is selected from our list as soon as we complete our “Exercise for a Cause” goal. Our employees are currently working to help The Breathing Room Foundation, a local non-profit that works to provide care and support to local families affected by cancer. We’re also really looking forward to supporting another organization in the coming months that is very near and dear to our hearts. Camp Erin is a place that gives grieving children a welcoming and safe environment to share their feelings and to bond with other children who have lost loves ones.
Camp Erin was created by the Moyer Foundation, an organization founded by former Phillies pitcher, Jamie Moyer, to provide comprehensive online resources and personalized support for families experiencing grief or addiction. ASD has donated to the Moyer Foundation in the past and we really wanted to support their Camp Erin initiative. Camp Erin is the largest national bereavement program for youth grieving the death of a significant person in their lives with a location in Philadelphia and 44 additional cities in the United States and Canada.
Camp Erin truly embodies the objectives of our Exercise for a Cause Program because it was founded in our local area and helps both children and those who are grieving. We recently learned 1 in 20 children will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 15. It is so vital to support children who are grieving and Camp Erin is truly making a difference in the lives so many children
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About The Author
Jess Farren (Fowler)
Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD's company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess@myASD.com