By Deanna C. White
Tax season is the ultimate deadline. Most CPAs agree that the unrelenting hours spent glued to their computers, slugging coffee, and downing microwave meals in the company break room take a toll on their physical and emotional balance sheet.
But that's not the case for Greg Brown, CPA, and Tax Partner of Sensiba San Filippo
in San Jose, California, and his coworkers.
On an average day, Brown hits the swimming pool or the pavement as he prepares for his next triathlon, a challenging goal he set for himself. He realized he needed to commit to a healthy lifestyle in order to make the most of his personal and professional life.
Brown fuels himself with water and healthy snacks, like the granola bars and fruit always available in the Sensiba San Filippo cafeteria. He works at an ergonomic desk, using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. At lunch, he swaps stories of miles logged at fitness-focused fundraisers with coworkers. Sometimes, when he's really busy, he just takes a quick look at the poster in the lunchroom that reminds him to drink at least five glasses of water a day.
It's all thanks to the comprehensive wellness program the firm instituted for its employees just one year ago, which recently earned Sensiba San Filippo the title of the fittest accounting firm with 51+ employees in AccountingWEB's 2011 Fittest Accounting Firms contest.
"Our firm has the reputation of being a firm that really goes the extra mile," Brown said. "This is a very competitive business, and there's a lot of pressure and stress. We need good employees to push the ball forward for us. Our firm puts the tools in the hands of our employees to get there."
AccountingWEB named three firms the winners of the 2011 Fittest Accounting Firms contest. Firms were selected as winners based on criteria that included:
- Fitness activities offered within the accounting firm
- Wellness programs and coaching offered to employees
- Firm-wide encouragement of fitness activities during the workday
- Reimbursement programs for fitness/wellness activities
- Firm-wide team sports
- Fitness incentive programs
- Availability of ergonomic furniture/equipment
Participating firms competed with others in the same size bracket, and one winning firm was selected from each bracket. Sensiba San Filippo was the winner of firms with 51+ members.
Sholly Nicholson, Human Resources Manager for Sensiba San Filippo, established a formal wellness program for the firm last year. The comprehensive program was instituted when Nicholson and John Sensiba, Managing Partner, recognized that the firm's wellness programs would need to encompass a healthy living component.
"As a firm, we're very focused on being a great place to work. Sensiba and our partners are passionate about our employees and their families' health and well-being, which directly and positively relates to our employee engagement and retention record. Our wellness and the accompanying fitness program are a reflection of that commitment," Nicholson said.
The firm started the wellness program gradually, offering a personal wellness risk assessment and personalized health program for employees.
"At first, we had about 25 percent of our employees sign up," Nicholson said. "Now our participation is almost 70 percent."
Today, the firm offers participants many fitness options and flexible work arrangements to ensure employees have time to commit to their health and fitness goals. Employees can choose to enroll in discounted fitness classes or nearby gyms, or they can go to the on-site gym at two of the firm's Bay Area offices.
The firm brings in outside training sources on a regular basis for yoga, Pilates, stress management, and nutrition sessions and asks for employee feedback on other programs of interest. Free on-site chair massages are offered during busy season, and yoga mats and weights are available on-site. Free year-round wellness coaching is also available. In addition, the firm participates in softball tournaments, group bocce ball, bowling, golfing events, and group walkathon fundraisers.
Employees are also encouraged to engage in stretching, deep breathing, getting up for a walk or glass of water, and participating in lunch-and-learn events. Many online wellness options are available to the staff through the company's wellness program. Progress is monitored on those who choose to take the personal health profile/assessment and are trying to achieve their health and wellness goals.
Brown said the wellness program has created a striking sense of community in the office as well as an enhanced desire to give back to the community at large. "People are really excited about what they're doing, especially their team efforts. It helps the staff become more connected," Brown said. "The sheer amount of fundraising that has been generated through events such as this year's Tour de Cure cycling event for the American Diabetes Association, the Spirit Run in Pleasanton, and the HERS KEEP ABREAST 5k Walk, 5k/10k Run for breast cancer, was amazing."
"Healthy employees do a better job of serving their clients," said Elisabeth Au-Yeung, Vice President of Marketing. "We have one of the greatest client retention rates in California, which speaks to the fact that we have employees who enjoy their jobs and enjoy serving their clients." Employees of Sensiba San Filippo couldn't agree more.
"Sensiba San Filippo gives employees the feeling that they're valuable, that they're cared about as individuals," Brown said. "The leadership here understands that we're running a business and we have responsibilities, and, at the same time, we acknowledge that it's important for employees to have a balanced life. For many of us, it just reinforces the fact that we're in the right place."