PKF Texas promotes culture of health and wellness

At Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas, P.C., a CPA and business advisory firm, fitness isn't just an annual fitness challenge, it's a corporate way of life.

While the Houston-based firm does organize periodic fitness initiatives, it is the culture of consistently encouraging health and wellness that really sets it apart. But, just after tax season, accountants sometimes need to be encouraged to get out of their offices and back into fitness.

In 2008, PKF Texas instituted the Walk There Challenge in which participants created their own distance challenge and selected starting and finishing points from a map. They selected routes and were even encouraged to keep journals of what they saw or did along the way. The company handed out pedometers, and with a 2,000 step- per-mile equivalency, they were good to go. It was a lot of fun, but the three-month program required a lot of commitment to the journaling and record keeping.

"This year we wanted something a little bit quicker, with a shorter span," explained Annabella Green, SPHR, director of human capital and firm administration at PKF Texas. "We decided to do the FIT:30."

The PKF Texas Fit:30 has participants go for a 30 minute walk at the end of the workday, 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back, for 30 days. "We are on the 24th floor, so we are challenging everyone to walk up the flight of stairs at the end of the walk. They challenge themselves to go another flight each time," Green said.

An additional challenge is how fast and how far each individual chooses to go in that 15 minutes, allowing people to participate at a level that is comfortably challenging for them. Because the program has just begun, they don't have results to share yet.

Karen Love, PKF Texas director of practice growth, said the culture and support of the corporation make a big difference to the employees. "We provide a discounted rate to a group membership at a local 24 Hour Fitness [and] we pay their enrollment fee," Love said.

"A lot of individuals in our firm are athletes. Annabella is training for a bike ride to New Orleans to raise funds for the American Red Cross. Last year we did the [American Heart Association's] Heart Walk together," Love said. "We support our athletes. Not with a formalized program. We just have a culture that endorses fitness and wellness."

The firm also sponsors team members who want to play in softball and basketball leagues.

"Our flexibility has to do a lot with it," Green said. "Our people go and work out in the middle of the day or the evening. And then come back to work afterward. They can go have their workout before they are too tired."

The PKF Texas internal newsletter includes wellness tips. "Our wellness aim is also educational. It's about more than fitness. Every month we put out posters in the kitchen with healthy tips such as drinking water, eating healthy snacks, etc.," Green said.

"We have one of our team members order our meals for the busy season and she makes sure that there are always salad servings. We are really conscious about making it convenient for people to eat right," Green said. "For birthday celebrations, in addition to the cake, we are also providing sugarless popsicles and sugar-free ice cream. It is just a conscious effort to make sure we are providing healthy alternatives."

According to Green, "Fitness is something you can really encourage, but you have to be really careful. The sensitivity [and] the awareness is important. The carrot has to be personal.
It has to be positive energy, using the culture that looks at it in a positive way."

At PKF Texas, that culture is strong and healthy.

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