In CPA firms today, it's as common to see yoga mats and cross-trainers in people's cubicles as it is calculators and smartphones – particularly from January to April when many firms are willing to invest in the occasional fitness class or healthy lunch to ensure employees stay fit and healthy during the grueling tax season.
But healthy living is a year-round commitment at Herbein + Company, Inc. (Herbein), a 110-person certified public accounting firm headquartered in Reading, Pennsylvania, where employees are encouraged to participate in the firm's Good to Great (G2G) 2013 Employee Wellness Program throughout the year.
In fact, this May, while employees at most tax firms were rolling up their yoga mats and tucking them away till next year, Herbein was rolling out the newest component of its G2G wellness program: the 2013 Six-Week Fitness Makeover Challenge.
The fitness challenge, which will run from June 3 to mid-July, invites Herbein employees to devote some of their post-tax-season time to giving their diet and exercise programs a healthy overhaul. The program is tailored to employees' personal wellness goals – whether they want to lose twenty pounds, start a strength-training program, complete a 5k, or simply commit to walking fifteen minutes every day.
The challenge is conducted in partnership with nutrition experts and personal trainers from the Wyomissing, Pennsylvania–based Sunshine Fitness Studio. It will include yoga, strength training, muscle conditioning, fitness classes, nutrition sessions",lunch and learns", food and activity logs, weekly weigh-ins, and professional support.
Tom Price, CPA, partner and chair of Herbein's G2G Committee, said the Makeover Challenge, which is fully funded by Herbein, is simply the latest component of the firm's employee wellness program – a wellness program that's truly committed to fostering a healthier, happier workforce over the long haul.
"Let's face it, we all have a life to live after tax season", Price said. "That's why we concentrate on health and wellness year-round. There's a true concern here that our people live healthy, happy lives, and you can't achieve that by focusing on wellness just during tax season. Healthy living is a lifestyle shift, and people need to repeat healthy behaviors over a significant period of time for new habits to take effect."
The Makeover Challenge is the second phase of Herbein's 2013 employee wellness campaign, which launched in January when the firm began offering lunchtime yoga and fitness classes, run by Sunshine instructors, three times a week. Those classes, which will continue this summer, are a huge hit with employees. In large part, Price believes it's because of the way the G2G Committee introduced the classes to employees.
All along, the firm's fitness mantra has been "just start with baby steps – just get moving." Price said",We don't expect people to be able to run a marathon to take part. We just encourage them to do whatever they can to do get going. We say 'just take a little piece of what works for you, just carve out some time every day to move.' We're happy if they simply develop a better awareness of their health and fitness."
Price said employees of all ages, at all junctures of life, and all fitness levels participate in the program.
Price and fellow firm leaders, like partner John Pagerly, CPA, and CFO at Herbein, are more than willing to lead by example – a key component for any successful employee wellness program. Pagerly has even tossed his suit and tie to add company yoga classes to his existing exercise program.
"I always wanted to try yoga and thought this was a good opportunity to give it a try", Pagerly said. "It was fun. Not only was it a good stress reliever during tax season, but it was a way to do something different with other members of the firm. Now, I hope to continue to practice yoga for better health and fitness, especially at my stage of life."
Judging by the enthusiastic participation of Herbein employees, it's a model they're willing to emulate. The G2G Committee handily met its goal of fifteen participants in the first round of company fitness classes, and they expect to meet their second-tier goal of twenty participants per class this summer. People are already signing up for the Makeover Challenge weeks in advance of the deadline, and committee members are already considering additional programs for the fall.
Tax intern Stephanie Atkins was so excited about the fitness program during her four months with the firm, she wrote a blog: Who Would Have Thought This Happens at a CPA Firm.
"[One] thing I definitely did not expect from a CPA firm was lunchtime yoga and fitness classes. One day when I went upstairs to make my lunch, I saw some (sweaty) people in the conference room jumping rope and doing crunches", Atkins wrote in her blog. "It looked like a lot of fun and a good way to relieve some stress on the lunch break. It was so cool that they provided something like that to help get our minds off of work for an hour."
Tax Supervisor Stacy A. Weller, CPA, said she's looking forward to the Makeover Challenge as a motivator to make some "positive and permanent" healthy lifestyle changes. "I'm excited to learn how I can eat healthier and incorporate exercise into my already busy schedule, Weller said.
And positive and permanent healthy lifestyle changes, whether achieved by lofty goals or small and decisive steps, is exactly what Herbein hopes all employees are able to achieve on their lifelong path to well-being.
"This employee wellness program isn't about the firm earning a credit on our health insurance", Price said. "It's not even about us increasing employee productivity, although we know that will happen. It's more important to us to have healthier, happier people working here . . . and we need to focus on that year-round to develop that mind-set."
About Deanna Arteaga
Deanna Arteaga is a professional freelance writer and public relations specialist who for the past six years has covered CPA industry trends for AccountingWEB. She also writes about CPA firm marketing, higher education and professional development for CPAs, and workplace trends in the accounting profession. She has more than 20 years of journalism and public relations experience, including her tenure as a former newspaper reporter in suburban Chicago where she covered breaking news, municipal politics, and state legislative issues.