Among mid-size employers, Overaa was named the #2 Healthiest Employer by San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal. Overaa received the award September 8, 2017 and was featured in an article by Isabelle Gardner. Photo by Todd Johnson.
Bringing the fitness home –
When a gym partnership didn’t work, Overaa Construction decided to build its own
Overaa Construction, a family business that’s 110 years old, promotes holistic employee wellness through its numerous health and fitness programs.The Richmond-based construction company built its own fitness center after a program offering employees memberships to the Hilltop YMCA facility failed.
“The memberships didn’t exactly catch on,” said CEO Jerry Overaa, who blamed the lack of attendance on the fact that employees had to drive to the YMCA.
Instead of bringing workers to the gym, Overaa Construction, which built the Hilltop YMCA, Chevron’s Fitness Center and numerous exercise complexes, decided to bring the gym to the workplace. The fitness center was completed six years ago and features shower facilities and workout equipment, added at the request of employees who built St. Mary’s College’s Recreational Facility. The fitness center acted as a catalyst for Overaa’s employee wellness program to take off, starting with weekly fitness classes, said Maggie White, director of human resources and training. White said the company’s fitness program called ‘Fitness Friday’ brings a trainer in weekly. “A lot of different employees participate, from project
engineers to project managers.”
Since the creation of the onsite fitness center, Overaa has added programs that encourage both office employees and construction workers to get active and stay healthy. The company’s “Walk at Work,” program gave employees step-tracking devices and organized them into teams to see who together could walk the furthest.
The goal was to collectively walk the distance to Norway, where the Overaa family is from. Stretch and Flex routines lead by superintendents at construction sites help on-site workers physically prepare for the day ahead. “We think of (the construction workers) as industrial athletes,” White said. “We want to warm them up before they get going for the day” Jerry Overaa said that the Stretch and Flex program not only contributes to the overall well being of the company’s employees, but also saves money by helping to prevent injuries.
“We have insurance and programs like workman’s comp, which has very high deductibles. If somebody gets injured, we have to pay. So (the Stretch and Flex program) has a business purpose,” Overaa said. “Doing it makes business sense.” White contends that fitness programs, by keeping workers “engaged and happy,” also helps with retention, which saves money. In line with its mission of holistic wellness, Overaa puts mental health at the center of its employee wellness efforts.
Their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) brings in speakers who address work-life balance, stress management and mental-health. The construction company also offers a health advocacy group that assists employees who may be having problems with a medical provider, and provides full medical, dental and visual benefits.
For the past three years, both office and construction workers have formed teams to compete in Tough Mudder runs, breast cancer walks, multiple sclerosis walks and annual education runs benefitting the Martinez school district. They’re all part of Jerry Overaa’s goal to engage his employees in fitness programs in a fun, collaborative way. “Now, fitness is on everybody’s mind,” he said. “You just have to make it possible.”
– Isabelle Gardner, San Francisco Business Times September 8, 2017