New 'Well Time' offers another BeWell participation incentive

If you've been delaying signing up for the university's BeWell@Stanford program because you don't have the time, you're going to have to come up with another excuse.

Beginning Jan. 1, eligible full-time employees will be able to use eight hours of accrued sick time per year to participate in the BeWell Employee Incentive Program. Part-time employees will be eligible for time based on their full-time equivalent status. Those hours – called Well Time – can be used to:

  • Participate in a health screening and wellness coaching session to solidify behavior changes with one-on-one support
  • Create a personal wellness plan online, using information gained from the SHALA and BeWell health screening results
  • Participate in any "BeWell Berry" activities

The new offering was made possible by a decision by Provost John Etchemendy.

"We see investing in the health of our employees as a long-term investment," said Etchemendy. "Stanford is fortunate to have employees who tend to stay with the university a very long time, and this means it is in the university's interest – almost as much as the employee's interest – to do what we can to promote the long-term health of our people. Sick time is designed for the very short term: to give sick employees time to recover from an illness. Why shouldn't we allow at least some of this time to be devoted to activities that prevent illness, particularly chronic, debilitating diseases like diabetes and heart disease?"

The program may be the first of its kind nationwide, according to Eric Stein, senior associate athletic director for physical education, recreation and wellness.

Stein, who joined Stanford in 2006 to work with existing programs to create a university-wide wellness program, said the idea to offer Well Time results from annual survey findings that show scarce time during the day is a major impediment to employee BeWell participation.

After consulting with colleagues at companies and universities that offer similar health promotion programs, Stein said he believes Stanford may be the first to allow use of sick time for wellness activities.

The initiative is earning accolades from professionals in the field, including Mick Deluca, president elect for the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association and director of recreation at UCLA. Deluca called Well Time "innovative" and "truly transformational."

To take Well Time, staff members should seek their supervisor's approval in advance. When they use well time, staff members will record it as sick time on Axess.

Etchemendy said he recognizes eight hours isn't enough for an employee to become totally immersed in a wellness program. But he believes it is enough time to become introduced to the benefits of BeWell participation.

"Maintaining one's health is fundamentally an individual's own responsibility," he said. "But the new Well Time program is meant to encourage people to start participating in the BeWell program if they haven't already, so they can discover for themselves the huge benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle."

Well Time is being introduced at the same time as expanded offerings under the BeWell@Stanford Employee Incentive Program. BeWell's theme for the coming year is "Choices Drive Change." Under the new program, SHALA, which is a confidential health assessment, will serve as a gateway to programs and financial incentives that offer up to $300 for participation.

"The theme reflects the fact that we can take you there, but you have to make the choice to participate. Hopefully, Well Time will make the choices even easier," Stein said.

More information about Well Time will be available in January by visiting the BeWell@Stanford site.