Sarah Porter, health and wellness coordinator at Verizon Wireless’ Chandler-based customer service center, adeptly kick-boxed the chest of a life-like dummy as a handful of fellow employees on treadmills cheered her on without slowing their own pace.
“People like to come in here and relieve tension,” Porter said of the expansive fitness center that takes up considerable space in the cell phone company’s massive 170,000-square-foot regional center.
The Chandler headquarters houses about 1,500 customer service and administrative employees. Another 200-plus employees have overflowed into a separate regional sales center nearby or work in Chandler-area retail stores. That makes Verizon Wireless one of Chandler’s five largest employers.
An emphasis on employee health care makes it a corporate role model, according to Working Mother magazine, which for the past eight years has named it among the 100 best companies to work for.
Health care coverage is a hot topic nationwide as employers large and small ponder how the expense of providing benefits impacts their bottom line, but Verizon has taken a different approach, said Jenny Weaver, company spokeswoman.
Impressive health care benefits attract top employees, she said, and keeping them healthy keeps them happy.
And that’s good for the bottom line, she said.
“We know happy employees equals happy customers,” she said.
So Verizon offers health care coverage to all employees, even part-timers, with a variety of plans to choose from, Weaver said.
Because of the variety of plans, Weaver couldn’t say how much an employee has to ante up for the premiums, but she said the prices are competitive.
What is not so competitive, Weaver believes, is the scope of benefits.
Porter, for example, recently had what Verizon employees dub a “$20 baby.”
Officially labeled the Healthy Babies program, a pregnant employee or covered dependent pays the standard $20 co-pay for the first doctors visit, Weaver said, then all future doctor visits, tests, medications, hospital and delivery expenses are covered.
Once the baby is born, Verizon gives the mom another $250 for expenses such as a breast pump, car seat, start-up supply of diapers and other baby needs, Weaver said.
Other Verizon programs, such as smoking-cessation assistance and on-campus Weight Watchers sessions, are aimed at getting employees healthy. Even more are aimed at keeping them healthy.
So the company uses ergonomic desk and seat designs; crafted the customer call center with ceilings that minimize noise; and provides a low-cost cafe with color-coded icons identifying food choices that are organic, vegan, carb-controlled or low in calories, fat and/or sodium.
The Chandler center also provides a “lunch and learn” program, with topics ranging from how to control blood pressure to weight-loss tips.
But possibly the Chandler operation’s most unusual offering is a fully equipped fitness center that would rival the layout of a pricey boutique gym.
For an optional monthly fee of $15, Verizon’s Valley employees get unlimited use of the fitness center and the two personal trainers and nutrition experts who devise individual programs and menus as well as conduct, for free, individual and group training sessions.
About 600 of the 1,700-plus Chandler employees have opted to join the fitness center, said Jenna Galloway, one of the personal trainers. Last week, 80 of them had personal training sessions, she said.
Next week, the center is bringing in a massage therapist for “Everybody Deserves a Massage Week,” Galloway said.
Manny Lopez, a customer service representative, hits the fitness center at least five days a week, often exercising before his afternoon shift begins and sometimes coming in on his days off to run a dozen or so miles on the treadmill.
He’s training for the Chicago half-marathon as a personal goal, he said.
Lopez, who said he worked for other Valley employers before landing the job at Verizon, said the fitness center prompted him to make the move to the cell phone company.
“It was a huge deciding factor,” he said. “This gets me up for the day.”