Gun Lake Casino’s Focus on Wellness is Big Win for Employees

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

If you frequent Wayland’s Gun Lake Casino, you know a lot of transformations have taken place recently.
A new and improved buffet is a popular feature for casino guests. A ribbon cutting ceremony in May unveiled a 76,000-square-foot expansion, which nearly doubled the casino floor and table game space. A larger entertainment venue, additional bars and a gourmet, around-the-world buffet are great for guests, while staff are enjoying an expanded team member dining room, locker room, office space and employee bathrooms. A transformation happening behind the scenes is focused on ensuring that the approximately 1,100 employees, or team members, who report to work at the casino are happy and healthy. As a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan customer, Gun Lake human resources personnel have been working with Blue Cross’ Health and Wellness team since February 2016 to promote preventive care and inspire healthy lifestyle changes in their workforce. Liz Lambers is an onsite wellness coordinator with Blue Cross. She’s been leading classes for casino employees covering topics such as proper nutrition, work-life balance, financial wellness and how-to sessions on balancing blood sugar and improving cholesterol levels. Along with casino staff, she also helps facilitate walking and hydration challenges, seasonal health campaigns and cultural initiatives. Employees get competitive with each other when it comes to challenges, Lambers said, and wellness classes have been well received. “We have a 100 percent satisfaction rate for wellness classes at the casino,” she said. Casino benefits specialist Arlene Lee said Lambers has helped identify offered benefits that employees aren’t taking advantage of, such as free dental cleanings, and works to promote them to team members. Offering a generous and comprehensive benefits package that includes wellness programming is one factor in Gun Lake’s push to be an employer of choice in the region, but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do for employees. “The reason we are promoting wellness is to focus on preventing diseases, and prevention saves lives,” Lee said.
A collage of Gun Lake Casino employees running in and cheering on runners at the Fifth Third River Bank Run in Grand Rapids. Employees are also encouraged to participate in a variety of community events such as Dorr’s 4th of July celebrations, the Allegan County Fair and Grand Rapids’ Santa Parade. The casino is a sponsor of the Fifth Third River Bank Run, the Grand Rapids Triathlon, the Lake Michigan Credit Union Bridge Run and many other 5Ks. Team members receive free entries and training plans to participate in sponsored races. Volunteer opportunities with Kids’ Food Basket and Degage Ministries are also promoted. The physical expansion of the casino itself is in some ways helping employees make healthier choices. The expanded team dining room offers a grill, hot food choices and a salad bar. Lee notes that a larger casino floor means employees are naturally taking more steps during every shift. Since the company is nearing completion of its second year of wellness programming, Lambers hopes to start looking at overall employee health indicators to gauge any improvements or future focus areas. Anecdotally, she’s had employees tell her they’re regularly hitting 10,000 steps per day and are taking steps to make other changes as well. Wellness programming and rewards are a collaborative effort between Lambers, Lee and casino staff. In lieu of a big wellness celebration like one that took place in 2016, this year employees are being rewarded with gift cards when they hit certain health goals. Lee said the immediate gratification seems to be working to move more employees toward taking advantage of available preventive services and walking challenge incentives. “We’re continuously looking at ways to increase participation and awareness,” Lee said. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Photo credit (feature image): davidgsteadman All other images courtesy of Gun Lake Casino.
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association