The City of Ventura’s 19th Annual Corporate Games is in full swing, with as many as 10,000 employees from across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties going head-to-head with rival companies in 30 different events including paintball, basketball, beach volleyball, softball, soccer and billiards. After six weeks of fierce competition, the games will conclude with the closing ceremonies on May 17, which feature a sand castle competition, tug-of-war and awards presentations at Harbor Cove Beach.

The Corporate Games gives employers a unique opportunity to enhance teamwork and build camaraderie among their employees. It’s a terrific way to kick-start an employee wellness program, which should be an integral part of any organization’s employee benefits plan, because, after all, when employees are healthy, they are not only happy, they’re productive. And productive employees make for a healthy bottom line.

Some of you might remember I wrote about my husband’s boss inspiring his employees to get into shape. His words were well chosen and from the heart, with a motivational speech that went something like this, "You’re all fat, so I’ve signed you up for a marathon!" Well it worked. Now, four years later, the company’s culture has shifted more positively to the promotion of fit, productive, thriving employees and my husband has become a true athlete with a fondness for oatmeal and raisins in the morning instead of a greasy McMuffin for breakfast.

With my own employer, it was a little different. In order for us to enjoy less expensive medical benefits and reduced workers’ compensation rates, it became necessary to initiate a wellness program for the employees. We started a few months ago with a health assessment that included a questionnaire, fitness testing to record physical strength, flexibility and endurance, and a weigh-in. An online education tool was also made available to help individuals reach their fitness goals through exercise, nutrition and stress-busting tips.

Since then, it is becoming commonplace for my co-workers to take a walk during breaks and go for a quick gym workout at lunchtime. We even trade recipes for protein shakes and healthy snacks. Educational teleconferences that focus in on relevant fitness topics help employees stay motivated and health aware. Many even signed up for the Corporate Games, which, despite the bruises and sore muscles, has created a sense of play and team pride.

Many organizations are beginning to realize the win-win benefits of a healthy workforce. If your company offers a wellness program, consider yourself lucky and make sure you are taking full advantage of it. If they don’t, cut out this article and put it in the boss’ in-box!

For more information on the Corporate Games events and highlights, go to www.venturacorporategames.org.

Lisa Snider is a local freelance writer. For more, go to www.LisaSnider.com.