Success Story

Windings Inc.

Putting a culture of wellbeing into motion

Windings Inc. employees embraced the physical and community elements of wellbeing at the Stompin’ Out Hunger 5k walk/run.


It’s 2 p.m. and the music just came on over the intercom at Windings, Inc., courtesy of the wellness committee. It’s the familiar, rhythmic beat from the TV commercial for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s “do.” campaign, and it’s reminding employees throughout the entire facility that it’s time to take a break to stretch and move their bodies.

The playful stretching reminder is just one of the many ways that Windings, a 100 percent employee-owned company, is following its corporate slogan of “We put ideas in motion.” The company’s not just putting mechanical ideas in motion, but an entire culture of health and wellbeing for its 90 employees in New Ulm.

For more than 45 years, Windings has built components for electromagnetic/motion conversion applications. They specialize in the production of stators, rotors, insulated lamination stacks, precision wound coils, other custom wound products and higher-level assemblies, including full motors and generators.

Lori Weinberg, Winding’s human resources manager, explained, “We’re trying to spread the message that wellbeing is more than just working safely and not having any accidents. Just because we are physically fit or injury-free … if we’re not happy in our career or community, our overall wellness is going to struggle. We want to keep all five elements of wellbeing in balance and in sync.”

The five elements that Weinberg references include career, social, financial, physical and community wellbeing, as outlined in the best-selling book, “Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements.” Employees with low wellbeing can increase health care costs and result in lost revenue, while employees with high wellbeing engage their colleagues and customers, and help their organization realize significant health care savings.

“Where the Heart of New Ulm can really can help us with physical wellbeing, we’re working on the other wellbeing elements, too,” said Weinberg.

Accordingly, Windings’ wellness efforts run the gamut. A physical therapist comes in once a month to do ergonomic analyses. They’ve offered lunch-and-learns not only on a wide variety of heart health topics, but ergonomics, resiliency training and work-life balance, too. There are even balance balls in conference rooms for employees wanting to engage some muscles other than just those in their brain during meetings.

Making progress in several areas

The company’s wellness initiatives started in 2008, just prior to the official launch of the Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU). New Ulm Medical Center started the Wellness at Work initiative that year, and Windings was the first company to sign on.

When HONU arrived, Windings enthusiastically supported the effort and hosted an onsite heart health screening for employees and spouses in which more than 72 percent of eligible adults participated. They hosted another screening in 2011. Throughout both years, the three priority risk factors that emerged among employees were overweight/obesity, high LDL cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome, defined as having at least three of the following risk factors: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides or high blood glucose.

While the data show the prevalence of these three priority risk factors is relatively unchanged for Windings when comparing the two screenings, employees have indeed made positive improvements in getting at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and controlling their blood pressure.

“It’s amazing how many fruits and vegetables that you see people here eating and sharing,” said Weinberg.

The Employee Stock Ownership Program Committee recently compiled a cookbook of employee recipes, and the company contracted one year with Growing Green Farm in New Ulm to deliver a supply of fruits and vegetables directly to the workplace. Windings offered the fresh produce to employees at a steep discount to encourage people to try different items, along with recipes. The company is considering creating a community garden area for employees to use as well as potentially the broader community.

Linking the wellbeing elements

Windings now ties every company event into one or more of the five wellbeing elements, along with an explanation of why it fits for each element.

The interconnectedness of the five elements is evident in events such as the Stompin’ Out Hunger 5K run/walk that Windings promoted to employees in September 2011. They gave running shirts not to just the employees who participated, but also to those who came out to cheer on their fellow employees.

“We presented this event as something that we were doing for both the community wellbeing and physical wellbeing elements,” explained Weinberg. “For some people, it was the first walk they’d ever done. Those who came and cheered on the others were really reaching out to help thrive in that community wellbeing element,” said Weinberg.

Windings was one of the first three companies to get involved with the Go for the Gold Challenge, an annual Heart of New Ulm-supported challenge now in its third year. Windings employees compete against employees from Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories and SouthPoint Federal Credit Union in a healthy lifestyle challenge, such as weight loss, to earn medals and other incentives. They’re now actively trying to recruit more New Ulm companies to participate.

As a company with many long-time, older workers, Weinberg stressed that culture change takes time — and small steps. Part of her challenge has been helping employees understand that the workplace culture today is much different than what it was in the 1980s.

“Back then, you didn’t step away from your computer or your workstation if it wasn’t break time,” she explained.

So now, when the music break comes on, or all the computers in the production area display their twice-a-day stretching reminders, “it’s about giving people permission to do it and empowering them to have fun.”

Creating a sustainable effort

In 2009 and 2010, the company relied on HONU’s resources for many programs, including monthly lunch-and-learn sessions with health educator Holly Glaubitz. The company has regularly offered all five of HONU’s easy-to-implement lifestyle challenge programs.

For 2012, Windings is working to provide additional wellbeing training for the wellness committee, and focusing on helping employees learn how to better handle stress. With their expanded wellbeing focus, Windings now does much of its own programming.

“I love the fact that Heart of New Ulm is still there for ideas, but we can’t just expect the hospitals and the Heart of New Ulm to keep going and take us through it,” Weinberg explained.

This is exactly what HONU wants to see — helping to ensure the community is poised to sustain heart-healthy efforts on its own in the future.