As of March 2014, about 10,600 Norfolk Southern employees were participating in the Virgin Pulse Health Miles program, introduced in 2011 as part of the railroad’s WellNS offerings. Mary Pitman, the railroad’s health promotions manager, is aiming for all 30,000.
Her challenge: Many employees, especially operations employees in the field, remain unfamiliar with Virgin Pulse, a program offering employees a chance to earn up to $500 a year by walking and taking part in other healthy activities.
The Safety and Service Expo offered Pitman a platform to spread the word. “It gives us a unique opportunity to reach people across all divisions from a wide variety of locations,” Pitman said.
Judging by the crowds at the WellNS booth, her strategy worked. To draw in employees, she and a cadre of WellNS ambassadors handed out new and improved Virgin Pulse pedometers. At computer stations, they helped employees log in to the Virgin Pulse website and “sync up” the pedometers to upload their daily step counts – one way to earn the cash.
“The push is to get everybody active and give people a little motivation to get moving and stepping,” said Brian Dunning, a machinist at Lamberts Point locomotive shop in Norfolk, and an enthusiastic WellNS advocate. “When you look at your pedometer and see you’re a couple thousand steps short of your goal, it motivates you to get up and get walking.”
In addition to Virgin Pulse, many employees at the Norfolk Terminal have banded together in Weight Watchers groups and exercise classes. Over the past two or so years, Pitman estimates that employees at the terminal's 38th Street Car Shop collectively have lost around 2,500 pounds.
Jennifer Bishop, senior technology analyst in Atlanta, was another of Pitman’s WellNS ambassadors. Bishop signed up for Virgin Pulse when NS first made it available and graduated from walking to running in the fall of 2013. Since then, she has run in five 5k’s and three 10k’s, lost about 85 pounds, and been told by her doctor that she no longer needs blood pressure medication. She said she got involved in WellNS for her son.
“I was very overweight, and the thought of my little boy being raised without me really motivated me,” she said. Now, friends tell her that she has inspired them to get healthier.
“If I can be an inspiration to anybody else to get healthy and to stay around longer for their kids,” she said, “I’m all for it.”