Rain(bows) or shine, Paychex thrives
at Rochester's Corporate Challenge
Three Paychex runners start a recent JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge. The team is gearing up for this year's event on Thursday, May 31 and online registration remains open.
ROCHESTER, March 23, 2012 — There's something about Rochester and rainbows. Ask some of the longest-running participants in the Rochester JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge® for their favorite memories of the race, and rainbows — sometimes with their attendant downpours — come up. They've certainly left impressions on runners from Paychex, which is preparing for this year's 22nd annual race on Thursday, May 31.
"A few years ago it was raining like crazy, and following the race two huge rainbows appeared over the finish line," said Joe Kuperberg, TE Manager at Paychex. "I don't remember the year but it was within the last five. What a great finish it was!"
"I enjoyed the downpour of 2009 and the resilience of the participants, who had a great time despite the conditions, but an even better memory was 2010, when a cloudburst threatened to repeat the previous year's experience," said Bob Merberg, the company's wellness manager. "Instead, however, the sun came out and a beautiful rainbow appeared over the final stretch of the race."
"It would have to be the race in 2009 where it was POURING," said Human Resources' Yosepha Freeman. "We all were soaked and freezing but completed the race and ate dinner together and laughed about it. Everyone was slipping and sliding in the mud. Quite a sight!"
Rochester is, no doubt, the rainbow capital of the Corporate Challenge. And, as the memories above suggest, it is also home to some of the most resilient participants on the 13-city worldwide circuit. Paychex is a great example.
Founded in 1971 by B. Thomas Golisano with just $3,000 and a good idea — to make payroll outsourcing easy and affordable for small businesses — Paychex has come a long way. From those early days with just one employee, Paychex now has more than 12,000 employees — including 3,000 in the Rochester area — serving more than half a million small- to medium-sized businesses nationwide.
Paychex also has thrived in the Corporate Challenge in its headquarters city.
"This will be the 17th year that we have fielded a Corporate Challenge team. In the early years, we may have only had a handful of participants," said Becky Cania, Corporate Communications Manager. "By the mid-2000s, we had a few dozen. Over the past few years, we’ve consistently had 150-230 Rochester employees participate each year."
Paychex also saw its women's team finish third and men's team fifth last year.
Those accomplishments do not happen by accident. Employees like Kuperberg, Freeman, Cania, and Merberg share their enthusiasm and contribute to a recruiting effort that includes email appeals to all Rochester employees, posting flyers on the company Intranet, and putting up old-fashioned posters in common spaces throughout company buildings in Rochester.
It is well worth it, says Merberg, who quickly became a part of the small Paychex Corporate Challenge team when he joined the company in 2006 as manager of its wellness program.
"Paychex endeavors to imbue wellness into our culture at every turn," said Merberg. "Our core behavioral programs include a points-based system in which employees can earn points — which then earn cash — for completing healthful activities. The Corporate Challenge is one of the activities for which they can get points."
Paychex' innovative wellness program doesn't stop there. It offers programs that promote everything from peer-driven blood pressure checks to preventing childhood obesity.
"Paychex was a pioneer in integrating its wellness program into its healthcare benefits in a manner that is not at all punitive, but helps employees appreciate the relationship between their lifestyle, their health, and their health care costs," explained Merberg. "Though our program embraces incentives for healthy lifestyles, our primary message always is "Good health is its own reward."
Merberg believes the wellness efforts have been a key to Paychex's growth.
"There's a mountain of data demonstrating that wellness programs lead to increased productivity by reducing absenteeism and allowing employees to be more "present" when they are at work," Merberg said. "Further, recent studies have shown that employees with access to good wellness programs feel more connected to their workplace and to their employer, which also has been linked to greater productivity."
Each year, Merberg said, the Corporate Challenge helps drive interest in the wellness program.
Kuperberg adds that the race's benefits don't stop there for Paychex. A runner since high school, he will be participating in the Corporate Challenge for the 15th year in a row, quite likely a record at Paychex.
”This is an important event because it allows us to take a place in the largest running event in Rochester, with our co-workers doing something we all enjoy doing," he said. "We have employees across Rochester in multiple buildings and this allows us to get together in one place in a different setting. It also allows us to reconnect with some co-workers we may not have seen for a while."
The post-race party in a custom-decorated company tent on the lush lawn of Rochester Institute of Technology helps the effort.
"We put out one of the best food spreads available — our catering staff does an amazing job," said Kuperberg. "And I always bring some good hot sauce!
Freeman, the company captain for the past three years, agrees.
"We try and make it a fun evening from the time they get there to when they leave," she said. "We provide tech race t-shirts, (on) which we spend a lot of time creating a fun themed shirt. We usually have one of the biggest tents with tables and chairs, pre-race healthy snacks and drinks and then a huge dinner catered by one of our corporate cafeteria managers. We also decorate the tent with colors that complement our team shirts, balloons, and centerpieces.
"Last year," she added, "we did herb-themed centerpieces to promote our emphasis on eating fresh fruits and vegetables. We allowed participants to take the plants home at the end of the evening, and we heard that some used them to plant herb gardens!"
In the end, it all comes up a winner for Paychex.
"Last year we had over 200 people participate on a night that turned out to be one of the nicest spring nights of that year," she said. "I look forward to many more successful years."
With, or without, rainbows.