For wellness professionals, it’s been engaging times, and it’s been challenging times. The pandemic introduced new ways to work productively, even if away from the traditional office. Managers relied on technology to build teams virtually, and health and wellness professionals discovered how to keep employees mentally and physically engaged and companies productive across time and space.
Yet, challenges persisted. With the return to work, organizations have also been experiencing the great resignation. Retention and hiring are at the top of the list for many companies in terms of challenges and benefits are often a key draw. Some bolstered the existing health and wellness models and turned to their culture of diversity to strengthen their presence.
Moderated by David Pizzo, Florida Blue market president for West Florida, this Healthiest Employers panel discussion hosted by Florida Blue and Tampa Bay Business Journal, human resources and wellness professionals from some of the area’s “healthiest employers” revealed how they keep health and wellness thriving to turn benefits into a recruiting tool.
Educating the workforce
At Moffitt Cancer Center, their existing employee diversity highlighted the need to serve people’s different preferences and needs, said Debra Cheek, the center’s wellness coordinator. Taking a holistic approach to address wellbeing, they have elevated their efforts to educate their people, enticing them with incentives and rewards that encourage annual physicals, diagnostics, even cancer screenings.
“Some received cancer diagnoses early and could treat them,” she said. “They didn’t even know their numbers had changed from year to year.”
As a breast cancer survivor, Jeanette Martin is a staunch proponent of BankUnited’s use of onsite mobile mammography and other diagnostics that can make screenings convenient. In fact, it was a mobile scan that discovered her cancer at stage one. Today, the bank is helping eliminate barriers to care, informing its people about its programs, including its expanded mental health offerings.
More than eight in 10 employees have completed their wellness screenings, said Martin, the bank’s VP and employee wellness program manager. “Being the poster child for all things wellness makes a difference for what we’re doing.”
Sometimes, listening closely will reveal program needs. At Ultimate Medical Academy, the creation of a culture committee that solicited and acted on employee feedback revealed what team members needed, said Nicole Anzuoni, the academy’s chief legal and people officer. They wanted engagement, to feel part of the organization and especially during the pandemic, wanted to avoid feelings of alienation or a loss of camaraderie.
The academy brought on a director of wellness and wellbeing and created programming that continues post-pandemic. It worked. Between 2019 to 2021, attrition was reduced by 17%.
“The holistic support we’re providing team members is critical to them wanting to stay with us,” she said.
With the pandemic, Power Design made a “big shift,” doing check-ins and calls with all of its 2,000 employees, said Shelly Scamardo, its wellness manager. They “rebranded” their wellness efforts, and created a program that varied with each department, yet placing individual leaders at the center of the initiative. To keep recruitment high, they gave every new candidate a tour of their offices, including the fitness center, and they connected bonuses with hiring. For an engineering and construction firm, incentives – including money – work well, she said.
Fitness as ‘a huge win’
Onsite fitness can go a long way. CBIZ plays up its fitness center, as well as its overall space, which has been designed to foster health and wellness, said Wendy Hawn, the accounting firm’s HR director. Features include a standing desk in every office.
“That’s been a huge win for us,” Hawn said.
The pandemic heightened the need to provide strong mental health support to employees, added David Pizzo, market president West Florida with Florida Blue. Florida Blue enhanced its already robust mental health options to its employer groups.
With its new director of wellness who’s trained in social, health and welfare sciences, Ultimate Medical Academy explored new ways to deliver mental health care, Anzuoni said. The Ginger app helps with 24/7 care, clinical services and coaching. The on-demand nature serves its young and diverse workforce that “want things right away,” she said. With the new director rolling out the services, the program reaches its workforce with sought-after amenities, including its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, while also elevating the culture of wellness and destigmatizing mental health.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, use of the myStrength app provides emotional health support with personalized and customized plans and access to licensed therapists, Cheek said. The center also has five mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, trained facilitators who offer sessions several times a week. Their new chief wellness officer also trained team members to provide peer support, which can be especially helpful for clinical team members dealing with difficult situations.
The center updated its wellness web page to include mental health and bereavement. Having all the content and services consolidated into one site makes access easier – and more likely employees will participate, she said.
Care with – and beyond – apps
Even before the pandemic, many industries had to face sad realities regarding mental health. In the construction sector, for example, suicide is the leading cause of death, Scamardo said. Yet, needs and care in the male-dominated industry are stigmatized, so it goes highly undiagnosed, with sufferers never seeking treatment, or self-medicating. Overdose is not uncommon, she added.
During the pandemic, Power Design “decided it was time to talk about it,” she said. They created a campaign, recorded videos of leadership discussing mental health, hosted a weekly “Toolbox Talk” with topics related to mental health and substance abuse. By simplifying connections between employees and therapists, people were engaged. Use and claims surrounding the different apps and services spiked; utilization hit 32%.
“We removed every barrier we could possibly think of,” she said. “People who use therapy talked openly about it …. Superintendents and foremen were thanking me.”
At BankUnited, naming their mental health program “productive minds” was a way to “do away with that idea that there’s something wrong if you’re seeking out therapeutic services,” Martin said. Employees also have access to the Talkspace and Sanvello apps for on-demand help for stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health needs.
Looking at the various stressers, BankUnited targeted personal finance for additional services. They partnered with Prudential Pathways to serve up a monthly financial wellness webinar on budgeting, emergency savings, even student loans. They weren’t certain it would resonate, Martin said. But they had to try.
“It’s one of those things you hope is going to catch on, but you’re not sure,” she said. “Participation was through the roof.”
Weaving ‘wellness’ company-wide
Moffitt launched its Week of Wellness program, with a daylong expo, speakers and programs to engage its people in health and wellness, Cheek said. Courses included content on healthy eating, cooking demonstrations, even vegetable gardening classes. Courses, including 30-minute “Bite-sized Breaks” were recorded for those who couldn’t attend.
The goal with virtual and in person programs is to boost engagement in any possible way. Like Martin said, you never know what will resonate. Ultimate Medical Academy’s “culture committee” spearheaded even more benefits, like a benefit “concierge” to help employees navigate their care, and a “care collective conference” to help its people.
“Focus is on the word ‘care,’” Anzuoni said. “When our students are cared for, they’re better able to care for those in a healthcare setting. Same for team members. We give people the opportunity and information to take care of themselves.”
Ultimately, by weaving wellness into an organization’s culture, people become engaged, participation and healthiness rise, as does productivity.
“The secret is weaving wellness into everything your organization already is doing, then find a way to plant the seeds of wellness,” Scamardo said. “When you have a culture of wellbeing it’s easier to get the engagement because it’s everywhere.”
It’s December 31, 2022. You’re reflecting on your strides in health and wellness over the past year. What would you like to accomplish going forward?
David Pizzo: Health and wellbeing are reflected in your brands, and your attraction of healthier employees.
Nicole Anzuoni: I’m looking forward to getting employee engagement and attrition numbers back that are even better than they were the year before.
Debra Cheek: With the onboarding of our chief wellness officer, a neurologist, a professor at the University of South Florida … we’re looking forward to the partnership she brings to the table.
Wendy Hawn: If I look back, I’m always trying to make improvements in our office to make our office space better for our employees. So I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in ’23.
Jeanette Martin: The pandemic has really inspired us to be an all-inclusive, culturally competent well-being program. It’s not just about nutrition and fitness. It’s about all the other elements we need to manage in order to live optimally.
Shelly Scamardo: “Whew. We made it. We survived. Alright 2023, come on. Let’s get to the next level.”
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort