Seven workplace wellness ideas to keep employees healthy and engaged – Crain's Chicago Business

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2022 Finalist: Blackstone Environmental, Inc.

As companies compete for talent, worker well-being is a priority to help retain the best employees. Workplace wellness programs can make a difference. Here are seven proven program ideas, tips and activities from the finalists of the 2022 Illinois’ Healthiest Employers Awards.
The last two years have been stressful, and more companies are addressing the issue through their wellness programs to include more mental health programming and activities. “Wellness programs can play a key role in improving employee engagement and reducing turnover,” says Amy Zucchero, wellness manager at Connor & Gallagher OneSource (1st place, 2-99 employees). Mindfulness, stress management, financial well-being and social health are key elements of the Connor & Gallagher program, along with physical health and nutrition. Blackstone Environmental (3rd place, 2-99 employees) implemented a fatigue management policy to raise awareness about stress and burnout which have been heightened by the pandemic. The company continues to work in a hybrid structure and the wellness program provides an important touch point to remind employees their company cares about them and their health.
Wellness programs need to be refreshed to keep employees engaged. For example, V3 Companies (1st place, 100-499 employees) has the Revitalize program which is designed to evolve over time. Workplace challenges now go well beyond walking events. For example, a yoga event/fundraiser was held for a local women’s shelter. The “Oh the Places You’ll Go” challenge allowed participants to pick their personal goals for the year. Regional challenges are back in person. Each office sets up an activity for employees and their families. One office hosted a canoe trip and picnic. Another office had a 5K walk/run and picnic. Yet another office had a cross country skiing event.
From left: 2022 Finalists (Shop Smart LLC, CNO Financial Group and Comcast)
At Kearney (1st place, 500-1,499 employees), a global management consulting firm, one of its unique benefits is LifeCare Complete by Care.com. Employees have access to life specialists for coaching, free tutoring, subsidized in-home and center-based backup childcare, support for aging parents and discounts for everyday essentials. To support mental mental health issues during the pandemic, virtual care for employees was made available through Doctor on Demand. Kearney covers 100% of the cost of virtual therapy. “Our wellness programs signal to employees that we care about the whole person, not just their productivity,” says Todd Bolhouse, director of Benefits & Payroll, Kearney. Moving truck rental company U-Haul (1st place, 5,000+ employees) partnered with Rx Savings Solutions saving more than $873,000 since March 2020 on pharmacy costs. About 97% of employees are enrolled in the program.
U-Haul also recently launched a type 2 diabetes program, which all team members can access. Diabetes has been one of the biggest health concerns for the company resulting in costly medical claims. The program is meant to reverse the disease and improve the health and quality of life of employees.
The values of heart, integrity, excellence and respect are woven throughout the benefit and wellness programs at AssetMark (3rd place, 500-1,499 employees). In February, for Heart Health Month, the company organized a “kudogram” fundraiser on Valentine’s Day. Associates sent online “kudos” to show appreciation for their co-workers, A total of 847 kudograms were sent, raising $3,000 for the American Heart Association. The company also held a virtual blood drive using the Red Cross donor’s app to schedule and track appointments. The blood drive impacted 400 lives and raised $4,000.
2022 Finalists
Chicago Transit Authority, left and Busey
The pandemic was a great teacher, highlighting the need for innovative wellness approaches. Riverside Healthcare (1st place, 1,500 -4,999 employees) added new services, including onsite licensed counselors. Group and one-on-one sessions are held following adverse, traumatic or patient events that result in death or serious harm. Counselors visit hospital units to talk with staff about stress and how to improve their mental well-being. Riverside hosts “Relax-a-Lunches” both in-person and virtually. Trained staff in mental health first aid provides the staff with information on how to identify a mental health crisis and effectively intervene. Twice daily virtual support groups address COVID-related stress. Mindful movement is a twice-weekly virtual class aimed to decrease mental and emotional distress. Riverside also launched a campaign to remove the stigmatism related to resourcing mental health services. “Healthcare workers have faced several difficult years and at Riverside we have worked on strengthening and growing our mental health support services for our employees,” says Riverside Chief Operating Officer Kyle Benoit.
From left: 2022 Finalists (Syngenta, AssetMark and Associated Agencies, Inc.)
Family and personal problems can easily spill over into the workplace, impacting productivity and employee engagement. Shop Smart (2nd place, 2-99 employees) offers a working parent benefit program for employees facing childcare challenges. The program provides services to help educate and entertain children while freeing up time for parents to focus on work or daily chores. Shop Smart reimburses up to $80 per child for a subscription to services such as Adventure Academy, Prodigy Math, and others. A working parent employee resource group connected and helped families during school closures, hybrid models and returning to the classroom. A caregiver’s “Slack” channel was available for employees to share advice, ask questions, find resources, and provide support. Comcast (2nd place, 5,000+ employees) offers RethinkCare, a resource for anyone caring for a child, including children with a behavior challenge or developmental disability. Services include seven hours of consultation per year with a behavior expert, unlimited access to RethinkCare’s website and mobile app. “Supporting our employees is just part of our overall culture at Comcast,” says Julie Maleski, vice president, Human Resources, Comcast.
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