See how the San Diego Zoo helps its employees reach wellness through its “Roar Longer” program.
Greatist’s 44 Healthiest Companies to Work for in America identifies organizations that are “redefining office culture and proving that working hard and finding balance aren’t mutually exclusive.”
An online community that is devoted to promoting healthy choices, Greatist highlights workplaces that go beyond the token bowl of mushy apples in the meeting room to strategic wellbeing initiatives that promote overall health.
This isn’t the only company that ranks businesses based on the balance of workplace culture. It’s becoming more apparent that companies that offer these types of perks are generally more successful.
Today’s savvy workers prioritize these organizations when job hunting. In response, forward-thinking companies are bolstering the employee value proposition by offering robust programs that include not only healthy food options and fitness programs but also premium services such as medical care, massages, laundry, car washes, bike repairs, haircuts, and dry cleaning services, to name just a few.
In the book ROAR: How To Build a Resilient Organization the World Famous San Diego Zoo Way, which I co-authored with Sandy Asch, we share the story of how, at 100 years old, the San Diego Zoo (and its operating company, San Diego Zoo Global “SDZG”) has created such a resilient and successful organization.
Once you build a resilient workforce, you need to maintain it. Recognized as one of the Healthiest Companies in 2014 by the San Diego Business Journal, SDZG has found a way to ensure that employees remain engaged in their own well being. This, in turn, makes for a healthier staff and subsequently a more resilient organization.
A Renewed Focus on Physical Health
The holistic approach that is encompassed in SDZG’s “Roar Longer” Wellness Program supports a major SDZG strategic initiative called Striving for Balance.
The program enables employees to track and improve their health, offers assistance when an employee’s health is compromised, and provides education and training so that employees have the
knowledge to take care of their health. The tools are mainly technologically-based while the programs are hands-on.
SDZG provides employees with an online portal through which they can keep track of individual (and confidential) health scores. These scores are acquired through various point-based activities that can potentially offer them a discount on their health insurance.
This point-system incentive motivated 85 percent of eligible employees to participate by answering a health risk assessment questionnaire and taking a biometric screening test. The results are only shared with the employee, but the true outcome is a knowledgeable staff member who otherwise may not have gotten this annual check-up.
Further opportunities for points come in the form of fitness contests such as walking and healthy eating, discounted “boot camp” classes to improve healthy habits, eye and dental exams, book clubs, meetings with a certified financial planner (paid for by the company) to improve financial health, and sharing healthy recipes on the web portal. The points gained qualify employees for quarterly and annual prizes.
Over 40 employees participate in the morning boot camps. The boot camp meets at 6 am in nearby Balboa Park: the one-hour intense class is full of zoo employees.
“The boot camps have definitely improved my energy and health. I had never done this type of strenuous exercise before, and to do so with coworkers, outside in the park, has been an amazing experience,” shared Patti Betts, San Diego Zoo Global Wedding Planner.
The Benefits of Roaring Longer
In addition to tracking wellbeing and promoting healthy living, Roar Longer provides much-needed assistance when an employee’s health is compromised due to an injury or illness. State and federal mandates make up part of the benefits, with additional advantages for each eligible employee.
These benefits include supplemental pay when someone is out of work on medical leave, or the opportunity to complete temporary, productive tasks that can be performed when an injury or illness limits an employee from conducting their regular job.
Incorporating assistance when an employee’s health is compromised into a company wellness plan can relieve employee stress brought on by fear of job-loss or the inability to contribute.
The final segment of the Roar Longer wellness program is an education component. It’s important that companies consistently arrange educational opportunities for staff members. Through classes, training and advisory fairs, education should be at the forefront of a successful wellness program, empowering employees to take charge of their own health.
When thinking about well being, too many companies focus primarily on physical health and neglect to address the whole person, which is why so many wellness programs fail.
To have a positive impact on employees’ wellbeing, you must move beyond simply counting steps with an app or tallying pounds lost in a weight-loss challenge to embracing all the components that contribute to an employee who thrives. This means putting wellbeing in “surround sound” in order to infuse the workplace with offerings that promote and reward healthy choices.
San Diego Zoo Global has a code of conduct, dubbed “The Rules of Engagement,” implemented nearly six years ago. There are seven basic rules of how the employees interact with each other, treat each other, and treat the guests. These rules are largely focused on employees staying healthy, taking time to renew and practice mindfulness, staying focused and productive, and maintaining strong work-life balances.
By creating a seamless wellbeing experience where every aspect of employees’ health is addressed and easily accessible, your business will be able to secure higher levels of adoption, and thereby influence key outcomes such as performance, engagement, and the capacity to withstand stress.
This requires a shift in thinking from health as something that is practiced annually at the doctor’s office for a routine check-up to something that is addressed on a day-to-day basis through lifestyle habits.
Wellness initiatives must be designed to be less clinical and more lifestyle-oriented, with the intention of teaching employees how to maximize their energy and improve performance at work and in life.
A Focus on Food
Good nutrition is a priority. This is especially true at SDZG, where the majority of employees have physically demanding jobs. Animal keepers, for example, are constantly carrying large feed bags, pushing full wheelbarrows, and walking up and down steep terrain.
Meals and refreshments should comprise of fewer refined, sugary foods and instead consist of healthier alternatives such as nuts and granola to help employees stay alert and focused.
Instead of traditional pastries and doughnuts, employees of SDZG are offered yogurt and healthy, low-fat muffins. Healthy food options are offered to boost energy and enhance performance.
Organizations that take a holistic approach to wellness recognize that how they are known and their identity influences employees’ commitment to wellbeing. Wellness becomes engrained in the company’s corporate culture.
This includes an expectation that the leaders of the organization will help to create a work environment that supports well-being and supports employees taking ownership and responsibility for their own well-being. And this isn’t just speculation. SDZG’s 2016 Employee Engagement survey proved that employee engagement and satisfaction are at an all-time high, thanks in part to the Roar Longer program.