Orlando Business Journal | By Anjali Fluker | July 27, 2021
Seminole County Public Schools made a concerted effort to focus on its employees’ entire well-being — including health, social/emotional, mental and financial — and as a result, got high engagement from its workforce in the past year.
The large school district with 67 worksites and thousands of employees seeks creative ways to meet all their needs and provide opportunities to improve their overall health and well-being. And that was even more apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As shutdowns initially closed many doctors’ offices for non-emergent visits, most employers’ well-being programs saw preventive services plummet. However, Seminole County Public Schools’ well-established program used its multiple channels of communication throughout the pandemic. As a result, 83.4% of its employees had some type of preventive service, and 78% had a physical in 2020, with only a decrease of 3% from the prior year. Roughly 85% of its employees were compliant with evidence-based medicine guidelines, compared to a norm of 78.6%, demonstrating the majority of the workforce is engaged in overall health and well-being.
- SCPS has Wellness Champions at every site to make sure messages also are shared with site-based employees. They then offer specific wellness programs that meet the needs of the employees at their respective worksites.
- The district offers health coaches and diabetes prevention programs that employees can participate in to improve their numbers.
- Its key cancer screening rates all remained above industry norms and national averages during 2020.
A key initiative during the pandemic was ensuring employees’ social and emotional needs were being met, said Superintendent Walt Griffin. The district heavily marketed its EAP Program benefits to employees, and usage exponentially increased while virtual behavioral health visits rose from 30 in 2019 to 2,577 in 2020, Griffin said.
“Numerous resources were provided during this period of uncertainty such as emotional resiliency seminars, art programs, etc. Our frequent marketing initiatives and dynamic on-site Wellness Coordinators have inspired a culture of wellness at SCPS, and that is my greatest source of pride. Employees are fluent in our Strive for 5 wellness program designed for them to complete important medical preventative services annually. Ultimately, this helps our employees engage in required medical care faster, and this provides the opportunity to be more effectively treated.”
SCPS is one of Orlando Business Journal’s 2021 Healthiest Employers in the category that includes companies with 5,000 or more companywide employees. The honorees were featured in OBJ‘s July 9, 2021, weekly edition, as well as online.
Here’s more from Carianne Reggio, employee benefits and wellness administrator:
What was your company’s “pandemic plan?” In late March 2020, SCPS formulated a reopening task force that included leaders from … each department. Various subcommittees were formed to work on specific areas of immediate need. We also appointed a Covid safety manager (CSM) at every school and department in the district. These administrators — who we are keeping this coming school year — are experts in all things Covid, and assist staff and students. There also is a Covid safety administrator who trains all CMSs. By the time schools re-opened at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the SCPS Reopening Task Force had an intensive plan that took into consideration every part and function of the school system. This plan was submitted to the Florida Department of Education, and we have received praise for it. Some actions that were taken into account were all aspects of staff and student safety (including effect PPE, workplace accommodations, etc.); how to equip schools, and fully and properly socially distance students; how food and nutritional services would be provided safely; and extra measures facilities and maintenance would have to take, including extra ventilation and filtration systems. For the future, we will continue to have CSMs and another reopening task face already has started for the 2021-2022 school year.
Your most popular new wellness initiative: Our Wellness Center that offers cardio and strength training options, and virtual classes. It is at our transportation and maintenance hub, and is open to all employees free of charge. In July, through a partnership with a local hospital system, a full-time nurse practitioner will be stationed at the Wellness Center, providing preventative examinations, and employees will be able to get their annual lab work done at this center as well.
Next step for your wellness program: Work with staff to make healthy lifestyle and behavior changes that are sustainable and will make an impact on our chronic disease and comorbidity population
How you keep people from dropping out: By keeping wellness at the forefront of their minds through engaging with them in a variety of ways. We regularly communicate with our employees with calls, emails, videos, contests, mailers, etc. We have Wellness Champions and benefits advocates at our 70 worksites, who engage our employees, provide informational resources, educational opportunities, perform wellness activities and have wellness challenges at their respective sites. They are extremely engaged and are held accountable by SCPS, requiring evidence that all the criteria is met. In addition, we provide fun family-friendly wellness events, like our annual Walt Walk 5k and Wellness Fair. We truly want success with our wellness program, and ultimately, we strive for employees to improve their health and well-being through our program and initiatives.
Your team’s favorite healthy treats: Trail mix or KIND protein bars
Your team’s favorite place to grab a healthy meal: Currito, Lake Mary
Advice to others on starting a wellness program: You really need to look at the VOI (value on investment), not the ROI (return on investment) because improving a person’s health is priceless. In addition, it is imperative you actively engage leaders who believe in the benefits of wellness for employees. Try not to bite off more than you can chew when first implementing your program, as it takes time for employees to buy in. Start small and continually improve without fail. As you watch the data, you can expand the program and drive the initiatives. Also, involve all aspects of the organization in the program.
Have you offered incentives for employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine? We have not offered incentives, but we did work closely with the Seminole County Department of Health to have a vaccination event just for school district employees well before the general population had access. The events took place at several SCPS high schools.
Seminole County Public Schools
- Headquarters: 400 E. Lake Mary Blvd., Sanford 32773
- Central Florida employees: 8,500
- Year wellness program founded: 2012
- Wellness program participation rate: 83%