Companies like NBT Bank, Loretto and Oswego Health invest in employee wellness
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Of the many truths underscored by the pandemic, the importance of maintaining a healthy workforce represents a benefit to every company. Many CNY employers are going beyond the typical health, dental and vision benefits to offer their workers more.
NBT Bank, for example, provides an employee assistance program for workers who may need help with finding mental health and wellness resources, vacation planning and other information. Benefits include a discounted gym membership accepted at more than 10,000 gyms nationwide.
“Our Wellness Counts committee creates several additional opportunities throughout the year to support employees around the four pillars of wellness: financial, emotional, physical and social,” said Karen Bolcavage-Colosi, NBT Bank’s director of total rewards.
These include financial webinars, guided meditation and yoga events. The group also hosts an annual virtual health and wellness week that offers interactive and informational sessions for employees on a variety of topics such as ergonomics, healthful lifestyle and weight loss, healthcare literacy and grief services.
“We truly mean it when we say our employees are our greatest asset,” Bolcavage-Colosi said. “That is why we strive to expand on the resources provided and continuously cultivate an environment that enables everyone to feel safe to be their authentic self.”
Of course, health benefits are important at Oswego Health and anyone on the health plan has no out-of-pocket costs for imaging, diagnostics, blood work and primary care.
Employees at Oswego Health participating in the wellness initiative can receive up to 35% discount on their premium. The health system also promotes wellness among employees’ families by providing benefits to the dependents in the home, whether the employee is full-time or part-time. These benefits include mental health support, financial coaching, grief and trauma support, and information on resources for legal issues.
Providing a wide array of benefits helps Oswego Health as a business.
“If we can reduce anxiety in their personal life, it makes them more productive as an employee,” said Marquand “Marq” Brown, vice president of human resources and chief people officer at Oswego Health. “Proactively, if we see an employee is having a tough time, we let them know that these resources are there for them. We’re recognizing that at work.”
Checking in with employees and having directors periodically join a shift alongside employees helps Oswego Health identify and rectify issues. Raising morale with a food truck event, treat trolley or a hot chocolate or coffee bar has also helped.
“We like to do that if an area is very busy and there’s a higher level of stress,” Brown said. “These provide a boost to employees and give leaders a direct, in-person opportunity to see how employees are doing. If we find things as a leader, we can point employees in the right direction. Or tell them it’s OK to take a break.”
The employee newsletter helps remind employees of important health screenings and share wellness tips.
“You have to look at it holistically: mental health and physical health,” Brown said. “You have to help employees navigate through potentially difficult times personally and professionally.”
Addressing mental and physical health has also been a high priority at Loretto. The organization maintains employee coaches to help workers with finding resources for issues such as transportation, housing, childcare, food insecurity and diapers.
Since many frontline workers have never worked elsewhere, they may also need help in resolving conflict and mitigating stress.
“Through the employee assistance program, they have easy access to wonderful mental health services,” said Michelle Cuttler, who was employed as an employee coach and now also serves as manager of retention at Loretto. “Anytime something is going on, they can reach out to a certified mental health professional.”
She has used the resources on the employee assistance program website to assist employees with symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety and sometimes that leads to calling a professional for individualized help.
Loretto started a walking club during the pandemic, both as a safe way to connect and to promote mental and physical health. Employees receive a discount on YMCA membership.
The organization also hosts biennial visits from a mammography van from Upstate Medical University.
“Employees don’t take the time off they need to take care of their health,” Cuttler said. “By bringing it here, they don’t have to take time off from work. I did hear from an employee who had been putting it off and they did find something.”
The Loretto social media platforms helps Cuttler pass along encouraging messages as well as health information. She personally checks in with employees as a follow-up when they have been struggling.
“A paycheck is essential, but in talking with employees over the years, it’s not always about the paycheck but how they’re connecting on the job and how life events affect them on the job,” Cuttler said. “If you don’t address those, they won’t have a job. We have to help them navigate those struggles so they can do well on their job.”