Wellness Initiative Helps Staff Destress and Better Cope Amid Pandemic

Recognizing 2021 would continue to be stressful for employees, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists created a new initiative to provide physical and mental health resources. Wellness Bingo allows staff to score points for destressing and attending classes.

From worries about getting COVID-19 to the stresses of working from home and caring for other family members, the pandemic has been hard on employees. So, many associations have been looking for ways support staff wellbeing. Late last year, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists decided to create a wellness initiative to help employees.

“We were anticipating that we were going to have a tough few months at the start of 2021 until the vaccine was more widespread,” said Michelle Jones, chief human resources officer and vice president of the human resources division at ASHP. “So, we tried to think of something that we could do for the employees that would benefit them and bring some positive energy toward them so that they could be healthy in the new year. We also wanted to provide meaningful experiences for them, and that it wasn’t just about exercise, but trying to hit all the difficult points of the pandemic.”

What ASHP came up with was a type of Wellness Bingo. Modeled on the old-fashioned game where players mark off squares to get five in a row, this Bingo card included a variety of activities for its roughly 210-person staff. The activities were in five wellness categories: physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional, whole body, and general. Some activities were simple, like walking outside for 30 minutes, while others required staff to attend a few of the wellness classes ASHP offered.

“We had already been running yoga, but we also brought in someone to do Pilates Fusion, someone to do meditation and mindfulness with our staff,” Jones said. “We had a speaker on ‘parenting through the pandemic,’ which was a real hit with some of our employees who are struggling at home with young ones.”

ASHP says anecdotal reviews have generally been positive with the primary “complaints” being that people were extremely sore after Pilates. Jones said the program is currently scheduled run through the first quarter, and ASHP will conduct a formal review in March to see if improvements are needed. “ASHP is committed to continuing it,” Jones said. “We just want to make sure we are hitting the topics that the employees most want.”

ASHP thought up the idea at the end of 2020 and was able to put the programming together in about a month, without adding much to the budget.

“It didn’t cost as much as our traditional party we do in February, so there was some savings in our budget that we reallocated to this,” Jones said. “That said, I put together a budget that was about five times as much as it ended up costing because we were able to leverage some free resources through our employee assistance program, and we were able to negotiate and find some great presenters that were much less than one might anticipate.”

Jones said if other associations are considering implementing a wellness program, they should definitely speak to their EAP provider. “When I reached out to them, just asking for speakers, they came back that they could provide one free of charge on these different topics,” she said. “Depending on an organization’s EAP, it’s worth asking that question. I think a lot of EAPs do provide that service. It was a nice surprise to our budget and very easy to coordinate.”

ASHP also uses content from the EAP for a staff newsletter, which also reminds them about different wellness offerings. The initiative has a Teams channel and a Yammer group where staff can talk about their experiences. Staff sharing, Jones said, increased participation in the mindfulness class, as those who enjoyed it encouraged others to attend.

Like regular Bingo, this program has prizes. Those who complete their bingo card will get placed in a drawing for a wellness basket. “People love prizes,” she said. “If there’s a little prize, even if it’s a $10 Amazon gift card, sometimes that’s all it takes for people to get excited.”

For those looking to provide wellness for their employees, Jones has some advice. “Just to do something and get started,” she said. “You don’t need to get six or seven speakers lined up. Even if it’s just bringing one or two events in or just doing a walking challenge, I think employees really like you having a commitment to health and wellness, even if they don’t want to participate all the time. They appreciate when an employer has that focus.”

What kinds of initiatives has your association created to help employees during the pandemic? Share in the comments.

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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