Poudre School District exists to support and inspire every child to think, to learn, to care, and to graduate prepared to be successful in a changing world. They also carry this mission when it comes to their employees' health and well-being. When you have a happy and productive staff, you in turn get happy and productive students who can see and learn from this great culture of health that Poudre School District has adopted.
Health Links (HL): Why did your business decide become a Health Links Certified Healthy Business?
Poudre School District (PSD): We have been certified since 2014 and feel that being a certified business allows us to stay on track with our health and wellness goals as well as network and learn from other businesses. It is a way to recognize the hard work and dedication we have to taking care of our population.
HL: What benefits did the certification bring to your business?
PSD: Health Links is great about support, networking, ideas, and resources. They provide a sense of community and a way to look for growth to improve the great work we are already doing.
HL: Has this certification changed the way your business thinks about wellness and safety?
PSD: Yes! It helps provide information about best practices and is a guidance on areas of growth. It has also helped to learn from others successes and challenges.
HL: Has the Health Links certification or your wellness program affected your surrounding community?
PSD: I think we are moving in this direction. We are working with Health Links to support more Northern Colorado outreach and to work with other local businesses letting them know the great benefits available to them through this certification and program. I hope in the next few years this is something we can say a definite yes to!
Health Links (HL): Why is the health and wellness of your employees important to you?
Poudre School District (PSD): Health and wellness is not only important for showing our employees that we are taking care of them, but it shows that there is a sense of presence and opportunity for our employees. The trickledown effect to the kids can go a long way and impacts their ability to learn in the classroom. When the staff is taken care of through our wellness program, we are helping to ensure a productive classroom and giving the students the best environment for learning.
HL: How will you/do you know your program is successful?
PSD: We know that our program is successful when we see people’s attitudes around health and wellness change. We have seen and heard a lot of positive feedback from our employees which trickles throughout the workplace. When the right resources are provided, people feel more supported to take care of themselves and the culture of the school begins to shift and change. Some changes might be small, like bringing fruit instead of donuts, other are can be big, like providing more flexible time for staff so they can make wellness a top priority.
HL: What obstacles did you have to overcome to get your program started? How did you overcome them?
PSD: There are and will continue to be different obstacles to overcome. Anytime you work in a diverse environment you face obstacles. Some of our greatest obstacles have to do with finances. We really want to highlight and show the return on our investment for our program – since we are self-insured this is really important – we really need to work hard to justify our program. In order to address this, we do comprehensive data collection and analysis.
Another obstacle is that all of our schools are site-based managed, meaning that decisions are at the principals’ discretion. We have to have a lot of buy-in. The most successful schools have the principal on board and support and participate in the program. To get principals to this level we have to use a stick or carrot approach. For the stick, we updated our policies to include employees wellness to show that we have certain expectations for our principals. The carrot approach is more peer pressure. When other schools are doing well we really highlight them through all of our different channels and to our board through stories and videos which puts pressure on the schools that might be falling behind.
The key to overcoming any obstacle is communication. Communicating to a large employee population can be difficult to do effectively, so trying to think of all of the different ways we can reach out and encourage employees is important.
HL: Do you incorporate safety along with your wellness program? If so, what does this look like?
PSD: Our programs are not integrated as strongly as we would like them to be, but we do have our own risk management department that interacts with our wellness teams and work with them a lot. We are trying to start havin meetings on how we can improve our safety programs with the integration of our new health system. Making sure our onsite clinics are compliant with safety requirements and making sure our employees are getting as many safety resources as they can. We also are trying to come up with new ways of addressing staff who have claimed workers’ comp. insurance. It takes a lot longer for employees with other health issues to recover from a worksite injury than employees who are healthy so we are creating a lifestyle health piece. If an employee gets hurt on the job, part of what they do while they are taking leave for recovery is to attend classes and workshops that cover chronic disease management or meet with a dietitian so that they can focus on how to create a healthy lifestyle.
HL: What tip/advice would you give to a business that is considering starting a workplace wellness program?
PSD: Get to know your population. Every program should be catered to the population. What works for one, doesn’t work for another. Get feedback and listen. Conducting and annual needs/interest survey really helps.
Understanding the dynamics of the population. What are the challenges employees face on a daily basis in each different department? We focus on this by creating a big district program that everyone can participate in, but then we take a look at specific locations and find out how we can integrate things that work well for them and use a tailored approach to address unique department needs.
Having patience. There are always going to be trials and tribulations along with your high hopes. Have an optimistic and positive attitude and be a consistent role model and practice what you preach. Having an outgoing and approachable attitude during programs is helpful to make employees more comfortable.
The biggest key to success is working with an integrated approach. Make sure all the pieces are talking together with a lot communication and meetings to make sure that wellness is working with benefits, benefits is working with safety, safety is working with clinics, etc. Make sure that everyone is always aware of what everyone else is doing so that everyone plays their part and work hard to complement one another.