For an organization, ODE is fairly young. As one of the University of Colorado’s newest departments, ODE opened its doors in Lone Tree, CO in 2015. With its relatively recent beginning, ODE had an opportunity to forge a new path in building employee culture and identity. This path, of course, would include working toward and creating a culture of safety, health, and well-being.
Similar to nonprofits, there can be challenges in higher education when it comes to funding and allocating resources. As good financial stewards with a commitment to prioritizing students and the academic mission, higher education employers try to run as lean as possible. Resources to support the development of positive employee culture are not always available. As a fledgling organization, ODE saw the opportunity to prioritize these types of programs and recognized its need for a partner in that pursuit. Two years after opening, they began working with Health Links™. “By forming an intentional strategy with Health Links, we’ve been able to hone in on the needs and interests of our employees,” says Brooke Fitzpatrick, Human Resources Director at ODE.
With the support of Health Links’ direction and accountability, and advising from David Shapiro, ODE has experienced substantial growth in its health, safety, and well-being programs. After forming a strategy based on their scores from the Healthy Workplace Assessment™, ODE emphasized an essential aspect of successful health and safety programs—empowering employees as program leaders. Over a two-year period, four employee-led committees were formed to champion healthy, safe behaviors and overall connectedness to one another. These teams include the FUN committee (Fostering a United Network), the WOW committee (Working on Wellness), the SOS committee (Safety On-Site), and the Total Worker Health® committee, which consists of the chairs of the other three committees and steers the organization’s health, safety, and well-being strategy. “Since these employee-led teams formed, the effort has taken off. With a newer organization, there is such an opportunity to shape employee culture, but it takes a village. It would not work if just one person or HR alone were trying to move this forward,” says Maureen Durkin, former Assistant Vice-Chancellor. “Through the structure and accountability framework that Health Links provides, our employees have been able to own and create momentum around health and well-being initiatives.”
As a way to elevate their programs and increase engagement, committees place emphasis on promoting programs through effective, visually appealing invitations, and wherever possible, small incentives are tied to program participation. Aligned with Total Worker Health® principles, ODE’s committees are not just helping prevent injury and illness, but promoting employee health and well-being through walking challenges, hikes, and stress relief and sleep awareness initiatives. Committee members have received personal ‘thank yous’ from staff for their suicide prevention and mental health awareness initiatives. As these Health Links programs expanded in the last three years, ODE has risen from Kickstart Healthy Workplace to Certified Healthy Workplace Partner status, scoring high on engagement and health and safety programs and policies benchmarks.
For businesses looking to create a healthier, safer, and happier environment for employees, Maureen stresses the importance of grassroots leadership for health, safety, and well-being programs. “The more employees launching and leading programs and having fun with it, the better. The more people are empowered, the more of their own ideas they bring.” This effort has grown even further in the last year with the addition of teams from other locations. “For us, this has been collaboration at its best, fostering connection and collaboration among the variety of teams who office here,” says Maureen.
ODE credits Health Links as a valuable partner in their pursuit of safety, health, and well-being. According to Brooke, “The value of Health Links is it gives you the focus, purpose, and tools to make health, safety, and well-being part of your every day.” Similarly, Maureen says, “Prioritizing employee health, safety, and well-being not only has a positive individual impact but supports the well-being of the entire organization. Thank you to Dr. Lee Newman for inviting us into the Health Links family several years ago. It’s been so good for us.”
Congratulations to ODE for their success and we look forward to our continued partnership.
Written by Laura Veith, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Health Links and the Center for Health, Work & Environment based at the Colorado School of Public Health.