Here’s how a school system launched a wellness center

Orlando Business Journal | by Alex Soderstrom |June 17, 2020

It’s not tough for Seminole County Public Schools employees to find a place to work out and stay healthy.

That’s because the school system in January cut the ribbon on a 1,500-square-foot wellness center in Winter Springs. It offers a place for workers of the county’s largest employer to take part in cardio and strength classes as well as work with trainers — free of charge. The facility was sponsored by the SCPS Wellness Department and health insurance giant Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI), according to a SCPS news release.

The wellness center is one way SCPS pursues its mission of forging a culture of health and wellness. Other ways the school system does this includes:

  •  Pop-up wellness classes
  • Annual Walt Walk 5K and Wellness Fair, which saw 2,200 register attendees this year
  • Seeking a partnership with Orlando Health to have a full-time nurse practitioner at the wellness center

These efforts are boosted by high employee participation. In fact, 94% of employees take part in some aspect of the SCPS wellness program. That translates to healthier actions outside of the program, as 86% of employees received a preventative service from a health professional.

“The commitment from leadership is evident throughout the district and is one of the key factors that drives the engagement in our wellness program,” said Dawn Bontz, director of employee benefits and wellness. “Our ultimate goal is to educate, engage and promote a growth mindset, so that our employees can make sustainable lifestyle changes that ultimately improves their health and well-being for years to come.”

How has your wellness program changed due to Covid-19? We have really shifted our messaging to social/emotional health during this time. We have sent mailers, calls, and emails with resources for our employees. We have had guest speakers present on WebEx on emotional resiliency and other mental health topics.

Your most popular wellness incentive or initiative for employees in the last 12 months: The opening of our first wellness center. Our wellness center offers cardio and strength training options, virtual classes, plus we have two onsite trainers. The location of our wellness center is positioned at our transportation and maintenance hub which houses over 500 employees. In addition, the wellness center is open to all employees free of charge. We are working on a partnership with a local hospital system to have a full-time nurse practitioner stationed at the wellness center to work with chronic condition population. They would have already started, but Covid delayed the start.

Next step for your wellness program: We have an amazing participation rate and extremely high engagement in preventative care. Our next step is to work with our employees to make 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: We keep people from dropping out by finding a variety of ways to engage with our employees. Our employees have a wellness champ and benefit advocate at everyone of our 70 worksites. Our champs and advocates provide information, educational opportunities, wellness activities and wellness challenges at their sites. We keep our champs and advocates accountable by requiring them to submit evidence of all the criteria we set for them. In addition, we provide fun opportunities to engage in family friendly wellness events, like at our annual Walt Walk 5K and Wellness Fair. We also communicate with our employees regularly with calls, emails, videos, contests, mailers, etc. We truly care that our employees are successful with our wellness program and ultimately that they improve their health and well-being. We communicate from all levels of leadership at the district office, down to having wellness champions at every site that engage our employees.

Advice to others on starting a wellness program: When 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 that you have actively engaged leaders who believe in the benefits of wellness for their 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. As you watch the data, you can continue to expand the program and drive the initiatives.

Seminole County Public Schools

        Top executive: Walt Griffin, Superintendent
Fiscal 2020 budget: $511.6M
Local employees: 7,646
Year wellness program founded: 2012
Wellness program participation rate: 94%
Facebook: @SeminoleCountyPublicSchools
LinkedIn: Seminole County Public Schools
Twitter handle: @SCPSInfo
Instagram handle: @scpsinfo
Industry: Education

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