Santa Clarita’s WorkWell program offers more than just benefits

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Paid vacation time? Check. Health insurance? Check. Retirement plan? Check.

There’s no doubt that the city of Santa Clarita offers its employees a stable benefits package. But with many more companies improving their focus on perks, the city has revamped a program that’s helping its staff in more direct and effective ways.

Listed under additional employee benefits, the city offers WorkWell, a program that strives to “create a productive and performance-driven workplace by helping employees reach their personal health and fitness goals.”

The program offers informational and interactive sessions that focus on four major points: financial wellness, stress reduction, exercise programs and healthy eating.

Experts in different fields are invited to lead information sessions on each focus point, which rotates every quarter from January to December, to share their knowledge, said Joe Oerum, clerk and contract services manager with the city, who co-chairs the program.

A WorkWell committee, with subcommittees for each topic, meet monthly and strategize what will be offered to staff depending on their needs and goals.

“(WorkWell) got revamped about two years ago to better work with employees’ input,” said Michael Villegas, management analyst for administrative services and co-chair of the program.

After hearing back from multiple participants, WorkWell leaders have held information sessions on how to save for retirement, operated weight-loss challenges and healthy cookoffs. Local businesses donate their time to lead activities. Ryan Arditty with The Brandolino Group and Keith Renno with WinTrust Mortgage have recently collaborated.

One of the most successful sessions was on how to buy a house, which resulted in a handful of employees receiving the keys to their very first home.

“I had been considering buying a home for some time,” said project technician Christine Saunders. “After attending a workshop hosted by WorkWell to learn more about the home l-buying process, I felt like I had a much better understanding of the steps I would need to take to move forward. It definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed to take the plunge.”

In June, WorkWell partnered with Afterburn Fitness and organized a fitness challenge to help employees not only set a goal but keep their healthy habits building throughout the journey.

“After the challenge was complete, I didn’t want to stop because I was feeling better and more confident in my ability to keep up with the regulars at the gym,” said Evelyn Glasgow, an administrative analyst with the city. “Seven months later and 20 pounds lost, I still get up at 3:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, to work out.”

WorkWell’s success stems from the testimonials by those who participate, said Villegas. “It’s a good program and it is also self-funded. We raise money through sponsorship and businesses.”

Employees also partake in golf and softball tournaments for some friendly competition. But these company outings don’t just benefit Santa Clarita staff.

“On top of helping employees reach their goals, we send out surveys to select a nonprofit to support them,” said Oerum. “Any items or donations that we collect goes to benefit a local organization.”

In September, more than 150 city staff traded a day at the office for a game of kickball, gathering donations that benefitted the Domestic Violence Center of SCV. Bridge to Home has also received help from WorkWell participants and this year, employees have selected the SCV Youth Project as the nonprofit of choice, according to Oerum.

“Whether it’s time, money or needed items like water, food or socks for organizations like Bridge to Home, we give back,” he said.

Volunteering or giving back, a nontraditional perk, has become increasingly popular among several companies. An October study by Robert Half International Inc. showed that offering time for volunteer activities was among the top five perks that workers wanted.

“We learn each year what works and what doesn’t and what staff wants to learn about,” said Oerum. “Overall, though, everyone benefits from WorkWell, whether it’s a 45-minute lunch session or a kickball tournament.”  

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