Sandia LabNews

Today’s virtual reality

A novel approach to engaging employees

people at welcome booth at outdoor safety fair
EVENTS GO VIRTUAL — One of last year’s Safety & Health Month activities was a fair held at Hardin Field on Kirtland Air Force Base. With so many working from home now and following restrictions due to the pandemic, these social interactions have been moved to virtual platforms such as online presentations and videos. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

Safety Month is a national campaign each June that focuses on how to prevent injuries and save lives. At Sandia, Safety & Health Month is a long-standing tradition that has varied in scope ranging from vendor fairs to hands-on activities across the Labs. In 2019, a series of live events and information sessions was held with great success.

Each July, Sandia also promotes Financial Wellness Month to focus on financial education as a key to health, success and well-being. For both the Safety & Health and Financial Wellness campaigns, employees from across Sandia have historically converged to hear and learn about wellness in the workplace.

This year, the events associated with the initiatives had to be adapted to a virtual approach, like so many other activities and events in local communities. While it’s not a new means of getting employees involved, it is a novel way to bring people together in a socially distanced environment.

Virtual events offer flexibility

The 2020 Safety & Health Month was a collaboration between Environment, Safety and Health and Employee Health Services. To help drive interest and participation, a list of activities was developed featuring online presentations and videos throughout the month. The success was tremendous — this year’s virtual events reached 3,238 employees, a 218% increase over 2019’s live events.

Financial Wellness Month this year also employed an all-virtual approach with live web streams, workshops, activities and online resources featuring weekly financial tips and videos. More than 3,770 people enrolled for the offerings, compared to 2,337 enrollments in 2019.

“People are eager to stay connected and want to participate somehow in Sandia’s traditions,” said Mary Romero Hart, senior manager in Human Resources. “The virtual model is proving to be a viable method in connecting Sandians with information they value — even when they have been long-accustomed to attending in-person educational offerings.”

man working from home on laptop
HOME WORK — Joel Ortiz, video producer and director, works from home about 75% of the time. Primarily using a laptop, he was able to get recommendations during a virtual info session for a more ergo-friendly arrangement than his initial setup shown here. Employees can visit the Ergo Zone website to take an online self-assessment and view additional resources. (Photo courtesy of Joel Ortiz)

“Safety in the workplace is still ingrained while people are working from home,” said Johnathon Huff, director of ES&H. “With about 60-70% of Sandians still reporting to work from a home office on any given day, we leveraged Safety & Health Month this year to increase participation in ergonomic information sessions.”

Ensuring proper ergonomics at a home office is a challenge for some. Activities like monthly promotions and other online outreach sessions are helping the workforce learn about correcting desk setups and the importance of taking frequent breaks. In addition, these sessions provide an opportunity to connect with colleagues with a similar focus on safety and health, albeit virtually. 

Many of the Safety & Health and Financial Wellness virtual information sessions were recorded and are available to Sandia’s workforce and families in the video library on the HR employee website.