Sandia LabNews

Adaptability in the year of COVID-19 earns Sandia a 100 Healthiest Employers award


2020 was perilous for health care workers across the globe, from battling COVID-19 in expanded ICUs to adapting to service models that are primarily videoconference based.

Sandia participants in an online fitness class
VIRTUALLY VIGOROUS — Sandia participants in an online fitness class, depicted at the bottom of the computer screen, take advantage of one of the many offerings from Employee Health Services.

Challenges abounded for Sandia as well. But the Labs worked through them to be recognized as one of the top 100 Healthiest Employers, and it ranked among the top five in New Mexico.

Springbuk, a health data analytics company, created the Healthiest Employers program to recognize companies that proactively shape the health of their employees, and to honor the “best of the best” in corporate health and wellness, based on six criteria: vision, expertise, culture and engagement, metrics, learning and technology.

Sandia’s quick adaptation to the pandemic environment and use of technology to continue delivering services was a compelling factor, said Renee Holland, director of Employee Health Services. Through videoconferencing platforms, the preventive health team was able to engage with employees virtually for one-on-one appointments and group services.

“We didn’t let the pandemic get us off track,” she said.

Quite the opposite, in fact. In FY20, Employee Health Services reached more unique individual participants than ever. In addition, Sandia’s overall wellness engagement was up 9% from 2019 due to virtual offerings and initiatives across various divisions, said Callie Lovato, coordinator for preventive health.

“We were able to collaborate with California to maximize our resources and deliver services to a larger population of employees,” Renee said.

Fitness classed doubled

Preventive health coordinator Callie Lovato
MORE WAYS TO GET FIT — Preventive health coordinator Callie Lovato found that more staff took part in the Labs’ wellness offerings during the pandemic year, another reason why Sandia was named one of the top Healthiest Employers.

For example, space constraints limited in-person group fitness classes to 26 participants, but once classes went virtual, the number of participants increased significantly. In the first months of the pandemic, classes nearly doubled. Engagement didn’t just increase among the workforce, but for households. “We saw a lot of pictures of kids, cats, and dogs doing yoga,” Renee said.

Adapting to the pandemic-related restrictions ultimately gave employees more options. “COVID-19 taught us what our barriers were,” Callie said. “Coming to a physical class may have been a bigger barrier than we realized between travel time, parking and comfort levels.”

When Sandia moves to increased on-site work, the preventive health team plans to continue offering virtual appointments and classes to accommodate employees working a hybrid workstyle and expand the ability for everyone to participate.

“Sandians should be proud of themselves for continuing to participate in health activities and proud of our team for their resilience and ability to continue engaging with the workforce when they needed it the most,” Renee said.

Increased employee engagement in health programs and services last year speaks to Sandia’s overall cultural commitment to employee health, she said, crediting Sandia’s wellness culture to strong leadership support.

“It’s leading by example,” Callie said, “helping us move the workforce toward heath.”

Sandia’s 2020 success story wasn’t just reactions to the pandemic, but its offerings, Callie said.

Working with health champions and workplace engagement councils, a dedicated health educator built individual health initiatives for divisions based on their specific health concerns.

“Health is an ever-changing science,” Callie said. “We have a strong history together moving forward. For us that means continuing to evolve our programs based on what employees need and want.”

By analyzing Health Assessment results, Virgin Pulse platform engagement metrics and class participation, the team can identify health risks, watch trends and plan health education based on what employees need and want. The Healthy Me Program, which focuses on a different health pillar each quarter, is based on the employee population’s risk factors, Callie said. The education and resources provided in each quarter on topics such as nutrition, sleep and exercise help employees make sustainable health improvements.

The theme for Healthy Me 2021 is Adapt. Connect. Evolve. The idea is to acknowledge how Labs staff had to adapt to challenges of 2020.

“The pandemic caused us to stretch and grow,” Callie said. “It pushed many groups to evolve. It taught us a lesson in what is possible.”