By Paul Karolyi
It’s that time of the year again. The gyms are crowded. The doctor’s office is flooded with calls. People are thinking about their health and how to be their best selves in a new year.
Increasingly in recent years, employers across the country have been trying to help. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, more than 90 percent of organizations offered their employees at least one wellness initiative in 2017.
Those companies, on average, had those wellness programs in place for 7.6 years.
The increasing ubiquity of wellness programs has put leading companies in something of an arms race. What sorts of benefits are necessary to attract top talent? Which programs are so prevalent to have become de rigueur? Is it best to stay on the cutting edge with flashy offerings or to keep it simple and traditional?
For some of Denver’s top tech companies, the answers are simple.
Be holistic and flexible
“Great talent wants to have great benefits,” said Pattie Money, chief people operations officer at SendGrid, a Denver-based email services provider with 408 employees. “They think that should be part of the package.”
To that end, SendGrid expanded its company healthcare plans to include infertility coverage and autism spectrum treatment. The healthcare plans are also extended to employees’ domestic partners.
At SendGrid, it’s less about trendy programs and more about providing benefits that relieve financial stress and keep employees happy and healthy.
“It’s easy to get focused on particular activities,” Money said. “I tend to think about it from a holistic perspective — how to create a healthy work environment that allows people to be healthy in general, happy, engaged, and excited about the work they do.”
Demonstrating that intention is the real key, according to Shannon Garcia-Lewis, senior vice president of human resources and staffing at HomeAdvisor, a Golden, Colorado-based company that provides a digital marketplace to connect homeowners with pre-screened, local service professionals.
“People today like to work for companies that show they are invested in their employees’ personal health and engagement,” she said. “With that in mind, we have found that employees like to have options, flexibility and, above all, input into the way those options are introduced.”
“We love giving our employees the ability to shape their own individual program,” Garcia-Lewis added.
Under her leadership, HomeAdvisor’s 2,500 employees have access to a variety of on-site wellness benefits, including locker rooms and showers.
HomeAdvisor reworked its wellness program in the context of the company’s wider rebranding in 2012. That was when HomeAdvisor introduced weekly on-site yoga classes, started encouraging employees to take midday bike rides, and installed a basketball court outside the headquarters in Golden.
“You can often see employees shooting hoops throughout the day,” Garcia-Lewis said.
Convercent, a Denver-based compliance software company with 130 employees, and SendGrid both took flexibility a step further.
They offer their employees $100 per month to spend on wellness-related services of their choice.
“Some use it for massages, some use it to pay for Weight Watchers, some use it for acupuncture,” Money said. “It’s for them to use to be their healthiest self.”
Listen to your employees
After SendGrid consolidated its office in 2016, Money and her team took some time to survey the company’s employees to see what sort of wellness programs they wanted.
“We recently evaluated our demographics, and saw that we have a relatively young workforce that cares a lot about growing their families,” she said.
This year, on top of the $100 per month, SendGrid started offering employees coverage for the very expensive fertility process. The coverage is for up to $10,000 a year and is capped at a $30,000 lifetime benefit. According to SendGrid, only 19 percent of comparable tech companies provide infertility benefits.
SendGrid’s benefit for autism treatment and medication covers applied behavior analysis as well as speech and physical therapy.
The overall healthcare package is also offered to domestic partners of SendGrid employees, not just a legal spouse.
“We think it’s important to focus on what will truly make an impact for our employees and their families,” Money said.
Part of listening to a workforce is anticipating needs.
When Convercent moved to its new office in the Golden Triangle in 2013, there were questions about how employees would get there. That’s when Convercent started offering employees access to the Regional Transportation District’s EcoPass program, which gives them unlimited access to local buses and trains.
“We wanted to make transportation to the office easier for teammates,” said Katie Smith, chief ethics and compliance officer at Convercent.
Sometimes it’s just that simple.