It’s the small, daily lifestyle changes that we’re after and make the most long-term impact.

Since the company’s founding in 1979, safe construction practices have been fundamental to R&H’s work culture. Over 20 years ago, our management team realized that we could build upon our safety program by adding an employee wellness program focused on total worker health. Starting with biometric screenings and a health risk assessment, the wellness program has now grown to include not just fitness and nutrition, but financial health, mental health/stress reduction and overall well-being.

We asked Karen Sidlo, Human Resources Generalist and long-time leader of R&H’s Wellness Program, to talk us through the ins and outs of the Wellness Program, overcoming challenges to employee participation, and what some of the most rewarding moments have been in our wellness program over the years.

Q: What is the mission of R&H’s Wellness program?
Karen: To encourage and support total worker health through physical, mental and social initiatives.

Q: How long has the program been in existence?
Karen: As long as I can remember! I have been doing it for 8.5 years but I know it started at least 10 years before that.

Q: What pillars are included in the program?
Karen: Mental health, nutrition, fitness, financial health and connection (especially over the last year).

Q: Who is involved in the management and implementation of the program?
Karen: Our current wellness team spans across five departments and includes employees that work in our offices and on our project sites. We aim to have 7-10 members at all times. It is always fun to see new committee members join and bring fresh, new ideas to the group.

Q: How do you keep things new and fresh?
Karen: We try to keep things fresh by consistently collaborating with each other to find new ideas and by not being afraid to try something new. Even if something fails, it’s okay! We are also always looking for input from everyone in the company and we’ve done companywide surveys to gauge what our team members want to get out of the wellness program. In terms of challenges, finding creative ways to keep people on their toes works well! Holidays are also a great time for us with challenges to encourage people to be mindful of healthy eating. We had a 12 Days of Wellness challenge, where each day had compounding healthy activities. It made for a pretty challenging 12th day with 12 activities! For our December Adventure Calendar, participants had scratch-off cards to find out what their activity challenge was that day. Anything from “walk 5,000 steps” to “no screen time after 6pm” kept people guessing.

Q: How many employees typically engage in the activities/programs offered?
Karen: It varies depending on the activity type, but we’ve had a few knock-out successes. We have seen over 50% of our team take part in select challenges like the Oregon Trail challenge, which was a hit several years ago. Team members were assigned to “wagons” and competed in small groups to record their physical activity and water intake to gain points and advance forward on the trail. The “trail” was a giant wagon board in our office with photos of team members on wagons. Much like the traditional Oregon Trail simulation game, the road from start to finish was complete with setbacks along the away. Each week the Wellness committee would pick random cards for rewards or setbacks like “dysentery” or “fell off a wagon,” and your wagon would move back a few paces on the board, or someone on your team would get shuffled around and “picked up by wagon #2” to join a new team. Sometimes wagon #1 would run into a “bountiful sack of fruits and vegetables” and get extra miles. You never knew what was going to happen! Oregon Trail was the probably our most memorable and fun challenge—in addition to being the most competitive. We have quite a few bikers and runners on the team, making it a close race. The ability to get the participants to focus on a group end goal was great motivation and proved to be successful. We are currently brainstorming a way to do a hybrid in-person and digital version of this in the next year.

We look back on what has worked and what hasn’t, then make adjustments to make it more intriguing and accessible for our employees.

Q: How do you make activities enticing for employees to participate?
Karen: Lots of good marketing and knowing our audience. We try to use our resources—company-wide emails, the employee newsletter, and we even had text-message reminders for our 12 Days of Wellness Challenge. And of course—the prizes! Creative prizes tend to get people motivated. There is usually more than one, so it increases the odds of winning. We know our 230+ team members pretty well! We look back on what has worked and what hasn’t, then make adjustments to make it more intriguing and accessible for our employees.

New activities always entice our employees. One activity we tried for the first time this year was the Cascade Challenge, or mystery-box challenge. It was a spin-off of our supper clubs, but this twist had participants pick random boxes which, unknown to participants, had either a veggie, chicken or lamb portion, along with other fresh grains and produce. To gear up excitement, we had everyone unbox their surprise items on Zoom together. Team members had three days to compete for the top prize by creating a unique meal out of their ingredients. The winning categories were “best use of ingredients,” “healthiest,” and “best presentation.”

Q: What are the primary challenges the Wellness Program faces?
Karen: Field employee engagement. What has worked well for us in the past is things like our summer Team Building Events. These annual activities are usually done in small groups that allow team members to sign up for activities that interest them the most. Set at a wide variety of times and days, it broadens the access for our team even more. Some popular events in the past have been white water rafting, trap shooting, go-cart racing, crabbing, and indoor skydiving. Some new activities this year are attending a Hillsboro Hops baseball game, attending the Clackamas County Rodeo, and a DIY night.

These changes have also allowed us to engage more with our team at remote jobsites outside of the metro area and our team members based in Central Oregon.

Q: How has the wellness program pivoted and evolved to continue to serve our employees during COVID?
Karen: Using Zoom! And by trying new ways to stay connected. With COVID restrictions we haven’t been able to have in-person events, but we have had some good ideas and we’ll keep trying! The virtual Suppers Clubs (where employees sign up to take home a box of ingredients and we make the recipe together via Zoom) have been a big hit, as well as the Jump In Zoom calls (shorter zooms set to learn something from an R&H employee, ranging from watercolor lessons to indoor plant care). These changes have also allowed us to engage more with our team at remote jobsites outside of the metro area and our team members based in Central Oregon. By delivering box-based activities and having everyone come together in one digital space, we have been able to connect with more ease.

Q: What area of the wellness program do you think provides the most impact?
Karen: It’s hard to choose! For one, we have things in our office that make it easier to maintain healthy lifestyle changes like healthy snacks and drinks, showers, a gym, and stand-up desks, race entrance fee stipends and a walkable neighborhood. Our catered healthy jobsite breakfasts are always appreciated by our field team, and our team Field Days are great to get together and have fun while being active together. Our virtual events are more intimate, and foster connections between both offices, but I’d have to say that team challenges are the most popular. They’re even more motivating than the individual challenges. It gets people out of their department to get to know more people, and we get higher engagement rates and more excitement.

Q: Mental health has been an area of focus in the past, why do you think it’s important now?

Karen: YES, it is extremely important! It will always be one the most critical components of our wellness program. With increased stress and isolation over the last year, it’s important that our team members feel appreciated, connected and supported. Mental health is so important to us and we will continue to help and support our employees through activities, education and resources.

Q: What are a few ways you’ve been able to measure the success of the wellness program?
Karen: We measure by tracking participation and gathering feedback from our employees through surveys, informal conversations and reviewing the results of companywide employer benefit surveys. Often when we’d have step challenges, I would hear from employees that they got their spouses and kids out there walking with them too. I had one employee tell me they never used to walk for exercise, and they now walk with their family after dinner every night! Which was great to hear because it’s the small, daily lifestyle changes that we’re after and make the most long-term impact.

We have received great feedback on our virtual supper clubs and have had a lot of repeat participants. We’ve heard that doing so has opened up doors to new foods and recipes they thought they couldn’t make before. So far we’ve had Thai, Mexican, Chili and a mystery ingredient box challenge.

Q: What are you most proud of? (events, awards, etc.)
Karen: I love hearing from our employees about the impact we have had and the positive changes team members have made in their personal lives because of something we taught, or a fitness challenge we offered, or that they are getting the mental health they need because we offered the resources.

I’m so proud of our Wellness Committee, and the work and the care each of them provides to make a difference. I’m excited to see R&H’s Wellness Program continue to grow and evolve as we grow as a company–along with fresh ideas, new employees, and the new ways we’ve learned to connect with our team. We’re excited for what’s coming up next year!