I first became interested in the concept of workplace wellness in college when I read Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia. Patagonia’s policy of allowing employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others, captured my imagination. They found that this policy allows employees to “catch a good swell, go bouldering for an afternoon, pursue an education, or get home in time to greet the kids when they come down from the school bus.” It allowed them to attract and retain talented people, and the company flourished as a result.

Galvanized, I went on to graduate school to specialize in occupational health psychology, which is simply the study of how to keep employees happy, healthy, and productive. People who are healthy, safe, and fulfilled can contribute to their workplace, their family, and their community.

When I came to the Coachella Valley, I was determined to continue my passion for workplace wellness, and to shine a well-deserved light on the companies here which are doing great things for their employees. It was in that spirit that I founded the Coachella Valley Workplace Wellness Awards in 2016.

Our 2019 awards have just opened for nominations, and I’ve taken this opportunity to reflect back on some of the applicants and winners we’ve had in prior years. We honor eight organizations each year (four large employers and four small employers), in the following categories:

  • Nutrition, Fitness, and Health
  • Safety, Ergonomics, and Environment
  • Mental Health and Wellness
  • Grand Prizes

I’ve been so inspired by learning what our local employers are doing in these areas. For example, the breadth of employee wellness services Desert Oasis Healthcare offers is astounishing. They offer everything from walking clubs to mobile massage to smoking cessation to non-violent crisis intervention classes to a safety blog, among others.

I’m encouraged by the efforts that small nonprofits make for their employees. For example, Communities for a New California Education Fund works hard to ensure that their employees are protected during their outdoor work with sunscreen, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, and plenty of cold water.

I was moved to tears at last year’s event hearing about how Renova Energy supports their employees, from the profit-sharing program to the staff bonding activities to supporting bereaved employees in their time of need.

We invite you to join us in celebrating workplace wellness efforts locally. Visit www.HARCdata.org/about-us/events/award/ to nominate your workplace in any or all of the wellness categories. At the June 6 event, you’ll be recognized for the outstanding efforts you’ve already taken and motivated to replicate innovative practices shared by other applicants. You’ll learn about best practices and have the opportunity to network with others who are also passionate about employee wellness, not to mention enjoying a delicious three-course meal and resource fair. We hope to see you there!

Jenna LeComte-Hinely, PhD is the CEO of Health Assessment and Research for Communities and founder of the Coachella Valley Workplace Wellness Awards. For more information call (760) 404.1945. To listen to a podcast featuring some of last year’s winners, visit harc.podbean.com.

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