INTRODUCING THE HEALTHIEST 100 WORKPLACES IN AMERICA
Helping Employees Stay Resilient
December 1, 2021
Headquarters: Lake Success, New York
Full-Time Employee Count: 55,973
About: Northwell Health is New York state’s largest healthcare provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, more than 665 outpatient facilities, and more than 70,000 total employees. Since it was founded in 1997, our non-profit organization has evolved into a vast clinical, educational, and research enterprise, providing world-class service, compassionate care, and cutting-edge innovation.
Patricia Flynn, AVP of Wellness, shared thoughts on why Northwell Health is so deserving of this award.
Q: What specific element of your program is moving the needle for your well-being program and positively affecting your employees' health?
A: As Northwell team members endured the stressors of the pandemic, associated traumas, and transitional work-life environments/roles, the Employee Wellness Team stepped up and provided specific programs to support emotional well-being, providing a diverse roster of virtual programming designed to meet team members’ needs. We provided team members with an emotional support call center, to provide a licensed professional healthcare therapist as needed. We added a Center for Traumatic Stress to provide onsite therapy for traumatic events to employees and their family members.
An essential part of supporting our colleagues over the last year has, sadly, been providing a space for communal grieving. To mourn those whose passing could not be marked in-person, we created an online In Memoriam site, which has received over 30,000 visits in honor of our employees who have passed from COVID-19. We developed a “Grieving Together Guide” that provides ideas on how to support team members who have experienced loss during this time. In 2020, we held an in-person Day of Remembrance to honor team members who had passed away. Families were invited to attend the moving multi-faith ceremony or view it online in real-time. Michael Dowling, President and CEO, described the event as "an opportunity to recall, reflect, and remember."
Since funerals and large gatherings were prohibited at that time, the Day of Remembrance was particularly meaningful in allowing people a time and place to grieve.
In addition to this moving Day of Remembrance, our sites hosted smaller, local events and memorials. Many sites introduced memorial benches, hope gardens, and artwork in remembrance of those lost. This year, Northwell came together once again to acknowledge New York State’s COVID Day of Remembrance in March. Special “Spread the light” remembrance kits were sent to the sites which lost team members, more than 100 prayer circles took place, and a Sand Artist tribute video was released. We also lit Northwell’s corporate headquarters in blue to honor those we lost.
Beyond providing opportunities for grieving and recognition of the sacrifices made, we know that supporting our employees also requires providing practical support for their families. That is why we set up the Northwell Heroes Memorial Fund to support the families of the 24 heroes we lost in this devastating pandemic. The fund has raised over $323,000 for help with funeral expenses, memorials, and other related expenses. We also extended salary and benefits, which the families continue to receive.
In partnership with the Foundation for Arts and Healing's Northwell Health UnLonely Project, we hosted a launch event entitled "Community Self-Care and Connection in the time of COVID-19". This event explored the relationship between loneliness and isolation during the pandemic and its effects on health and well-being. Following the event we offered "Creativity Circles," a weekly support group exploring issues such as caregiving, self-care, overwhelm and exhaustion at work/burnout and work/life balance using creative activities, mindfulness, and dialogue.
We provided both onsite and telephone access to spiritual and religious healing, which created a safe space for team members to find meaning and renewed hope. We had Tranquility Tents set up within our facilities to provide immediate access to these services, as well as bottled water, snacks, and meditation opportunities.
“I am proud and grateful to be part of a movement focused on raising the standard of health for all of our team members, patients, and communities. For quite some time at Northwell, we've been advancing a broad definition of health that encompasses addressing social determinants and health equity. This has allowed us to build a comprehensive and sustainable model for achieving and sustaining optimal well-being.” – Maxine Carrington, Chief Human Resources Officer
Q: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, how did your organization work to create a "Pandemic Plan" and what factors did you take into consideration when making these decisions? What effects of this plan are still in motion today and/or in the foreseeable future?
A: The COVID crisis transformed our organization. It accelerated work that we had already begun, especially efforts focused on employee well-being, diversity and inclusion, and career development that contribute to a greater working environment. Before and during the pandemic, this work was rooted in our strong values and our Employee Promise “Made for This.” This foundation allows our leadership team to communicate decisions based on our values, strengthening trust between employees and leadership.
For us, employee health depends on multiple dimensions—the physical, mental, spiritual, and financial well-being of every team member, the real potential for career advancement, and the intangible feeling of belonging. At the program level, we focus on developing and expanding initiatives across all of these dimensions that boost our team members’ ability to adapt, build skills and a meaningful career, and thrive in the workplace. Knowing this, a pandemic plan was created that included the launching of Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs). These centers were led by subject matter experts across the health system to identify areas of need for our team members and address concerns. We launched 8 EOC working groups tackling different areas of employee health. The goal of these working groups was to identify areas of need and to fill the gaps in place. These working groups remain intact and continue to work together to support our team members today.
As a result of the Recognition, Resilience and Wellness working group, the team launched a Well-Being Support Survey that was developed to help understand the needs of employees and to then guide support activities. The survey was designed to understand how team members were impacted in the domains of well-being, mental health, and resilience. It also helps to identify interests, barriers to resource utilization, and explore the need to develop additional resources. The survey demonstrated significant levels of sentiments of depression and anxiety, but also strong perceptions of organizational support and resilience. Results will guide additional interventions for the next year and help support ongoing employee support activities.
Q: What makes your well-being program stand out? Relatedly, what statistic best captures the success of your program's effectiveness in the past 12 months?
A: Northwell’s well-being program embraces a holistic approach to provide resources that are relevant, relatable, and customizable to our diverse population. We believe that well-being goes beyond simply providing traditional healthcare benefits that focus only on physical health. To provide a more integrative experience, we have developed and enhanced numerous programs designed to support emotional and mental well-being and ensure that our employees never feel alone. We are intentional about developing programs to meet differing needs. Still, we also realize that these programs cannot achieve their full value if people do not know what is available to them or how to access the different resources. To improve access, we created the Well-being Resources Page. This online destination highlights many of the team member programs and services we offer to support total well-being—physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual. We also created a shareable, easy-to-navigate document that highlights available well-being and behavioral health resources.
We utilize “myWellness”, a platform powered by Virgin Pulse, that uses technology to allow team members to take charge of their health. Users can participate in our challenges, track healthy habits, and learn about health topics of interest, while developing workplace camaraderie. In addition, team members can track mood, sleep, or steps, and encourage each other to make healthy choices.
We host annual “Walk To” challenges, where team members are encouraged to form teams and walk to a specific destination. In 2020, the challenge was called “Walk to the Parks”, where we featured 8 U.S. national parks and had over 20,000 team members walking an average of 9,000 steps/day. Currently, the Employee Wellness team has engaged over 50,000 team members on the myWellness platform.
One unique part of our program is referred to as “myHealthyBody,” a robust resource for all team members looking to help prevent common aches, pains, and injuries. Developed by expert clinicians, myHealthyBody provides online health assessments and delivery of evidence-based solutions through videos and other educational resources and suggests the appropriate care setting for treatment if necessary. In addition, the myHealthyBody team supports our team members with “Take 5 Sessions”, which are short exercises and/or stretching bursts, delivered by a certified personal trainer that can be incorporated into team meetings or for team members to complete on their own.
Our Employee and Family Assistance Program proves to be key to our success, as we also provide resources for family members and dependents. Our Employee and Family Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling for all team and family members. These services are available in person or over the phone. We have seen a 20% increase in usage since the beginning of 2020.
Our program success is best illustrated by the fact that over 75% of our covered lives are enrolled and participating in the program, compared with a benchmark comparison of 39%. Our yearly member satisfaction survey for 2020 also reported that 86% had developed positive daily habits, 80% gained additional awareness of benefits, and 75% felt more energetic at work.
2020 was a difficult year – physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. Working in healthcare and seeing how the pandemic was affecting our team members, their families and the communities that surround us, it was so important to bring well-being to the forefront. At Northwell, we rely on feedback from our team members. One important additional statistic that best captures the success and effectiveness of the Employee Wellness team’s programs, comes directly out of our Employee Engagement survey, which is administered annually. In 2020, we received the largest response in our history of the Employee Engagement survey, 91% of the organization completed the survey and the results were extremely positive, with 90% reporting they are proud to work for Northwell and 88% reporting that their work has special meaning.
“At Northwell, at the core of our well-being philosophy, is the strong belief that by increasing the well-being of our team members, we also improve the well-being of our patients and communities. We continue to leverage many opportunities to offer innovative, comprehensive and valued programs to our team members, so that they can provide the best possible care to our patients, be the person they want to be at home and be proud and excited with their own personal well-being. We are especially proud of the many programs we implemented to help our team members and communities face and persevere through the challenges of COVID.” – Gregg Nevola, Chief of Total Well-Being
Q: What strategies has your organization developed to ensure offering diverse and inclusive wellness programming?
A: As an organization that works to provide a diverse and inclusive space, we implemented a “Heart-to-Heart” program, which is led by clinically trained chaplains to create a sacred space for people of all faiths and cultural beliefs. Team members call and speak with a chaplain who can assist them in helping to navigate stressful, life-changing, or transitional moments. Our employees who have utilized this program have reported finding meaning, hope, connection, and comfort. The goal of this program is to enable participants to identify and draw upon their own sources of inner strength.
To view the rest of our top 10 winners, check out our Healthiest 100 blog posts here!
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