Associate Wellness During a Pandemic is a Priority

In 2020, with COVID-19 a continuing concern for communities nationwide, maintaining good health has probably never been more important—or more challenging. Thankfully, our associates—and members of our associate-led wellness council—have risen to the challenge.

Mike Evans, Indianapolis

For more than a decade, our Duke Realty wellness programs have been helping our associates be healthier and happier—leading to higher productivity and increased job satisfaction. Our associates love the program and take full advantage of it. Their enthusiasm earned us Healthiest Workplace awards in the states and cities we serve across the country, as well as national awards such as the Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America given by Healthiest Employers®. We also consistently achieve a gold level—the highest—on the American Heart Association’s Workplace Health Achievement Index.

Our associates have been working mostly remotely since March. As surely as they’ve kept up with the pace of our business while remote, they’ve kept up with their wellness goals as well.

The interactive and personalized wellness system called Vitality has helped make the transition easy, according to benefits manager Rani Brar. “Through the physical activity program in Vitality, associates can earn rewards,” Brar said. “They’re given a goal on Monday to complete a certain number of verified workouts, and if they complete them, they can spin a wheel for different prizes and points.”

Through Vitality, associates as well as their spouses, can also earn points for other healthy activities, like nutrition classes, sleep programs, and meditation.

Finding ways for associates to stay mentally and emotionally healthy has also been important to Duke Realty.

Elijah – Cousin of Ketsie Rodriguez, South Florida

“We’ve been sure to offer resources for emotional health, including free counseling for associates and their family members,” said Brar. “We held a multi-week happiness challenge with principles for happiness by Shawn Achor, including tips to help associates make mental health a priority. We arranged for financial wellness training to help associates cope with issues the pandemic may have created, and we even hired a standup comedian to give a virtual performance to raise people’s spirits.”

The wellness council also helped to organize multiple cooking challenges that engaged associates’ creativity as well as their healthy cooking skills. “We sent out a Duke Realty apron to every associate’s home,” Brar said. “And they sent in pictures of themselves with their dish, along with a recipe. We selected winners based on criteria such as creativity and presentation. They really went to town.”

In fact, our associates have responded to the new remote initiatives by participating more than ever. “Vitality helps us track how much associates are doing year over year,” said Brar. “This year, we’ve been excited to see higher numbers in a lot of areas. For example, meditation sessions are up 83% over last year, workout sessions are up 17%, and in terms of points earned this year versus last year, we’re up 6%.”

There’s no question our associates find value in these initiatives, but they’re also great for our business. The more productive our associates are, the better we serve our clients. And both the company and our associates save on health care and insurance costs.

As for what’s ahead, our associates are definitely looking forward to getting back to their offices and their colleagues as soon as it’s safe to do so. But Brar said the immediate challenge is balancing work stress with the stress of the upcoming holiday season—with all the additional complications the pandemic brings.

“We just want our associates to really give themselves a break this year in terms of expectations,” Brar said. “Enjoy time with your family, keep vulnerable loved ones safe from the virus, and make time to take care of yourself.”

Around this time of year, wellness experts often offer tips on maintaining a healthy weight with all the holiday parties and sweet treats at hand. Even though there will be fewer parties this year, eating as a stress-management strategy is still a concern. Our advice: Enjoy holiday treats in moderation to keep the spirit of the holiday alive, drink lots of water, and make plenty of time for exercise and getting outside. And of course, have a very happy holiday—however you celebrate.