As we welcome in 2021, we at Balanced You want to take a moment to reflect on the growing importance of well-being in 2020 and share our plans for this coming year.
If there is a silver lining on the last year, it’s the realization at every level of the organization that well-being needs to be a priority for all of us. Over the last year we heard through surveys and listening sessions how your well-being was challenged by social unrest, the pandemic, and the presidential election. We were inspired by those of you who adapted self-care practices to the changing environment, and we were grateful to leaders who openly discussed mental health and well-being, normalizing the impacts we were all feeling. We learned a lot over the last year which we will carry forward into 2021 to support employees.
As the pandemic forced many of us home and others of us onto the frontlines, we saw the well-being needs of onsite and remote workers emerge very differently, letting us know that we needed to be in continuous dialogue with employees so we could provide appropriate support in an ever-evolving landscape. We saw Bus Operators bravely keep our region moving, which was so critical to our buckling economy. We saw Custodians keep our buildings open and functional for the public. We saw Public Health and other Emergency Responders stand-up a model response to a global health crisis. And we saw thousands of employees try their hardest to balance remote working with kids learning from home while managing the impacts of isolation due to social distancing. Can we just say – you are all amazing.
In 2019, before COVID-19 hit, 79% of King County employees felt they had the resources they needed to manage their mental and physical health. In a May 2020 survey, when the transition to onsite and remote work during a pandemic was still new, this number shifted significantly, with only 60% of onsite employees feeling they had what they needed to support their well-being, and 81% of remote employees feeling they had what they needed.
We responded by moving all of the onsite programs we could online and focusing resources on emergency responders. Over the course of the year, well-being disparities have narrowed between remote and on-site workers with 71% of remote workers and 65% of onsite workers now feeling they have what they need to manage their mental and physical health. Moving forward, the well-being resources that onsite and remote employees told us they are most interested in are mindfulness classes, mobile apps to support well-being, and online nutrition and exercise classes. We will use this information, along with continued surveys, as we build out our services through 2021.
2020 new and redesigned programs
In 2020, in addition to shifting existing Balanced You programming online, we developed new resources in response to employees’ changing needs. Highlights of new programs and programs redesigned for the pandemic can be found below. For a full list of programs currently available, check out this blogpost.
- Movement and exercise
Due to the pandemic, we have had to temporarily close our many Activity Centers. In an effort to give employees another resource to get moving, we partnered with our vendor Vivecorp to provide online videos and exercise classes! Our classes which began in the summer, had over 500 people that attended. Feedback from some employees included “today’s class was awesome!” And “I got a lot out of it, especially in these fraught times”. These classes and videos will continue through 2021. Check out the on-demand videos and register for live classes here.
- Flu shots
Flu shot clinics looked a little differently this year, with strategies in place to promote social distancing, including worksite clinics only being offered to onsite employees. All in all, Balanced You held 27 flu shot clinics at 23 worksites including transit facilities, treatment plants, public health clinics, and roads locations, amounting to over 1200 employees served!
Feedback from employees included “you made getting my shot at 4am quick and easy! Thank you for bringing them to our base!” And “thanks for your assistance in setting up Flu shots for the KC airport! The nurse was fantastic and today was a success.”
Flu shots will be offered again in 2021.
- Mental Health First Aid@Work
Mental Health First Aid@Work is a two-part training that gives employees the skills to recognize when others are in emotional crisis and provide support. In 2020, Balanced You piloted Mental Health First Aid, hosting over 15 trainings with over 350 employees in attendance. Feedback from employees included “an amazing class and an amazing instructor. Whatever King County paid for his fee was money well spent!” And “kudos to everyone involved with bringing this ‘pilot’ training to King County. My opinion is: it is a super course to take, one that every employee can find good value in.”
More classes will be added for 2021 soon.
- Hope and Joy Campaign
In December of 2020, Balanced You kicked off the Hope and Joy Campaign, aiming to give employees spaces to connect around themes of hope and joy, in an effort to build resiliency as we continue to move through the pandemic. The campaign includes opportunities to share pictures of videos of things in your life that bring you happiness, as well as opportunities to connect with employees through virtual “Coffee Connections” themed around fun topics such as “Pet Meet-and-Greet.”
The campaign will continue through March 2021. For more information, see this blogpost.
- Self-care and resource presentations
Throughout 2020, Balanced You offered a variety of presentations, connecting employees to tailored resources to support them. Resources both internal to King County – such as Balanced You programs, Employee Assistance Program, Making Life Easier, etc. – and external to the County – such as counselor directories and community-based resources – were offered along with stress management activities and practices like breathing, gentle stretching, and reflective pauses. Audiences include Affinity Groups, workgroups across departments, and general County employees.
Feedback from employees included “so appreciate all of the resources that you shared in such an informative and empathetic way,” and “our section director just said he hasn’t felt that relaxed in 6 months! Thank you so much!”
If you would like to schedule a presentation for your team or another group, please contact BalancedYou@KingCounty.gov.
- Resources for COVID responders
Efforts were also made during 2020 to provide targeted support to King County’s employees involved in the COVID-19 response. Resources included the development of team-based Debriefing Groups, to provide time and space for responders to process the stress of their jobs, as well as the development of resiliency trainings, self-care toolkits, and on-site quiet spaces.
Moving into 2021, drop-in Debriefing Groups will be offered to all employees responding to COVID-19 and resiliency trainings will be broadened. A full list of resources can be found on this webpage.
2021 new program highlights
2021 promises to be a tumultuous year. As we buckle down to make it through a hard winter, we look forward to vaccination and a return to a “new normal.” In the interim, we carry forward our desire to be in constant dialogue with you about what you need and our belief that well-being needs to be baked into the culture of our organization. See below for a list of initiatives Balanced You is already planning for 2021.
- Well-being Advisory Committees
King County’s Balanced You team is still accepting applications for two new well-being advisory committees, one for telecommuters and one for essential, onsite employees. Participating employees will have the opportunity to shape well-being initiatives throughout the County.
All non-supervisory employees are invited to apply to the committees, and the application deadline is January 29, 2021. Balanced You will cover the cost of time for non-salaried and detailed employees, as needed. This is a two-year commitment. For more information, including how to apply, please visit this blogpost. Questions? Contact BalancedYou@KingCounty.gov.
- Refresh and Rejuvenate 30 Day Challenge
Now that we are refreshed from the holiday break, let’s start the new year off right! Join us for Balanced You’s “Refresh and Rejuvenate” 30 Day challenge. Beginning Jan. 19, you will start seeing a challenge every Tuesday in the Employee News. Challenge will encourage employees to do things like trying a mindfulness class or sending in their favorite dance video. Stay tuned for more details.
- Self-care and resources webinars
Balanced You’s self-care and resources webinars will continue through 2021 with expanded trainings for employees and managers on resiliency, on-demand team presentations, and presentations on a variety of topics open to all employees.
Please join us for our upcoming webinar, “The Role of Hope, Joy and Resilience” which will be held on Jan 13, 2021, from 1-2 p.m. (PST). This event will provide an opportunity for King County employees to acknowledge that we have gone through a lot in the last year and will show how finding hope and joy during these uncertain times may help us start the new year off right. The panel will be coordinated by Balanced You and our community partner, Mindfulness Northwest. We hope you will join us for this important discussion! Register here.
- Mental Health App
In 2021, Balanced You is working to bring mental health apps to all employees, for free. These apps will provide free guided meditations and other resources to help reduce stress.
- Nutrition Programming
Balanced You will also launch a pilot program in 2021 that will offer tools to increase awareness about weight stigma, support body compassion, and use a health-at-every-size model to support employees in healing their relationships with food and movement.
Questions? Contact BalancedYou@KingCounty.gov.