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Member Spotlight: Well Workplace Award Winner Garver


In a High-Stress, High-Stakes Profession, Garver Effectively Engages Its Employees in Wellness Using the Fun Factor Founded in 1919, Garver is an employee-owned multi-disciplined engineering, planning, architectural, and environmental services firm with nearly 900 employees across the United States. In total, Garver employees are scattered across a 14-state footprint with 34 offices.

Wellness at Garver is a priority, and for a very good reason. “Our people have extremely stressful jobs,” said Whitney Gorsegner, Wellness Program Manager at Garver. “It’s high stakes. If one of our employees slips, it creates an unsafe situation, like a cracked bridge or a wastewater treatment facility that doesn’t filter properly. It’s just extremely important that our people are feeling their best and are operating at their full potential.”

“If I were to describe wellness at Garver, the one word I would use is fun,” Gorsegner said. “We’re here to combat rising health care costs and to help our employees live the quality of life they deserve. We encourage taking responsibility and being accountable for your health. But we insist on having fun while we do it.” One example of what fun means for Garver is the company’s annual Summit Fun Run. “We have an annual meeting called Summit, and we always put on a fun run of multiple distances as part of the festivities,” Gorsegner said. “Typically, it’s a one-mile run, a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon. Employees register and get a six-week training plan that they can work on with co-workers or friends and family. We have leaderboards, medals, and trophies for the office with the most participants, the coolest race route, etc. It’s a great opportunity for us to emphasize community and connectedness. It’s a highlight of the year.”

While the fun factor is maintained at all costs, the company also continues to deepen its commitment to driving meaningful health improvement through wellness. When all is said and done, Garver’s program is all about striking this balance. An interesting aspect of the Garver program is how closely Gorsegner is able to work with most participants “I travel to approximately 20 different locations during the year to perform screenings, so I get 15 minutes of face time with almost everyone who is enrolled in the wellness program,” she said. “We do a fingerstick, receive immediate results and then I have a personalized conversation about their metrics and how they can get more involved with our wellness program. It’s very much a concierge touch.” For screenings where Gorsegner can’t attend in person, employees are engaged by an outside vendor for a post-screening consult. This is the only portion of Garver’s wellness program that is outsourced.

Like all organizations, COVID-19 forced Garver to make adjustments to its wellness program. The company shifted several offerings to Microsoft Teams to keep employees engaged while working remotely. This included virtual wellness workshops and daily workouts posted by Gorsegner. The company also has relied heavily on an active Instagram account that reaches not only employees but the broader community as well.

The pandemic also forced Garver to focus even more on mental health. Part of the strategy for Garver has been to give employees grace and consistently promote that mental health is important. “We are always encouraging employees to do what makes them feel okay and safe, even if that is simply chilling out or watching television,” Gorsegner said. “Even if that means they need to pause some of their other wellness activities for a moment while they are coping. They also know that I am here and that I have their back.”

When asked which WELCOA benchmark her organization is most confident about, Gorsegner selected Benchmark 5 – Choosing Initiatives that Support the Whole Employee. But she paired that with a heavy dose of Benchmark 3 because of the company’s commitment to data-driven decisions. “We know that we have to look at the whole employee because if one aspect of wellbeing is out of whack, there is a domino effect for all the others,” Gorsegner said. “We also place a lot of importance on the data, which shouldn’t be too surprising since we are an engineering firm. We use the data we have from biometrics and claims to cut through the noise and identify how we can most positively impact healthcare costs while encouraging employees to improve their lifestyles. We also place a lot of value on using data to personalize the program at the team and individual levels. We never want to just roll out something generic to the entire population.”

Gorsegner deeply values her membership with WELCOA. When asked what benefit stands out to her, she referenced WELCOA’s penchant for engaging in the “hard conversations. I personally appreciate that WELCOA is committed to thinking creatively and tackling the hard conversations,” Gorsegner said. “Our people spend most of their day with us, and sometimes we have to have the tough conversations. Having WELCOA model what that looks like has just been really helpful.”

So, what’s next for Garver’s wellness program? It’s “Beyond Garver Wellness” of course.
“Next year, we are launching a campaign both internally and externally that will be focused on going beyond,” Gorsegner said. “It will focus on our guiding principles, our mission statement, and how we can tie it all together to make wellness part of the picture. We’ve always had massive support from our leadership, and this campaign will be just another example of that. I am really excited about it.”

Want to learn more about Garver’s wellness strategy? Have a best practice or winning approach you’d like to share with the WELCOA team?