How To Build an Inclusive Hybrid Wellness Program With Michelle Anderson

  • People perform their best when they’re happy and energetic, so benefits and amenities that foster wellness are a worthwhile investment. This belief has guided Bennington Financial since the company’s founding in 1996. 

  • Michelle Anderson, Bennington’s Senior Human Resources Generalist, works to make sure that all of her colleagues, whether they’re in-office or remote, can access the company’s wellness benefits. 

  • On an episode of the Virtual Vibe podcast, Michelle explains why wellness is a core company value and how she develops inclusive programming that supports a geographically diverse workforce. 

Employees who feel that their employers care about their well-being are
69% less likely to look for a new job and three times more likely to be engaged at work. The better people feel, the more value they bring to the workplace — so it makes sense to invest in wellness. 

Since 1996, this philosophy has guided how Bennington Financial treats its employees. “We believe that if team members come to work happy and well-rested, they treat the business better,” says Michelle Anderson, the Ontario-based company’s Senior Human Resources Generalist. 

Michelle and her team support a hybrid workforce that spans multiple provinces in Canada. Ontario employees work three days a week in the office, and others work remotely from Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. 

That means inclusivity is top of mind for Michelle — she aims to help every employee feel their best, no matter where they work. We “[make] sure that everybody can be a part of all the wellness initiatives that we do,” she explains. 

In a recent episode of the Virtual Vibe podcast, Michelle explained how Bennington Financial has created a culture that fosters well-being for employees in the office and beyond. 

Wellness Is in This Company’s DNA

Bennington Financial was founded in 1996. The company, which provides leasing solutions for large and small businesses, has treated wellness as a priority since its inception. Founder Larry Mlynowski “has always had that mentality,” Michelle says. “It was always ingrained in the culture. We try to treat everyone like family.” 

Larry has since
retired — although Michelle notes that “he doesn’t like the word retired,” instead preferring to say that he’s refocusing his time. But the company he founded in his basement nearly 30 years ago continues to uphold his commitment to well-being. 

When it comes to wellness — and across the board — inclusivity is a first principle for the company.
“Everybody’s situation is unique and different, and we treat everybody as such,” Michelle says. 

Today, Bennington’s wellness offerings include fitness subsidies, wellness-focused office space and time off. 

Fitness benefits

Every Bennington employee receives a subsidy that they can use toward anything fitness-related, from gym memberships and classes to workout apparel or golf clubs. 

The Ontario office features an on-site gym with ellipticals, treadmills and free weights. “There’s always someone in there,” says Michelle, who likes to work out before she eats lunch. 

The goal is to make it easy for people to invest in their well-being.
“Speaking from experience,” Michelle says, “if I have to get in my car and get dressed, by the time I’ve driven to the gym, I’ve talked myself out of going.” 

The company also offers
Bright Breaks to all employees. “That came up during the pandemic when everybody was at home and really missing our fitness room and just being active,” Michelle explains. Though Ontario-based employees can now work out on-site again, Michelle says the Bright Breaks platform “still continues to be a huge success” with the Bennington team. 

An environment built for wellness

Bennington’s office is designed to nurture well-being. “It’s a very calming environment,” Michelle says. “It’s not too busy or too noisy.” 

The cafeteria, which offers a healthy catered lunch twice a week, features large windows that let in natural light. The building is located next to a wooded area with extensive trails, where employees enjoy walking in spring and summer. 

Inside, the office features dedicated spaces for wellness and prayer. “People use [the prayer room] to just be quiet and still, or for prayer and meditation,” Michelle says. 

Time off for wellness

One of Bennington’s most popular wellness offerings is wellness days. Every employee has two days per year that they can use however they see fit, whether that’s going to the gym, wrapping gifts during the holidays or simply relaxing. 

“If taking a day off to watch TV all day makes you happy, we encourage you to do that,” Michelle says.
“Whatever wellness looks like for you, we encourage you to take that day off and just do something that is going to make you feel better.” 

Michelle’s Tips for Launching and Measuring a Wellness Program

As the post-pandemic work environment takes shape, many companies are learning that they need to rethink how they approach wellness as a hybrid organization. Michelle offers some helpful tips for building an inclusive well-being strategy that supports in-office and remote workers alike. 

1. Ask remote workers what they would like.

You can send out an anonymous survey that might make people feel more comfortable sharing their honest opinions about what will and won’t work. Michelle also suggests running a virtual focus group, where you can gather instant feedback and ideas. 

2. Stick with it, even if programming isn’t an instant hit. 

Wellness initiatives can take time to catch on. Michelle cautions that you might not get the turnout you’re looking for when you first launch a new program, but she adds that that’s no reason to abandon your efforts: “As long as you get somebody on board, it’ll catch on eventually.”  

3. Measure your impact. 

Bennington partners with an organization that runs employee satisfaction surveys twice a year. These surveys, which are completely anonymous, include a section on diversity and wellness. 

With high participation rates — 91% of Bennington’s nearly 200 employees responded to the last survey — this data helps Michelle understand what employees value and how wellness programming is influencing the health of the business. 

Wellness as a First Principle

One of Bennington’s core values is encouraging people to be their best selves. “We want people coming to work happy, … excited and wanting to be here,” Michelle says. That’s why the company treats wellness as such a high priority.

In turn, that’s why Michelle is so devoted to ensuring that Bennington’s wellness offerings are inclusive. When employee well-being is core to a company’s success, it’s critical that everyone can participate in wellness initiatives, no matter where they work. 

“The success of our business is determined by how well our employees perform,” Michelle explains. And thanks to the efforts of Michelle and her team, every Bennington employee has what they need to perform their best. 

This article is based on an episode of the Virtual Vibe podcast by
Bright Breaks, the platform that boosts workplace wellness seven minutes at a time. Want more insights on HR strategies for a happy, healthy and connected workforce in a work-from-home world? Subscribe to the Virtual Vibe podcast, and tune in wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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