Valley Water named healthiest workplace in Bay Area for second consecutive year

Valley Water staff analyst Samantha Pe-Wong was out of breath the first time she walked around the percolation pond at the district’s headquarters in South San Jose. Pe-Wong began to count her steps every day using a fitness tracker provided by Valley Water’s Wellness Program and quickly averaged 12,000 to 20,000 steps.

During a companywide challenge, Pe-Wong pushed herself to reach 30,000 steps a day by walking during her breaks and lunchtime and participating in Zumba classes in the evening. It was quite a jump from her first 2,500 steps around the percolation pond.

“The step tracker made me more aware of how inactive I was,” said Pe-Wong, who in 2018 won Valley Water’s first Wellness Success Story Contest.

Pe-Wong continues to wear her fitness tracker every day and credits Valley Water’s Wellness Program for sparking her commitment to maintaining an active lifestyle. Her story serves as a testament to the positive impact Valley Water’s Wellness Program has on its employees.

On Sept. 25, Valley Water was recognized as the “Healthiest Employer in the San Francisco Bay Area” by Healthiest Employers, LLC for its commitment to employee health and well-being. Valley Water placed first among companies with 500 to 1,999 employees for the second year in a row.

“We are honored that Valley Water’s Wellness Program was recognized once again for our commitment to a healthy workplace,” Valley Water Board Chair Linda J. LeZotte said. “We started our wellness journey with the hope of maintaining and/or lowering healthcare costs. As the program evolved, we realized that taking care of our employees goes beyond the bottom line.

“Our wellness program fosters a culture of well-being, boosts teamwork and collaboration, and has transformed our organization.”

Launched in 2014, a primary goal of the Wellness Program was to contain ever-increasing healthcare costs. The Wellness Program allowed Valley Water’s insurance broker to negotiate reductions in premiums of approximately $600,000 per year for both 2018 and 2019.

But as the program evolved, it has also strengthened relationships and generated fun and enthusiasm.

In the past year, 76 percent of Valley Water’s employees participated in the Wellness Program, which makes the program the most visible and attended at the district. When Valley Water organizes quarterly walking challenges, more than 200 people across all levels of the organization participate.

The program helped 94% of respondents change their lives for the better, including exercising more, eating better, and becoming more aware of their health¸ according to the most recent Wellness Survey.

“I think this is great for a public sector company getting that type of participation,” Valley Water CEO Norma Camacho said. “We feel our program breaks down silos, unifies our culture within our organization and keeps all of our employees engaged in healthy activities, day after day and year after year.”

Valley Water also recognizes the pivotal role that mental well-being plays in overall health. Since launching its mindfulness program in 2016, Valley Water has hosted mindfulness seminars, as well as lunchtime guided meditation sessions. Employees also formed a mindfulness group that continues to meet daily to meditate during lunch.

Some of our other wellness activities include pressure point workshops, tai chi, a mindfulness app, mindfulness workshops, emotional intelligence training, healthy cooking demonstrations, and an annual well-being day and Wellness Program launch events.

By making employees’ health and wellness a priority, it enables Valley Water to better serve and support our community.

“Valley Water’s Wellness Program has motivated me to get up and take my breaks by walking around the pond to de-stress away from my desk, which helps me be more focused and productive throughout the day,” Pe-Wong said.

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