How U-Haul Created One of the Top Wellness Programs

Feb. 25, 2021

In every organization, there are components that differentiate it from the rest.

Whether it’s your industry, product, or service, there are core pieces that make it unique. However, despite the differences, there’s one foundational element that holds the key to every organization’s success: the people. And to ensure you attract and retain the right people, they need to have the resources that set them up to succeed both in and out of the office.

In a webinar hosted by Healthiest Employers®, Penny Moore, Chief Commercial Officer at Springbuk, sat down with U-Haul’s Jessica Lopez, Chief of Staff, and Monique Wantland, Wellness Program Manager, to discuss how they’ve built and scaled one of the nation’s most successful wellness programs in just five years. Below are a few key take-a-ways from the conversation:

Q: How did you create such a strong culture of health and well-being so quickly?

Jessica Lopez: It all started a little over five years ago when our chairman and CEO, Joe Shoen, found a need to start a wellness department. I knew that the first thing that we needed to do was to hire right for the position (Monique Wantland). We looked for someone that was passionate about wellness and people – and who truly lives this manifesto. I still remember when we interviewed Monique, she was compassionate and nonjudgemental. I truly believe hiring somebody that truly cares about people is essential for your program and organization. Our team is everything to us. We have 30,000 team members across the United States, and we have to communicate and resonate with all of them. That's very difficult to do and we want fair wellness programs across the board to target every walk of life that we have.

For our initiatives, we base them on our five tiers of nutrition, fitness, mindset, and overall health. And in 2018, we added on financial wellness as well. There was a huge demand from our team. We're constantly surveying, surveying our team and seeing what they want, and then we enhance our existing programs. One thing that is a bit unique about U-Haul’s wellness program is that our Wellness Department is outside of the HR department walls. We saw an opportunity to extend our Wellness department’s reach and resonate with the team in a way that went beyond policy. Through this approach, when we communicate benefits and initiatives, we share new resources and wellness opportunities in a relatable manner. Because at the end of the day, you have to take care of your team. We’ve found if you take care of them, they take care of your business. It all just works in a perfectly magical way.

Q: How do you offer virtual options like telemedicine? How do they play into your strategy now, and how are you thinking about them in the future?

Monique Wantland: So it's a great question, and with COVID, all employers have had to think fast in regards to what they could do to support their teams. We had a variety of virtual care options as well as a telemedicine program, called the U-Haul program. With everything that happened in 2020, it was really lucky that that was in place. Additionally, in 2019, we implemented our EAP program that is open to all team members, with five sessions, per issue, per year. But, there are a lot of other services team members have access to such as work, support, family, legal, and financial advice. One of the main things that had happened, especially over this last year, was that the options for counseling went virtual. Team members and their households can utilize that program for free.

Another thing we recognized last year was some of our benefits needed to adjust. We have a ‘Get Fit’ program that is incentivized and helps pay for gyms. And while many gyms were shut down and team members didn’t feel comfortable going to a gym, we added on App subscriptions to be part of this program. We extended our nutritional program, which is a registered dietician(RD) program; the team members get a certain amount of money to help pay for the expenses of an RD as well as anyone on the medical plan. One thing that we noticed is that because our population is so dispersed, there are people in rural areas where the nearest RD for them is 60 miles. So we're adding Weight Watchers with a digital app version to help team members. We also have a huge active day each year. Typically, it's an on-site event across the United States and Canada, where team members are getting together and being active. The whole purpose of the day is to get out and get active. With COVID, we switched to virtual and used a platform that was a walking challenge that was inclusive to everybody.

Q: For anyone that doesn't already have a wellness program, or maybe they're in the early stages, where would you suggest that they start?

Jessica Lopez: Research. When we started years ago, we had quite a few programs that we didn't realize were included in our wellness plan. So we started marketing all of those to see what worked, what did not work, and we shifted by adding a new program or two. However, I wouldn't implement too many programs at the same time; you want to first see what works and what resonates with your team. From there, I would definitely hire an open-minded, kind, hardworking person that believes in the mission and truly cares about people.

I still remember three weeks after Monique was hired, we were doing a Healthy Living seminar in front of all of our area district vice presidents and corporate leaders all across the United States. And with just three weeks in, it was like the team had known her forever. I can’t stress enough how hiring for that position is important because when you're communicating, you have to be relatable. But at the end of the day, the biggest and most important thing is leadership buy-in. Joe Shoen, our CEO, really cares about all of us. And, that's why this works. If you have leadership buy-in, that's everything.