How Blue Apron Approaches Employee Wellbeing

September 20, 2017

How does a 5,000-person company with employees distributed in offices and warehouses around the country approach employee wellbeing? LifeDojo recently caught up with Hannah Bertiger, Benefits & Wellness Coordinator at Blue Apron to find out!

Read on to learn about Blue Apron’s current programs, goals, and nutrition tips!

LifeDojo: Tell us about your role as Benefits & Wellness Coordinator at Blue Apron. What are some of your main responsibilities and tasks?

Hannah Bertiger: My team focuses on a multi-faceted benefits program and supporting the company’s 5,000 diverse individuals who work in offices and warehouses across four states.

On a typical day, I respond to inquiries about the benefits and health coverage we offer to all employees. There is a lot of ambiguity about healthcare right now, especially given the current political climate, so I do my best to explain the jargon and help individuals make informed decisions.

At the same time, my team is spearheading our wellness initiatives. I analyze some of the more prominent chronic health issues in the areas that our employees live, and develop content and resources to address them. We email and print newsletters with information about nutrition and managing stress, which we combine with “lunch and learns” on topics such as personal finance. If there’s a domain we want to explore but don’t have expertise in, we’ll find and partner with a vendor.

LD: How would you describe the Blue Apron approach to employee wellbeing? What are some of the programs you currently have in place?

HB: Blue Apron’s core values include lifelong learning and sustainability so we designed our program’s foundation with those in mind. To provide ongoing education, we created a quarterly wellbeing newspaper that focuses on different topics on personal health, financial wellness, and mental health.

As I mentioned earlier, we also host various in-person programs like “lunch and learns.” Recently we did an event on the basics of financial management with Stash Wealth.

LD: How do you measure the success of your wellbeing programs at Blue Apron?

HB: Over the long term, success will come in the form of a healthier, more engaged organization. That could manifest in higher employee retention, higher participation in extracurricular activities, fewer sick days, higher 401(k) enrollment, and a variety of other metrics.

Over the long term, success will come in the form of a healthier, more engaged organization.

While it’s too early to evaluate the program quantitatively, we’ve captured baselines and industry averages. We’re also fine-tuning the various initiatives to optimize for participation. When an event has a waitlist, we know we’re onto something. If it doesn’t, we iterate with adjusted positioning or a different offering altogether. We know that we won’t be able to achieve desirable outcomes if we don’t have employees bought in and engaged early, so that’s our primary focus right now.

LD: Blue Apron seems like the kind of place where there would be a big focus on cooking and healthy eating. Do you have any fun stories to share about that?

HB: Fortunately, Blue Apron’s mission of shipping quality ingredients and creating nutritious, tasty meals applies to employees as well!

Employees all receive 50% off the box plans we offer on our website. For those of us lucky enough to interface with our supply and culinary teams, there are sometimes leftovers from trials and experiments. Blue Apron emphasizes unique and seasonal ingredients, and I’ve had the pleasure of exploring really interesting tastes over the last few years. Personally, I loved getting to try a rare “pink” lemon.

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LD: You have a Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition—how does this relate to the work you do at Blue Apron?

HB: At its core, Public Health Nutrition is all about making best practices and positive outcomes accessible to diverse populations. With a mix of corporate offices and warehouses, Blue Apron has a dynamic workforce that must be reached in individualized ways.

Blue Apron has a dynamic workforce that must be reached in individualized ways.

Many of my courses at NYU explored outreach techniques, program planning and evaluation, and health policy. While my current role obviously doesn’t focus on passing legislation, I do constantly leverage the other skills when designing wellbeing programs. I think the most important example is realizing that you can’t make an impact from an ivory tower. In Manhattan, we’re very isolated from the realities of the rest of the country. In most places, there isn’t a farmers’ market in every park or a gym on every corner. And reaching 10,000 steps is a choice you have to make and not just the necessary walk to and from the subway every day.

To be effective, my team has to travel to our various bases. We have to talk to the employees and have empathy for their situations. At that point, so many little nonobvious factors surface. Not everyone has high-speed internet, so a video might not be the best way to communicate best practices. Not everyone has an hour to make food for their family, so we need to find healthy recipes that can be made quickly. Once we begin to understand these nuances, we have a shot to motivate individuals to change their behaviors.

LD: How would you describe the connection between nutrition and employee wellbeing?

HB: I think nutrition is an often overlooked lever that can directly promote employee wellbeing in both the short-term and long-term. As just one very relatable example, the snack and beverage selection in an office can either hinder or boost energy levels. Instead of packing the fridge and pantry with soda and chips, consider healthier alternatives like flavored seltzer and Greek yogurt. Both are better solutions for re-energizing without contributing significantly to sugar intake (which has been shown to contribute to the development of non-communicable chronic diseases).

There are many other opportunities to leverage nutrition to impact employee wellbeing, like happy hours, team lunches and offsites, and lunch breaks that give employees enough time to pick up something other than fast food.

LD: What advice would you offer to other companies that would like to place more emphasis on healthy eating and nutrition among their employees?

HB: Achieving a higher standard for employee wellbeing doesn’t happen overnight and many of your efforts won’t necessarily be greeted with open arms. Change is difficult—perhaps the most difficult outcome to achieve in all of business.

Take a phased approach and engage key stakeholders early in the process. Rally them around the vision constantly. Eating fruits and vegetables isn’t so exciting, but higher employee retention and engagement is something anyone can get behind. You have to continuously educate stakeholders on the connection between the two. Keep communicating that in whichever manner best aligns with interests and objectives throughout the organization. Socialize small victories and slowly but surely, you’ll begin to see progress.

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a food eating contest!

Top photo by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash
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