At the 2021 Global Healthy Workplace Awards, the US car sharing company Avail landed the prestigious SME Employer Award for its recently established wellness program, Avail U; a scheme that focuses on enhancing its employees emotional, physical, financial, and professional wellness.             

Based in San Francisco, the company has grown to 200 employees and despite the difficulties of the recent pandemic, 85% of employees feel valued and satisfied working there. Here is a summary of what the car sharing company offers in its SME wellbeing programme:

Avail’s wellness program is developed from gathering feedback from employees and ensuring senior management play an active role in promoting wellbeing. Senior leadership is represented on the wellness committee, which meets every other week, and informal ambassadors advocate for wellness within their respective teams. By encouraging leadership to take accountability, Avail ensures that a culture of wellness is firmly rooted across the organisation:

“Investing in self-care is critical during times of instability. Committing to weekly development shows that Avail is invested in each employee as a person. Productivity and innovation increase when teammates are feeling heard, are well hydrated, well rested, and appreciated for their contributions. With Avail U, we can build a more engaged, informed workforce.”

Carolyn Love, Senior Risk Manager at Avail


Avail U’s hierarchy

The guiding principle behind Avail U centres on a hierarchy of needs, loosely based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the top end of the hierarchy is professional development and at the bottom end is physical/emotional wellbeing. Ultimately, higher needs in the hierarchy begin to emerge when people feel they have sufficiently satisfied the ‘lower’ need. 

In this sense, professional wellness cannot be met unless the emotional and physical needs of an employee are achieved. Areas such as getting enough sleep, exercise, having a sense of belonging, and managing stress are included here.  The hierarchical approach to the programme is designed so that employees eventually reach their full potential, seek personal growth and have their peak experiences.  Love believes this is where teams thrive and where teams work with the highest levels of success.


2020 Roadmap

Avail’s goal is to teach employees to advocate for their own health and wellbeing whilst building confidence and a healthy risk mindset. In keeping with its goal, in early 2020 the company released a weekly four part webinar series that builds on the needs hierarchy, starting with physical wellness and ending with leadership and implicit bias. Here is a quick overview of the sessions:

Gut health: The first focus of the series is nutritional and gut health. The aim is to teach employees how to look after their wellbeing through the types of food they eat and the different nutritional qualities of each food group. The session, delivered by certified health coach Lindsey Perrell, keeps employees engaged through a virtual cooking lesson on making fish tacos and incorporating gut science. To encourage employees to join,  the best taco plate wins a free one month meal delivery service. 

Financial health: The next part of the series is delivered by financial coaches from The Financial Gym. The webinar aims to teach employees how to access and manage pension and retirement plans as well as motivating them to believe great financial health is possible and achievable.  As an incentive the prize draw winner gets three months access to a Financial Gym advisor.

Decision making: The third webinar focuses on building an understanding of how value sets and beliefs influence decisions and how to improve these important decision making skills.  It incorporates a Q&A session at the end with Jim Clifton, the Chief Operating Officer at Avail.  The incentive is a Mystery Prize (in which the winner must choose a prize behind three “curtains”). 

Leadership and Implicit Bias: The last part of the series is a session on implicit bias and how to create inclusion within teams to be a great leader. The session includes a guest speaker and a guided discussion, and to close there’s a grand draw prize for those who attended the webinar series. 

Feedback and building on it: Overall, the program received great feedback with a 4-star rating. The most popular topics were self care such as sleep, meditation, walking and cooking.  However, employees noted that some sessions felt rushed and content was not recorded. To improve future sessions and boost attendance and engagement Avail implemented the following:


2021 Roadmap

After gathering employee feedback on the 2020 program, Avail U 2021 evolved its four part program to focus on mental, physical and financial wellbeing, and lastly professional development: 

Mental wellbeing: The first part of the 2021 series focuses on teaching employees how to set boundaries with work and prevent burnout. As part of promoting mental wellbeing further, employees can also access virtual therapist appointments and weekly tips. A year-long subscription to Talkspace or Headspace is given to the winner of the prize draw as an incentive to employees.

Physical wellbeing: The second quarter of the series is designed to give employees an understanding of stress and its impact on the body, as well as how to combat its effects.  Employees can also attend a drag aerobics dance class in association with PRIDE ERG, and ongoing weekly tips on how to maintain physical wellbeing are also given. The winner of the prize draw gets a free massage gun.

Financial Wellbeing: Financial wellbeing is a key priority at Avail and returned in 2021. This time the series focuses on building a healthy money mindset, gives employees weekly tips on financial health and free appointments with Financial Gym. 

Professional development: The last quarter aims to teach employees how to grow professionally in their career with a seminar on career mapping with YPO ERG, weekly tips, and benefits such as tuition reimbursement for furthering education.


The future

Avail’s future vision is to continue adapting and growing Avail U to help teach its employees about the importance of wellbeing and how to use the wellbeing tools at their disposal. The programme continues to incorporate diverse speakers that serve local communities and create content relevant to its employee base and there’s steady growth with webinar attendees over its first two years. Overall a fine example of an SME wellbeing programme!