Industrial parks don’t typically inspire a vision of employee health and wellness. Veterans United Home Loans seems intent on changing that.
The company provides mortgage loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs through the VA home loan program and refinancing opportunities for veterans. It opened its 17th Columbia location to staff members Nov. 29 at 1500 Vandiver Drive.
The new building is named “Papa,” in line with Veterans United’s “Alpha-Bravo-Charlie” naming method and based on the building’s size and features. Employees who will move to the new space are from the production, processing, underwriting and operations readiness divisions of Veterans United.
Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Columbia, Veterans United is the fourth-largest employer in Boone County with over 1,800 employees and is continuing to expand.
With the opening of the new facility, Veterans United now has buildings in all sectors of the city, primarily the south side of Columbia. The property on Vandiver Drive is one of two locations in north Columbia.
Veterans United is leasing the building from 1500 Vandiver LLC. It was previously occupied by several state agencies, including the Department of Social Services.
The new location houses a mind-body relaxation studio for an estimated 400-500 employees. The studio will hold daily yoga or Pilates class on a weekly schedule, said Emily Kamin, the company’s health and fitness coordinator.
“It’s great to get people to try something new,” she said.
Kamin previously worked at Veteran United’s mind-body relaxation center in the company’s “Echo” building on Veterans United Drive. Employees moving to the new facility were familiar with all of the equipment, which is the same as the other studio, she said. But the new studio has a different energy, she said, because the space is more open.
The studio is available to employees for stretching and meditation anytime instructor-led classes aren’t in session.
In a 2010 Health Affairs report, surveys showed that investing in employee wellness and morale was a return investment to employers because they saved on health insurance costs. Surveys showed that employers benefited from healthier, happier employees dollar for dollar.
Chris Cline, a media relations specialist for Veterans United, said the company emphasizes culture and enhancing the lives of its employees.
Matching designs of other buildings, the new space has Veterans United’s core values in murals on the walls. “Be Passionate” and “Enhance Lives” grace several blue-and-green walls around the building.
At times, Veterans United has fielded more than 1,000 applications a month from prospective employees, according to previous Missourian reporting. When it makes a hire, the company mails the new employee a card stuffed with a $10 bill, an explanation of the company values and instructions to enhance the employee’s life before the first day on the job.
The focus on employees’ work experiences is why the new facility includes an indoor walking track, a game room, a cafeteria, coffee bar, nursing rooms, an outdoor patio and designated relaxation areas, Cline said.
The indoor track travels a circuit around the entire building’s perimeter. Five laps around the track are equal to a mile, said Project Manager Alisha Strope.
Game rooms and other relaxation areas features were designed based on employee input, Strope said. Games include a ping-pong table, shuffleboard, other arcade games and PlayStation 4 systems.
The new building is open to some employees, though it’s unfinished. Larger training rooms and the outdoor patio area will be completed in the next few weeks. The outdoor patio will hold grills, outdoor seating, heaters and porch swings.
Blake Wollard, an associate director of production at Veterans United Home Loans, will be moving to the new Vandiver location.
“(The move) may change some of the faces our employees are used to seeing,” Wollard said. “Due to the size and flexibility of the new location, we will be able to place various departments under one roof that would normally not sit next to one another. We hope the diversity of departments will translate to an increase in communication and collaboration.”
Cline said the new location will streamline the organization and allow the employee community to continue growing comfortably.