healthy workplace initiatives
By Guest Contributor on October 25, 2017
Thriving Campus features testimonials, contributions and personal experiences linked to health and wellbeing from UBC staff members. This month we feature the staff at ICORD, an interdisciplinary research centre focused on spinal cord injury at Vancouver General Hospital.
In 2010, ICORD received a Healthy Workplace Initiatives grant and implemented a program that is still going strong seven years later. Read on to learn how the program has impacted their workplace and their staff.
Guest contribution by Cheryl Niamath, Communications + Administrative Manager at ICORD.
How would you describe your program?
We offer twice-weekly, lunchtime fitness classes taught by professional instructors. The classes are open to anyone who wants to participate, including faculty, staff and students based in the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre (BSCC); people who work in nearby hospital buildings; or those who live or work in the neighbourhood or are coming to the BSCC for other reasons.
We started these classes in 2010 when ICORD won a UBC Healthy Workplace Initiative grant (now called Healthy Workplace Initiatives Program). We used the grant to fund a pilot program, hiring an instructor and purchasing some yoga mats and blocks. People loved the classes, so once the grant funding was used up, we continued — with the instructors’ fees being covered by class participants. We charge a very low, tiered-payment rate: enough to keep participant costs reasonable and cover the instructors’ fees, plus a bit extra for occasionally replacing equipment.
Originally, we called the classes “yogalates” because they were a combination of yoga and Pilates. Over time the classes have changed a little with the instructors, but have remained mat-based. We don’t jump around and get so sweaty that we need a shower afterwards, which is good for a lunchtime thing.
Participants come and go, but we still have a few people who’ve been in the program since the very beginning.
What do you see or hear is the greatest benefit for participants of the program?
Here are some comments from class participants:
“I’ve been taking these classes twice a week since they started. I love the positive peer pressure that makes me go, even if I don’t really feel like it. I feel stronger and more balanced, and always leave class feeling happy and energized.”
“The quality and regularity of classes has made an enormous difference to my overall health. I have no chronic issues or repetitive strain injuries that I think normally I should have by now (at 48 years old, working in a desk job) and I really do credit the bi-weekly yogalates classes!“
“There were numerous benefits to me as a participant over the two-and-a-half years that I attended. Getting out of the ward in the middle of the day helped clear my brain; it made me much better when I returned to work. Moving my body at lunch was very good from a therapeutic point of view. Learning about Pilates and how my body moves helped my physiotherapy practice when I was moving my patient’s bodies and teaching them how to move. I learned that I love Pilates. It makes so much sense to me. I became much fitter and have been able to continue Pilates in the community, as I am no longer near enough to continue at ICORD. Lastly, I had ongoing right sacroiliac joint issues, which totally disappeared once I started the Pilates sessions at ICORD. They never returned!”
What kind of work and support does it take to maintain the program’s sustainability?
The program is not cumbersome to sustain. We run quarterly sessions, 15-17 weeks long. About a month before the current quarter ends, I confirm the instructors for the next session. Then I send an email to all current participants, advertise on display screens in our building, put up posters, and keep track of people who’ve signed up. When the new session starts, I collect participant payments, and our finance assistant does a bank deposit. She also processes monthly invoices from our instructors. We probably spend less than two hours a month maintaining the program.
Here’s an example of how we advertise the classes in our building-wide weekly newsletter:
If you could provide advice to other individuals or departments/units interested in starting up a grassroots healthy initiative, what would it be?
Find out what types of programs people want to do (and are willing to commit to) before trying to organize anything. Then, start with pilot projects to see if there’s interest before committing a lot of resources. Apply for a Healthy Workplace Initiatives Program grant or ask your department for shared funding support for the pilot.
What are the main reasons your program has been successful and are there any lessons you have learned?
I think our program has been so successful for several reasons. We’ve had such great instructors who have tailored classes to suit participants. The classes are really convenient, the atmosphere is fun and supportive and not too serious, and the cost is quite low compared to similar classes elsewhere.
How do you personally thrive in your life?
I don’t know if I’m thriving or not, but I do try to keep balance in my life. Work takes up a lot of my time, but I do go to these classes at lunch twice a week, as well as playing drop-in soccer with my husband and a great group of people. I have fun with my husband cooking (relatively) healthy meals together. I love to knit, which I find quite meditative, and I try to get outside and enjoy nature as much as I can (unless it’s raining).
ICORD (International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries) is an interdisciplinary research centre focused on spinal cord injury. ICORD researchers are dedicated to the development and translation of more effective strategies to promote prevention, functional recovery, and improved quality of life after spinal cord injury. Located at Vancouver General Hospital in the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, ICORD is supported by UBC Faculty of Medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.
Photo credit: ICORD
Posted in Guest Contributor, Thriving Campus | Tagged community, fitness, healthy workplace initiatives, HWIP, ICORD, physical activity, teamwork, thriving campus, VGH, workplace health | Leave a response
By Miranda Massie on September 9, 2014
UBC Recreation Open House-Sept. 8-14
Join UBC Recreation for a free week of programming and open houses at all of its sport facilities. Throughout the week, there will be free classes, including yoga, martial arts, aquatic fitness, dance, pilates, cycle fit, boot camps, and more.
President’s Installation-Sept. 12
Attend the installation of Professor Arvind Gupta as the 13th President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of British Columbia. Join UBC students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community for a full day of events on the Vancouver campus.
UBC Homecoming-Sept. 13
This year’s Homecoming will feature a ton of fun activities, concluding with the big game on Saturday, Sept. 13 against the University of Calgary Dinos. Come out and show your UBC pride!
UBC is proud to welcome Vivek Shraya to UBC’s Vancouver campus on Sept 24 to screen his film, What I LOVE about being QUEER. Join a lively discussion about language, identity and being queer at UBC and in today’s society.
Main Mall Harvest Feast–Sept. 25
Share a sustainable, family style, long table dinner. White linens, tableware, glassware & candles will be set where old & new friends share in food, drink, & share stories. In collaboration between chefs from UBC & the AMS with some UBC Farm items. Purchase tickets here. View the Harvest Feast Menu
Thrive is both a mindset and a week-long series of events focused on building positive mental health for UBC students, faculty, and staff. The campus community is invited to partner in hosting an event or promoting the initiative. By partnering with Thrive, your group can contribute to this dialogue and support positive mental health at UBC. Are you a faculty member? You are invited to bring Thrive into the classroom.
The Healthy Workplace Initiatives Program (HWIP) is a fund available to UBC departments and units to support healthy activities in the workplace. The program provides start-up funds for kick starting health related, sustainable initiatives. Have a great idea but need some seed money to get it off the ground? Already running programming but want to take it to the next level? Apply for Healthy Workplace funding! New funding criteria. Deadline to apply is November 22, 2014.
UBC’s updated iPhone and Android app is available for download. Students, faculty, staff and prospective students can access up-to-date event information and news from around campus. The app can also help users find their way around using a list of locations and maps.
Hot Box Yoga-UBC Corporate Discount
UBC’s newest yoga studio, located in Westbrook Village, is offering a corporate discount to staff and faculty.
Yoga classes at International House are starting up again for the fall!
Best Catch Sustainable Seafood Festival, Steveston-Sept. 14
This free community event promotes the value of making ocean-friendly seafood choices.The Best Catch Sustainable Seafood Festival features live cooking demonstrations, food tastings, live music, and more!
Surrey Youth Fest, Sept. 20
An outdoor concert, live performances, an exhibitor’s expo and more. All geared towards youth!
Vancouver International Film Festival– Starts Sept. 25
As one of the largest film festivals in North America, the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival brings Vancouver audiences some of the best films from around the globe.
Richmond Culture Days-Sept. 26-28
This year, Richmond is pleased to present the 5th annual Culture Days, a Canada-wide program featuring free arts and culture activities that showcase creativity in the community. From backstage tours to pottery demos to hands-on Chinese calligraphy workshops, there is something for all ages and interests.
Alive interactive-September Issue
Inclusion of third-party links is for community information only, and is not to be considered an endorsement of services or products
Posted in Community Health News, Events, Mental Health, Nutrition, Physical Health | Tagged alive interactive, community, corporate discounts, culture, equity, festivals, film screening, harvest feast, healthy workplace initiatives, recreation, Yoga | Leave a response
By Colin Hearne on September 9, 2014
This month features Fiona Walsh from UBC’s Sauder School of Business, who was a recipient of Healthy UBC’s Healthy Workplace Initiative Program (HWIP) funding in 2014. Welcome to Thriving Campus – a new addition to our Healthy UBC Newsletter featuring, testimonials, contributions and personal experiences from UBC staff, faculty and students.
Read a short interview with Fiona below on how the HWIP fund has helped her and her department thrive at UBC.
What strategies do you use in your own life to help you thrive?
I’m a big believer in the power of exercise to help control stress. It’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself, not only in terms of stress management, but also for long-term health. I do struggle at times to fit in regular exercise, but I always recognize how much better I feel when I get myself moving. I look for activities that I find fun. I also make a habit of sitting still at least once a day for five minutes. This gives me a chance to catch my mental ‘breath’ and drain some of the tension out of my neck and shoulders. The newest ‘thrive’ habit I’ve given myself is not turning on email first thing in the morning. I’m finding that taking 15-20 minutes first to plan and think about my day has really increased my focus.
What drew you to apply for UBC’s Healthy Workplace initiative Program?
We saw an opportunity to gain knowledge about stress management in the workplace by increasing overall morale, incorporating health and fitness, increasing team building opportunities, and fostering a culture that prioritizes health and exposes staff to different opportunities at UBC and in our local community. We are doing this initiative in conjunction with the Sauder Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Offices.
What are you doing with the HWIP funding?
The funding is allocated into two categories: Nutrition and Exercise. The bulk of our activities are throughout the summer months, but we are now working on a year-round initiative. The funding is being dispersed into a variety of events, such as ‘Lunch and Learn’ workshops, cooking classes, and a wellness library with a variety of magazines and books. We also introduced a tracking board as a way for staff to gain points by engaging in a variety of activities. The tracking board is positioned in each of our three offices and includes all the participants’ names.
What results are you seeing?
Unbelievable results! Our stress management initiative has instilled a positive energy in our office.
There have been big increases in team building and a collaborative environment; we are getting to better know staff from the Undergraduate Office, the Graduate Programs Office and other units within the Faculty. There is also more interaction amongst staff and people are asking questions about health related topics and are sharing health related tips to modify their everyday lifestyle. Stress levels are way down.
Without a doubt this program has had a major positive impact on the culture at the Business Career Centre– everyone is healthier and happier. The results I’ve seen in the team far surpassed anything I expected. I’d recommend this program to any unit – it’s a game-changer!
Fiona Walsh is the Assistant Dean and Director of the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. She leads a team of 24 people who provide career development and recruitment services for Sauder students and alumni. Prior to coming to UBC nearly three years ago, she worked in sales and business development in the corporate world. In June, 2014, Fiona and her team were the recipients of our Healthy Workplace Initiative Program (HWIP) Fund.
Posted in Colin Hearne, Mental Health, Physical Health, Thriving Campus | Tagged fiona walsh, health, healthy workplace initiatives, HWIP, sauder school of business, thrive, thriving campus | Leave a response