(Left to right) Charlene Brown, Stephanie Mulhall, John Shelling, Rebecca Meaden, Katelyn Sarvas, Janis Vetsch and Sabrina Kehoe from TLSE. (Photo: Kurt Hofmann)

Taking workplace wellness to heart on campus

As colleagues sip coffee and sort through their email, a small group of 6-10 university employees begin their day with a slightly different morning ritual.

“It was something that started a couple of months ago with a few of us that has now turned into something everyone looks forward to,” said Carine Paley, a Total Rewards advisor in Finance and Resources at the University of Saskatchewan, and one of the founding members of the group. “We got the idea when we were at a meeting at ConnectionPoint last spring. They asked us to join in with their morning stretches and we thought it was a great idea and something we can bring back to our office.”

The 3-4-minute workout routinely changes, but typically includes warm-up stretches, a 75-second sitting wall squat, followed by a 60-second plank. Once the energized group completes the workout, they offer a few encouraging words and a quick high-five before heading off on their separate ways to begin the work day.

Later the same day, in an office tucked away in the basement of the Peter MacKinnon Building, a gigantic, half-finished jigsaw puzzle lays spread across a table in the centre of a meeting room. Members of the Teaching, Learning and Student Experience (TLSE) Service Team gather around the puzzle to take a brief mental break and reprieve from their daily tasks.

“This team is really busy and lots of times it’s heads down and working to get things done,” said Sabrina Kehoe, manager of the TLSE service team. “When it got crazy-busy around here I noticed that nobody laughed, there was no banter in the office. I thought, heaven forbid, why don’t we try and have a little fun and break up the day.”

Photos of the team posing with their completed puzzles are displayed throughout the office as a reminder of the importance of team work and taking time for mental health.

“I love it when I come in and there is a group of people sitting around that table at lunch talking about whatever they may be doing that night or weekend, some working on the puzzle and some not,” she said. “It is an atmosphere that we didn’t have before.”

The university’s wellness strategy was developed as a collaboration between the People and Resources portfolio, and the Office of the Vice-Provost, TLSE. These teams work closely together to help promote wellness events and foster a culture of wellness at the university. The development of monthly themes is one example of how this collaboration has made a positive impact on campus.

“The monthly themes allow us to focus on a specific area within the wellness strategy each month without competing for attention against ourselves,” said Cristina Herman, team leader of Wellness Resources. “Before there may have been five or six different things going on that weren’t related. Now we can focus on one thing, promote events and information related to that theme and have a clear message going out.”

The themes were chosen to coincide with both the student and employee lifecycle while aligning with national and international events. January’s monthly theme of financial wellness was chosen because many people struggle with debt and financial pressure over the holidays.

The month features wellness seminars presented by Brian Lane, an assistant professor from the Edwards School of Business, to help people manage their personal finances. In February, Be Active is the theme, with the College of Kinesiology promoting several events including Try it Tuesday, where anyone can use the PAC for free. Be Active also features a photo contest on social media encouraging people to post pictures of them being active for a chance to win a weekly prize.

“By bringing wellness to the forefront and having it in people’s subconscious each and every month, we will see more pockets of wellness showing up on campus,” said Herman. “And it can be as simple as putting a puzzle together or doing morning stretches together.”

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