Healthy Living in the North

Wellness in the workplace: Taking the stairs is a marathon

Tanya Carter is pictured on top of a mountain in the snow. In the distance is a snowy mountain range.

Tanya Carter – conqueror of HR administrative tasks, stairs, and the Sugarbowl Mountain hike (pictured).

A couple months ago, I started a new job with Northern Health. It brought me from the fourth floor of our office building to the seventh. My new desk is near the elevator, and I noticed a lot of my floor-mates bypass the elevator doors and opt to take the stairs instead.

I also noticed that there were some gummy treats in the reception area, with a sign that said “Fuel for the stair climbers.” Naturally, I stole one of the gummies and asked, “What do you mean by stair climbers?” Tanya Carter, one of our fantastic Administrative Assistants in Human Resources, then proceeded to tell me about the stair-climbing challenge she organized.

How does the challenge work?

Basically, you’re encouraged to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and to keep track of your steps. Your steps are then entered into a spreadsheet and you can track how far you’ve gone with your stair climbing:

  • 1 mile =2,000 steps
  • 5 km = 6,200 steps
  • 10 km = 12,400 steps
  • Half marathon = 26,200 steps
  • Marathon = 52,400 steps

I thought this was a really cool idea, and after a little bit of peer pressure, I signed myself up for the 10 km. Tanya is really encouraging to those of us in the stair-climbing challenge and an advocate for fitness overall. She and I chatted about physical activity and wellness in the workplace.

A sign is pictured on the door to the seventh floor from the staircase. It says "Way to go! You made it!"

The “congrats” message that stair climbers see everyday.

Tanya, what made you want to start doing the stair-climbing challenge?

“The very first day I came to work here, I took the elevator. I thought, “what am I doing taking the elevator?” After that first day, I promised myself that I’d take the stairs and continue taking them. That was the only day that I’ve used the elevator.

“Usually when I start something, I jokingly (but kind of truthfully) want everybody else to do what I’m doing. Right off the bat, I looked forward to seeing how everybody would react to a stairs challenge. I started the challenge as a fun contest and I kind of warned everybody that I would be starting it, and some people started training for it like they would a marathon.

“When the stair-climbing challenge first started, I let everyone know that they didn’t have to do all the stairs right away. They could take the elevator to the fourth floor and then walk up to the seventh, and that’s how some people have started doing it. Just like in a real marathon, you don’t just go and do 42 kms, you start with 15 minutes and work your way up.”

How do you promote wellness in the workplace?

“That’s just who I am! I like to encourage people in a positive and healthy way. I believe that when you’re healthy, you have more confidence. You don’t have to be a certain size to be strong and healthy. Most recently, I suggested to my desk mates [that they] start an Ice Man team because they’re already starting to run a little bit.”

If someone can’t do stairs at work, how can they get some activity in during the day?

“If you aren’t working, take the stairs when you can, even for an appointment. Parking your car further away can also help get some activity in. Going for a walk is also great. [You can] encourage others to get away from their desks and go for a quick, ten-minute walk.”

Do you have any tips or tricks to stay motivated?

“For sure having a goal and just getting started. The hardest part can be getting started, and once you get going and you are in a routine, it’s the routine that keeps you going.

“[It also helps to have] someone to answer to … a partner or some friends to do an activity with. When someone is waiting for you, it makes you more inclined to be there.

“Another tip is [don’t keep] it to yourself! When you’ve actually admitted it, it makes it real and you don’t want to let people down. I have a saying, it’s not my own but I use it often, and it’s, ‘I never regret going for a run, for a bike ride, or going to cross fit – I regret not going.’ If I stay in bed and skip my run, I get up thinking I wish I would have done it.”

Outside of the workplace, what is your favorite activity to stay active?

“I like long-distance running and cross fit/strength training.”

Thanks to Tanya, I’m getting more activity in my daily routine and the 126 stairs I take to get to my desk are getting a little bit easier… just don’t call me until I’ve managed to catch my breath.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

Share

Finding wellness at work: tips from the Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team


The Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team works on different wellness related initiatives throughout the year.

“In order to take good care of patients, we need to take good care of ourselves.” This is just one reason why the Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team exists. Lara Frederick, the North East Preventive Public Health Program Lead, is an active member of this team, however, she is only one member of what she describes as a diverse group.

“The team is made up of a variety of staff at the Dawson Creek Health Unit – from administrative to management like myself,” says Lara. “Membership is optional and members are encouraged to join when they can. We’re a pretty informal group. We aim to meet monthly – usually in a neutral space like the lunchroom. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen and that’s okay. Members contribute where they can.”

Wellness in action

According to Lara, the Health Unit wellness team works on different wellness related initiatives throughout the year. She shared a few of the initiatives the team has taken part in lately:

  • Jeans Day: “Basically each staff member can choose to pay $25 for the year to be able to wear jeans on a Friday (participation is optional). We put part of that money towards wellness initiatives like potlucks etc. and the other funds go towards local charities chosen by staff. We usually vote as a group and then make a donation to four chosen charities on behalf of the Dawson Creek Health Unit.”
  • Walk Across Canada: “Last summer the team took part in a physical activity challenge where team members were placed on randomized teams and tracked their steps all summer. Every 5,000 steps equalled one star. Everyone tracked their progress by adding stars to a confidential team tally. The challenge really helped encourage everyone to get out on lunches and breaks. People were doing laps around the building! At the end of the challenge,the teams and participants who walked the farthest won a prize.”
  • Secret Friend: “This September, interested staff members filled out a questionnaire with questions asking what they liked, what makes them smile, etc. Participants were then randomly assigned to another participant to be their secret friend. The goal of the secret friend is to anonymously do nice things for their buddy – things like leaving nice notes or little gifts in their work space, and even just making a bit of effort to get to know that person. With many new staff this is a great way to help everyone feel included. One staff member actually created a seek-and-find where the secret friend had to search out people in the health unit according to clues! It was a great way to help that new staff member get to know us all! The plan is to end secret friend with a potluck in December where everyone tries to guess who their buddy was, followed by a big reveal!”

Why work should be enjoyable

For Lara, being part of the wellness team is a no-brainer as she’s a self-described wellness junky! “It’s very important to me to enjoy my time at work and have fun,” she says. For her, the best way to do this is to get involved with other people at work.

Get involved with other people on your team! If you’re given the space by managers, work together to create a fun environment. Especially with staff turnover and challenges, it’s great to come to work and have fun things going on.”

Overcoming workplace wellness obstacles

According to Lara, there can be barriers to making wellness work at work, the biggest ones being management support, time, and money. She says their team is fortunate that their local management sees the value in having a healthy wellness team: “Being supported to meet together for 30-40 minutes in the lunchroom makes a big difference. We have a lot of people eager to make our workplace enjoyable. They want to help and be involved.”


Prizes from the team’s Walk Across Canada challenge last summer!

Lara says time will always be a barrier, especially in health care: “The thought is that time shouldn’t be taken away from patient care to work on wellness at work. However, in order to take good care of patients, we need to take good care of ourselves first.” She says the wellness team operates on staff donations and relying on that can be challenging. “Sometimes when we’re looking to get prizes made, we can get discounts from local shops-which helps lower the cost. Having this local support is great.”

Incorporating wellness in your workplace: words of advice

“It takes just one person with a desire to bring wellness to the workplace. That one person needs to seek out the support of fellow teammates as well as support from leadership.” As Lara says, prioritizing time can be tough and health care workers must take care of themselves: “Making the workplace more fun and enjoyable makes it healthier for everyone!”


Getting involved with other people on your team is a great way to make work more enjoyable. 

Are you currently part of a wellness team or looking to start one? The Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team is always looking for more ideas or other teams to do challenges with! “We’d love to do a challenge between another health unit or community team. Please get in touch with us!” 

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

Share

Eating 9 to 5 Challenge: And the winner is…

Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is pictured.

Congrats to Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge!

This March was National Nutrition Month and its theme was Eating 9 to 5, which focused on people’s eating habits at the office/work site and their time-strapped schedules around the work day. In support of National Nutrition Month, Northern Health held the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge, which brought four weeks of challenges to northerners who completed tasks for entries into weekly team draws, as well as an individual draw for a Vitamix blender! We truly believe that everyone who took part and experienced a positive change to their eating habits as a result of the Challenge is a winner! Based on the amazing entries that were submitted, a lot of people received a ton of great tips for eating healthier before, during, and after work, and put those tips into action! Before we announce who won prizes, we want to thank everyone who took part and wish everyone good, healthy eats (and drinks) during your 9 to 5, and beyond!

After a brief delay, we’re happy to announce that the grand prize winner of the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is Ross Knudson! Ross took part in the challenge on his own, literally naming his team “Ross Solo” … which is close to the moniker he uses when fighting the Empire. Ross won a Vitamix blender. Congrats, Ross!

We’d also like to congratulate The Northern Healthy Eaters, who took home our Week 1 prize of four Dietitians of Canada cookbooks; Anita, who entered as an individual, winning the Week 2 draw for four Thermos lunch bags; The District Divas, winners of Week 3’s four travel mugs; and, lastly, team We Love Our Pharmacy, who won two fruit/veggie trays for their next meeting!

Throughout all four weeks, we received fantastic entries that showed how serious people were about eating healthy in the workplace, but it was the Creative Challenges that put the biggest smiles on our faces! Here are a few random highlights:

The text "Make Lunch Fun"  surrounds a pencil crayon drawing of several pieces of fruit.

The Crazy Cantaloupes sent in this lovely piece of artwork, which, ironically, does not feature a cantaloupe.

A cupcake and a doughnut say "Eat us! We are so delicious!" to which team The Steamed Veggies respond, "No thanks, meeting snacks! I will just have my apple! I'm good!"

We know cupcakes and doughnuts are unhealthy, but, according to The Steamed Veggies, they’re actually evil! Stick to those apples!

And, without a doubt, the most adorable creative entry goes to The OR Health Freaks who put one of their kids to the test with this food quiz:

Thanks again to everyone who entered the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge! Feel free to let us know if any of the tips or challenges helped you make positive changes to your eating habits in the comments below.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

Share

The Grizzly Truth: A good laugh for good health

Nick, with a goatee, holds his cat in a Christmas picture.

Nick’s photo entry into the Northern Health Mr. Movember contest.

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”

I have seen this quote attributed to both Francis Bacon and to Oscar Wilde. To be honest, I don’t have the citation to prove who said what when (if you know, feel free to comment and share as I wasn’t able to find firm evidence for either party). This quote carries a lot of meaning to me, both in my professional life and my personal life. I feel that I have a pretty good sense of humor and that has lent itself to some rich experiences with practical jokes and certain Mr. Movember contests (pictured right).

Wellness research shows that people who laugh regularly are healthier than those who do not. I’m not just referring to mental health either. One study actually found that people who laugh regularly have a lower risk for heart attack and an increased pain threshold! In work environments, the appropriate use of humor can de-escalate tense situations and increase the rapport between staff and clients.

There have been a number of circumstances in which laughing about myself, or my situation, has helped me move past unhelpful and unproductive feelings of stress or frustration. For instance, my hair started thinning at the age of 21. I’m 26 now and that trend is continuing, despite my protests. I will admit that the first time my “bald spot” was pointed out, I didn’t laugh and say “thanks for bringing that to my attention!” In fact, a couple of threats were exchanged before I made my way to the nearest mirror. At first, having a sense of humor about the situation wasn’t easy, but, over time, it made me feel better to have a laugh about it, even cracking a joke or two at my own expense. Humour has helped me come to terms with something that’s completely out of my control.

On a more serious note, I recently read about a nurse who had been struggling with significant depression. He received support to enroll in a stand-up comedy course and, since beginning the course, has found that his outlook, self-esteem, and mood have greatly improved. You don’t have to get on the stand-up comedy stage like the nurse, but, to improve your health, it is important to practise allowing yourself to laugh and to put yourself in an environment where laughter is common practise!

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

Share

Making wellness work at work

In September and October of this year, we supported a month-long campaign to promote wellness in the workplace, called “My Healthy Workplace.” In total, 80 teams registered for the weekly challenges. In the northwest region, the Working Dead Zombie Collective took this opportunity to solidify their intentions for workplace wellness. They got lots of different departments involved in the campaign and gave it all they had for some very creative submissions!

We talked to some of the participants to find out how the Collective came together and how they approached the challenges. Take a look:

Doug Quibell, NW public health protection manager, described his involvement in the campaign for us too:

I got involved in this campaign because it had great potential to exemplify our vision of breaking down artificial silos, and bringing a multi-disciplinary team together to collaborate upstream. We’ve been speaking about this for some time, but in retrospect, this project really clarified the benefits for me. Complex chronic diseases can only be tackled when mixed groups like this bring their divergent perspectives to the table. In our group, it was fabulous how these varied backgrounds added a wide range of pieces to the puzzle. Over the course of the project we saw participants move from representatives from their respective departments, to part of a Public Health team. Enthusiasm and engagement grew throughout the project as we were able to work with folks we don’t routinely get to, and the relationships developed. It was also a lot of fun being a zombie!

At the same time as we held this challenge for all residents of the north, we also held an internal contest for NH staff, asking them to show us how they use the messaging from the NH position papers to make their workplaces healthier. Congratulations to the Working Dead Zombie Collective, who won this for the northwest region.

20131204coozombifiedAt approximately 3:45, November 8th, Northwest COO Penny Anguish made a “grave” mistake. Usually quite careful, onlookers were quoted as questioning, “what the heck is she thinking?”

While awarding the Working Dead Zombie Collective their first place awards for their work on the internal My Healthy Workplace competition, the Zombie Collective unsurprisingly became peckish.

 

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.
(NH Blog Admin)

Share

WellnessFits in the workplace!

20131023KerensaMedhurst_WellnessFitsFocusing on health in the workplace can be a lot of work. We already seem to have work piled on every corner of our desks (and every other surface around us), so initiating and organizing something to support workplace health can seem overwhelming. We know, though, that when done right (that is, comprehensively), workplace health initiatives can make us more productive at work – and outside of work. At the end of the day, putting more effort into bringing health into the workplace can support us as workers and our employers.

In my health promotion work over the years, I have crossed paths with the Canadian Cancer Society on many projects. My counterpart there, Kerensa Medhurst, has one of the coolest jobs in the world: supporting people to be healthy in work. She has a program that you can roll out in your workplace, so I wanted to sit with her and learn more about it:

So, I’ve heard a little bit about WellnessFits – what can you tell me about it?

The Canadian Cancer Society has a workplace wellness program called WellnessFits. This is a comprehensive and free workplace wellness program in partnership with Healthy Families BC.

The WellnessFits program is designed to assist organizations with their wellness efforts and to support employees with the care of their own well-being. The program provides employers with free expertise and tools to create opportunities in the workplace to improve the health of their employees. We have a website with interactive applications for employers, tools to help the employer target their focus and assess employee wellness priorities, eight modules consisting of activities and challenges, an evaluation, and other support materials. The Canadian Cancer Society staff are pleased to work directly with the workplace to plan a unique workplace wellness program catering to individual needs using information, resources, and an online application.

Why is workplace wellness a priority for the Canadian Cancer Society?

The Canadian Cancer Society is committed to eradicating cancer and improving the lives of people with cancer. About half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the health of everyone. The Society’s health promotion and cancer prevention strategies include educating Canadians about risk reduction and early detection, promoting and supporting healthy lifestyles, and advocating for healthy public policies. We know that people spend more time at work than anywhere else and we also know that investing in workplace wellness saves money for employers in the long run.

Great! How can people get involved?

To learn more, people can go to our website, www.wellnessfits.ca. People are also encouraged to get in touch with me (Kerensa Medhurst, kmedhurst@bc.cancer.ca) to get more information on our WellnessFits program. We would love the opportunity to meet with organizations, to provide information about workplace wellness, and to talk about the program. We want to find out how we can build on the great work that you are already doing in the area of wellness in your workplace. The Society is pleased to offer this program and invites you to join us in partnering to improve employee health and reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Your turn: have you ever organized for wellness in your workplace? What was your experience? Are you interested in what WellnessFits might have to offer you?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

Share

Overcoming challenges for physical activity

Crystal, outside physical activity.

Crystal, showing dedication and braving the Dawson Creek winter elements to fit some physical activity into her work day.

Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that drastically turned my world upside down. Being active was something that was always important to me and now, at the age of only 20 years old, I was faced with learning how to live with a disease that affected my ability to perform even the simplest of everyday activities.

Working at Northern Health has been a good fit for me, but especially in managing my health. I have enough flexibility in the job that on good days I could be out in the field working and on bad days I could stay in the office. As time went on, I noticed that I started to spend more time in the office. As a result, I walked less and sat much more. Something needed to change.

In 2009 I made a life change. I stepped outside of my personal comfort zone and signed up for a 12 week boot camp at the local gym. I still remember that first day. I was so self-conscious about being weak and poorly conditioned. But, instead of giving up, I kept with it. I also hired a personal trainer. It was a learning experience for both of us as we figured out how I could modify the movements.

At Northern Health we are beginning to walk the walk and be the face of health within our communities and, as we have learned the last few weeks, workplaces are great locations to promote healthy living and integrate physical activity into daily life. I decided that I wanted to use what I had learned over the years and share it with my co-workers, so I created a contest.

In the winter of 2013, the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John health units challenged the Smithers and Terrace health units in the first ever internal Workplace Wellness “Healthier You Challenge.” This challenge was a fun, in-house 12-week pilot project designed around the Northern Health position papers. The focus of the challenge was to educate and engage staff on incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviours into their everyday routines.

Between the four health units, over 100 staff committed to the challenge. Each week I sent out a new worksheet that explained the week’s challenge. The “weekly” challenges were designed to get you moving and start thinking about healthy food choices.

The physical activity component was based on the key message that every move counts. This theme was carried over from week to week. Anytime an employee participated in any form of physical activity for 10 minutes or more, they logged that into their worksheet and gained points for their team. Participants also gained points for every kilometre travelled and/or steps that they took for the day. I got lots of motivation from B.C.’s Physical Activity Line.

The food challenges were based on Canada’s Food Guide and provincial initiatives. These changed week to week. Examples included eating vegetables and fruit, and reducing the amount of trans fat and high sodium foods that were consumed.

One of the big successes of the challenge was the creation of the “Break Challenge.” During the challenge, employees were encouraged to participate in some sort of physical activity for 15 minutes while at work. Each day a group of staff from the Dawson Creek Health Unit could be found outside walking around on their coffee breaks. It was common on the really cold days to find staff lunging, frog jumping, or walking in the hallways. At the end of Week 1, employees had participated in 342 physical activity breaks, 306 hours of physical activity, and had walked 2097 kms.

At the end of the challenge I surveyed participants, asking them what they liked best about the challenge and what changes they had made in their workplace as a result of the challenge. Some of the comments were:

  • Breaking down the challenge week by week made it feel more manageable and seem less daunting. I also liked the fact there was a different challenge each week.
  • For me the best part of the challenge was the joining of the individuals in our health unit to challenge each other in a supportive environment.
  • Able to critically look at the everyday and identify small opportunities for positive change vs. drastic and likely short lived changes.

This is the challenge that I developed for my fellow co-workers. It was fun and really got people engaged. For more information on some of the weekly challenges, or to find out which health unit won bragging rights, make sure to keep an eye for my future updates on the Northern Health blog. Alternatively, if you are looking for a workplace wellness program that your workplace can join, we encourage you to look at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wellness Fits program.

Crystal Brown

About Crystal Brown

Accepting a position as an Environmental Health Officer with Northern Health, Crystal Brown moved from Nova Scotia to Dawson Creek in 2004. Since then, Crystal has developed an interest in health promotion and how our built environments impact our health. As the B.C. Branch President-Elect since 2011, Crystal works provincially and nationally with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors to promote the mission statement and maintain the integrity of public health. In this, she also participates in initiatives that will help to strengthen and advance the profession. To stay active, Crystal attends a morning outdoor boot camp, runs and walks her dogs. In August, Crystal participated and completed her first ever Emperor's Challenge in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Share