Gone are the days where work is work and home is home. As people spend more and more time “at work,” it is critical that those hours are spent in an environment that encourages holistic wellness, sometimes referred to as “a culture of wellness.”
Culture is created by social norms, shared values, peer interactions and institutional policy. Collectively, we all impact culture, and culture impacts us. Cultivating an environment where employees thrive physically and mentally makes people feel more valued, increases happiness, reduces breaks in productivity due to mental or physical illness and increases job satisfaction. In higher education’s version of this cycle, these positive benefits for staff can translate into a more positive experience for students.
Here are three ways that you can positively impact the culture of wellness at UCCS.
1. Lead (and Learn) by Example
Individuals make daily choices on what they do, what they eat, how they manage their time, who they spend their time with and what they value. In addition to these, individuals can participate in growth practices, trainings and educational experiences to broaden their understanding of topics, including wellness. Consider how you behave and what you can do to be a role model for others. Are there trainings or professional education opportunities you can take part of to enhance your skills or knowledge? Are you familiar with the needs of the students you work with?
In addition, you should also leverage your strengths. For example, if you know you excel in mentoring students, consider how you might use those mentoring sessions to talk about wellness with your students.
Ways to make positive changes:
- Take part in a Mental Health First Aid or QPR (Question Persuade Refer) training
- Participate in campus or professional organization discussions or trainings on wellness
- Reflect on your own behaviors and strengths
- Encourage wellness in the workplace, such as commending peers for taking a lunch break, implementing a wellness challenge or competition and challenging negative behaviors
2. Eliminate Barriers to Wellness
Change often starts with the open ears and minds of those with power. If you are in a position where you lead others (student groups, employees, departments or areas), take an opportunity to listen to your people about what they are struggling with and then take steps to make adjustments if possible. Stay up to date on trends, campus climate data, student demographics and hot topics in higher education. Hold a listening session to understand where gaps in wellness exist within your departmental culture.
If you aren’t sure what to do with what you learn, reach out for support. It’s okay to not have all the answers or to not be able to change everything, but having open and honest communication is usually better than not. In most cases people will appreciate you checking in and asking. If you have the organizational authority, challenge policies that create barriers to wellness and promote those that encourage wellness.
3. Make Wellness Institutional
Make wellness critical to the mission of your work by writing well-being into your unit’s vision, values, goals and projected outcomes. Make wellness conversations systematic and ongoing, including it as part of your checks-ins with peers, employees, staff or students. Dedicate work time to wellness activities and discussions. Assess and report out how your program or work impacts student wellbeing.