Brentwood College School

Holistic Wellness Across an Organization

Brentwood College School is an independent, co-educational, university preparatory boarding school for grades 9 through 12 in Mill Bay, on Vancouver Island BC.  Natasha and Connie sat down with us to share their innovative approaches to providing holistic physical, mental and nutritional support to their employees in all departments of the school. Find out how they are supporting their employee’s wellness in the spotlight below!

Brentwood College School focuses on the physical, mental, and nutritional aspects of a healthy lifestyle. How are you supporting your employees in these areas?

We have an employee health and wellness website called B-Fit that is linked to our staff portal which makes it pretty easy for our employees to learn all about the Brentwood College School Workplace Wellness program, find what we’re doing, and access additional resources.

In terms of physical well-being, we offer a lot of different classes and are always open to trying new classes in our Athletic Centre. We have spin classes, rowing classes, a rock-climbing wall, personalized strength and conditioning programs, and yoga classes. We also have open gym time, including a cardio room, for all staff.

In terms of mental wellness, we have tried out mindfulness mornings using guided meditations in the past, but yoga is still our most popular program that we offer. Nutritional support is available if staff want to get more information on diet and nutrition. We did one initiative in the past where we had a recipe challenge where staff would contribute to a recipe book by bringing in their favourite healthy recipes, this book is available on the website. To build on that, we try to find days when we can organize staff cooking classes. We also try to create fun challenges, like our BINGO challenge, which covers all aspects of health and well-being.

At the school, we have an oceanfront dining hall where chefs provide many different options for individuals with dietary restrictions and preferences – with a salad bar and a nutrition board for healthy alternatives and nutrition tips.

For example, if someone is wanting mash potatoes, they can see that a healthy alternative to that would be cauliflower from our salad bar instead.

Outside of our extended health benefit package, we offer a B-Fit rebate – staff get $50 back from anything that encourages habits of physical activity. It can be attending a membership class, buying new running shoes, or an activity tracking device. We also have a 3rd party employee and family assistance program which offers support to improve physical, mental and nutritional aspects of their life.

We would love to learn more about Brentwood Fitness. Can you share with us the current initiatives that are in place with this program? 

We have a rock-wall with dedicated hours during the week for staff so they can come in and climb. We also offer regular intro-classes where they are taught rock climbing basics and get to practice. Once they pass the test, they can use the rock-wall without needing to be supervised all the time.

New for this year, we have been bringing in an instructor for a spin class. It’s become very popular and spots for it fill up fast. Another class we have that’s been quite popular is a rowing class where we bring in a rowing coach – a former Olympian and DJ – and participants row to the beat of the music. We have B-Fit sweat sessions as well, that’s more circuit and strength-based programing, along with yoga classes.

We also have paddleboards and kayaks available for staff to use which is quite popular over the summer break as we’re right on the ocean.

In terms of challenges and fitness initiatives, they are well received. Our very first challenge when we launched B-Fit was our Annual October Hike Week Challenge. Employees get extra points for bringing friends, family, even their pets! We just completed our 4th year. Shorter, simpler challenges where team members can use their phone or a tracker to record their kilometers, steps, or calories over the midterm break has been quite popular. Our goal is to get the most participation across different sectors of our staff (faculty, dinning, facilities).

What challenges have you faced in implementing workplace health and wellness? 

We are lucky we can take advantage of all the resources and facilities on campus. But one of our main challenges is catering everyone’s needs between class times as we must work around the students. The facilities are for students, so we need to respect students first and their prime times, and then go from there in terms of what space is available and when.  

Our house-keeping staff work from 5am-2pm, and our faculty’s usually busy until 5pm, so how do we schedule classes and activities that fit around student classes but work for all staff? It’s definitely a challenge. 

We’re trying to come up with an ideal time, and we’d love to see the numbers a bit higher for our fitness classes – aside from our spin class, which is super popular and almost always has a waitlist – the other dates and times scheduling around classes tends to be a bit more of a challenge.  

We mainly gather feedback through employee surveys, done at least twice a year, to see what’s been working well, see what they’d like us to improve – but another challenge is getting people to respond to the survey – even though we’re trying to make it as short and sweet and effective as possible, in the end it’s just another email in a crowded inbox. 

There’s a lot of this that’s still trial and error, but we can gauge popularity with responses, and work from there. 

Do you have any advice for other organizations in terms of implementing their own holistic health and wellness programs? 

If you’re looking for a way to integrate easy challenges, start with a bingo challenge, or a step challenge. They’re very simple, but effective ways to start! 

We’ve also done the Corporate Whole Life challenge – it has a physical, mental and nutritional component, and has a social media board where everyone can comment on their day and share that with the group – it’s a very easy starting point. A lesson learned is that you don’t need to invest a lot of time in inventing something, when you can use resources and activities that already exists. 

The other thing we did that really seemed to lift morale was laminated compliment cards. Everyone had these compliment cards and people would randomly and anonymously hand them out to colleagues. The energy and smiles on everyone’s faces, especially during the first week, was noticeable. It was definitely a really fun challenge, and it also prompted some more personal letters from staff members. And at the end, we told staff that there’s no need to return the cards to us, but instead they could take them home, use them with their family members, and pay it forward into their personal lives as well.  

All in all, I would say that anything that you can try to implement that can be used by every different department is something that corporations should think about. It’s important to think of an easy initiative that every department can join in and participate in and have fun with as colleagues. That would be the best way to make the most out of the program, and really make the most impact.