Photo Credit: Don Earhardt, UBC Brand and Marketing
A spotlight into success, education and wellbeing
The University of British Columbia (UBC) is committed to a safe, healthy and respectful workplace. They have emerged as quite the leader by ensuring wellbeing is a priority that guides their daily interactions, decisions, policy planning and program development. Crystal Hutchinson, Workplace Wellbeing Strategist with UBC shared their commitment and insights into how they helped shift the focus from health education to incorporating more setting-focused workplace health promotion efforts. Below is part 1 of a 2 part blog series.
How do you find UBC’s outlook on workplace health and wellness has evolved throughout the years?
Workplace wellbeing has been a long-standing priority at the University of British Columbia (UBC) with dedicated positions for workplace health promotion as early as 2003. Over the years, UBC’s efforts have evolved from being focused on health education to incorporating more systems- or settings-focused workplace health promotion efforts. This means that in addition to enhancing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours of staff and faculty, we are also facilitating and supporting efforts to enhance the working environment and systems that exist within workplaces in order to better support health and wellbeing. In 2017, UBC Human Resources (HR) expanded its Health, Wellbeing and Benefits team to better support strategic workplace health promotion efforts, creating and successfully recruiting for two new positions: a Communications & Engagement Specialist and a Workplace Wellbeing Strategist. HR also jointly shares a Planning and Evaluation Advisor to further support this work.
HR has been an active and ongoing partner in a broader, institution-wide effort known as UBC Wellbeing (priority areas include nutrition, physical activity, mental health and resilience, and social connection). UBC Wellbeing recognizes the foundational importance of wellbeing to our success as individuals, as a university, and as a community. This cross-campus collaboration aspires to support our people to achieve their full potential in learning, teaching, research and working by making wellbeing a priority that guides our daily interactions, decisions, policy planning and program development. The work of UBC Wellbeing is guided by the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges, which provides a shared call to action for partners, leaders and community members to make UBC a leading, wellbeing-promoting university.
The range and scope of health promotion programs and initiatives have also grown over time. Awareness and recognition of the importance of workplace wellbeing have increased among employees and leadership. As a result, interest and uptake continue to increase and momentum continues to build.
What is an area of workplace wellness that UBC is currently advocating for or has recently advocated for to be embedded into workplace practices and policies that contributes to wellbeing?
Wellbeing-related questions are included in the Workplace Experiences Survey (WES), an institutional survey administered every three years which gives faculty and staff the opportunity to provide feedback about their workplace experience. Within workplace health promotion efforts, WES results are used (along with other data sources) to help identify needs, strengths and opportunities, and inform strategic action taken in partnership with departments and faculties to enhance workplace wellbeing.
In addition, strategic support is provided through HR to departments and units who are interested in exploring, planning and taking action to improve workplace wellbeing. Key messages are woven into HR’s ongoing communications efforts, as well as online and in-person new staff orientations in order to further advance a culture of wellbeing at UBC.
Currently, UBC is focused on embedding opportunities to enhance mental health literacy and emotional intelligence (via workshops such as Mental Health First Aid and The Working Mind) within existing training and professional development opportunities, particularly for those in supervisory positions.
What have you found to be the most rewarding organizational outcome of promoting workplace health and wellness?
One of the most powerful and exciting organizational outcomes was having wellbeing identified as a priority throughout UBC’s new strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century: Strategic Plan 2018-2028. The plan identifies these institutional goals: to lead globally and locally in the areas of sustainability and wellbeing and lead as a first-choice place to learn and work. Increased interest in and engagement with our workplace health promotion programs and initiatives within UBC and beyond is also an important outcome that motivates and inspires us.
Any success stories you would like to share?
An innovative partnership since 2014, UBC HR and pharmacy students from the UBC Pharmacists Clinic collaborate each year to support the wellbeing of 15,000+ UBC faculty and staff through a Travelling Health Fair. The fair provides one-on-one health assessments and consultations provided by licensed pharmacists and pharmacy students from UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In 2017-2018, over 200 diabetes screenings were provided to staff and faculty, helping participants understand their own diabetes risk and encouraging them to seek follow-up health care when appropriate.
The partnership also resulted in a subsequent multi-year research project entitled, Cardiovascular Assessment and Medication Management by Pharmacists at the UBC Site (CAMMPUS), which assessed the impact of the pharmacist-led service on improving the cardiovascular heart health of over 170 faculty and staff participants at UBC Vancouver for a 12-month period. The findings of CAMMPUS are anticipated later in 2018.
Lastly, with support from HR, some UBC departments and units are now taking action towards developing their own plans to support workplace wellbeing and/or incorporating workplace wellbeing as a goal within their respective strategic plans.
The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s entrepreneurial spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. UBC encourages its students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.