University of British Columbia Part 2

Photo Credit: Roberge, UBC Thrive

No One Size Fits All

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is committed to a safe, healthy and respectful workplace. Recently named one of BC’s Top Employers in 2019, they are dedicated to 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’ve helped shift the focus from health education to incorporating more setting-focused workplace health promotion efforts. Below is part 2 of a 2 part blog series.

If UBC could only invest in one area of workplace wellness what would you invest in and why?

Mental health has been and continues to be a priority at UBC — within the Canadian higher education sector but also more broadly. As a result, UBC is continuing to mobilize efforts and approaches to enhance mental health literacy among staff, faculty and student populations. As mentioned above, work is underway to embed relevant training into professional development opportunities.

In your opinion, what are the two key pieces to a successful workplace wellness program?

The key is using participatory approaches and community-based partnerships in order to create a shared sense of ownership and accountability over the work at all levels. Ultimately, our health promotion efforts are geared towards empowerment and building capacity amongst staff and faculty within workplaces across UBC. Adaptability and innovation are also key.

Photo Credit: Paul Joseph, UBC Brand & Marketing

What are some of the challenges you faced when implementing policies around workplace wellness?

Working in a large, complex, constantly evolving, multi-site organization creates many challenges and opportunities. Each area of the university has its own unique micro culture and systems and as a result, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What may work well for one department or unit may not necessarily work as well for another.

What is your favourite workplace wellness initiative or campaign?


UBC Thrive is an annual, week-long, multi-campus series of events focused on helping everyone at UBC build their mental health literacy. Thrive is one important component of UBC’s efforts to engage students, staff and faculty in thoughtful reflection, dialogue and actions that support our mental health. Now in its ninth year, the impact of Thrive continues to increase at UBC and beyond. As a partner in Thrive since its inception, HR is proud to share that in 2017:

  • Over 70,000 members of the UBC community were reached through in-person and online events, programming and outreach (an increase from 62,000 in 2016)
  • Over 1,000 faculty and instructors participated
  • 11 other Canadian post-secondary institutions have adopted Thrive and host it annually
  • 82 campus partners (including units, departments and faculties) contributed to Thrive efforts

As part of Thrive in 2017, UBC Vancouver participated in Not Myself Today (NMT) for the third consecutive year. This national campaign focuses on stigma reduction, increasing mental health literacy and fostering safe, open and supportive workplaces. Interest in NMT has only increased since its inception at UBC: in 2017, 16 departments and units hosted NMT locally (up from 12 departments the previous year), with approximately 1,659 staff, faculty and post-doctoral participating (up from 985 participants last year). We are proud to report that 90% of participating respondents indicated that NMT helped to create a work environment that is more supportive of mental health.

Photo Credit: Roberge, UBC Thrive

Healthy Workplace Initiative Program

The Healthy Workplace Initiative Program (HWIP) is an annual funding opportunity created by UBC HR to support departments and units in their grassroots activities to promote workplace wellbeing. The program provides start-up funds and support for health- and sustainability-related initiatives. Programs can include anything from stretching classes to building a community garden to investing in mental health training.

UBC President’s Staff Award for Wellbeing

Recognizing the important role faculty and staff play in promoting workplace health, a new wellbeing category was added to the UBC President’s Staff Awards for 2018. The award recognizes individuals and teams that create opportunities for others to thrive at UBC: from leading activities and initiatives that promote social, physical and/or mental health and wellbeing, to inspiring community members to care for themselves and each other. In our first year, we bestowed two awards in the wellbeing category: one to an inspirational leader in the UBC School of Kinesiology and the other to a team of individuals at UBC Press who actively champion workplace wellbeing. We are proud to recognize faculty and staff who are helping us to advance a culture of wellbeing at UBC.

Alexa Love and Derick Chan, representing UBC Press, were one of the inaugural recipients of the 2018 UBC President’s Staff Awards for Wellbeing. Photo Credit: Paul Joseph, UBC Brand & Marketing

Kathy Manson received a 2018 President’s Staff Award for Wellbeing for championing workplace wellbeing in the UBC School of Kinesiology. Photo Credit: Paul Joseph, UBC Brand & Marketing

Thank you to the University of British Columbia for sharing your inspiring workplace wellness program!

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.