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Keeping it Simple

by Jenn Flynn APPLE Schools | December 20 2018

APPLE Schools recently had the benefit of working with two fantastic University of Alberta kinesiology practicum students. Their enthusiasm and fresh perspective in the office really energized the team! One student, Sarah DeChamplain, shared with me how her experience helped shape her understanding of the broad impact that workplace wellness has on the whole team. I asked Sarah to share her thoughts with the wellness champs here on The Sandbox so that we could all benefit from her wisdom.

Here’s Sarah’s take on her experience and learnings around how simple changes can have big impacts:

Start with a Little Staff Challenge

Staff wellness does not need to be complicated or time consuming. Matt—APPLE Schools’ other practicum student—and I took the lead on developing the 50 Ways to Take a Break challenge and encouraged everyone on our office floor to participate. We hung a colourful display with a list of 50 fun breaks (listening to music, putting your feet up, enjoying a coffee, etc.), then asked staff to snap photos of themselves taking the breaks and tape the pictures on the display.

This was the first time I truly recognized the clear relationship between staff wellness and its undeniable, positive impact on workplace culture. I was really impressed by the heavy engagement from everyone! The team not only embraced the activity, but also the ‘take-a-break’ mentality.

Take Time to Connect

When I first started the practicum, our project team of seven paused for a tea break every day. We would gather, sample a new tea from the buffet of teas available in the workspace and give it a rating. Instead of the typical workplace coffee break where you might sit alone and check personal texts, this was a social break—an opportunity to peel away from our screens and connect.

Build a Stronger Team

Not only did this activity—and the breaks it included—create fun and balance, it fostered teamwork and strengthened our focus on collaboration. The daily opportunities to connect created a safer space to take risks with new ideas and to ask each other for help. People felt more comfortable taking advantage of each other’s strengths and range of perspectives.

Leaders Lead the Way

Along the way I also learned that leadership sets the tone for these shifts. When people in leadership positions participate, the team feels a greater sense of importance placed on the work they’re doing and the belief that wellness is a priority trickles down into the organizational culture. What seemed to be a simple staff wellness challenge or tea break became a space where health and teamwork was cultivated. Witnessing people truly making this a priority was a powerful lesson that will stick with me for life and one that I hope to use to inspire others in my future workplace.

In reading Sarah’s reflections on encouraging staff wellness through a simple activity, what resonated with me was that these activities aren’t just social or relaxing. They help to foster a culture where the team is more important than individual effort, and they allow us all to feel like we are humans working together. If you or your staff would like to implement the 50 Ways to Take a Break staff wellness challenge, you can find the detailed instructions and print-outs on the APPLE Schools website!

Jenn Flynn

As the executive director of A Project Promoting healthy Living for Everyone—better known as APPLE Schools—Jenn is a superhero committed to seeing Alberta’s healthy school communities flourish. While her talents in the health and wellness arena are many, they are possibly eclipsed by her ability to balance spoons off her nose. Just don’t ask her to do anything amongst a flock of birds—otherwise known as Flynn-brand kryptonite.