Have you noticed that the new 2018/19 ASEBP Calendar and Health Planner is titled We are One in Community? I love this title because it really makes sense when we think of workplace wellness and built environments. In case I may have lost you for a moment, let me take a step back and first talk about what a built environment is and the role it plays in creating a healthy school community. Take a peek at this video, showcasing the advantages of building a healthy school environment.
A built environment includes elements like green spaces, walkable communities, parks or playgrounds, bike paths (for more active transport), well-connected streets and more!1 The strategy behind a built environment is that these elements facilitate opportunities to maintain active lifestyles which, in turn, promote an increase in health among a population.
The School Connection
Schools and educational workplaces in our province are an important integration point with the built environment. They’re like large hubs where thousands of students and staff spend the majority of their waking hours living, working, playing and, more importantly, learning together. We can increase opportunities to improve health in these built environments because each hub offers a supportive community where physical activity, food choices, positive mental health and other wellness-promoting lifestyle activities occur.
A healthy built environment—especially in the workplace—sets the stage for how it operates, how a culture is set and how students and staff inevitably develop a sense of belonging. This doesn’t appear out of nowhere or without clear vision, strategy and, most important, buy-in and modelling from leadership. Let’s reflect on your workplace and what your built environment looks and feels like.
Your Workplace Connection
How does your workplace contribute to the development of a healthy built environment for staff and students? Encourage your fellow wellness champions and leaders to join the discussion about your current workplace culture. Here are a few questions to help get you started:
- Do staff feel supported and feel safe to ask leaders questions?
- Are there policies in place for healthy food choices at all events, including staff meetings?
- Do staff report that they have fun at work and tell others that their workplace is supportive and fun?
- Is there high staff engagement, focusing on inclusion and positive relationship-building amongst staff groups, the community and partners?
- Do staff integrate and participate with students collaboratively while meeting whole school wellness goals?
- What type of spaces exist—inside and outside of the school or workplace—that allow for walking meetings, collaborative conversations or simply space for play? How about at the school level and district level?
The Community Connection
For more ideas on how to build a healthy environment within your workplace using a whole-school approach, check out The Art of Culture Building. Shared responsibility, leadership and strong partnerships in the community are the keys to success in kick-starting supportive and healthy built environments that will have traction, momentum and sustainability. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, so too does it require the whole community working together to make a difference in your workplace. Enjoy your year ahead!
1. Nathan, A. et al. (2018). The Role of the Built Environment on Health Across the Life Course: A Call for CollaborACTION. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(6) 1460-1468.