As Workplace Wellness professionals, we know that certain programs require more hands-on management than other initiatives. In fact, launching a Wellness Day for an organization requires all hands-on deck! Now, imagine organizing simultaneous wellness days across over 50 different municipalities, and you’ll get a small picture of the task facing Rebecca Kolstee, one of our Certified Master Workplace Wellness Ambassadors

I interviewed Rebecca for our “Cultivating Healthy and Vibrant Workplaces” YouTube series to discuss the planning and hosting of their first ever Nova Scotia Municipal Wellness Day held in May of 2019 with 51 Nova Scotia municipalities that she supports as their Workplace Wellness Coordinator.

Rebecca also provided me with a detailed account of this year’s Municipal Wellness Day facilitated in May, 2020 and their last minute pivots to work around the pandemic. Be sure to check it out at the end of this article.

Before we jump into the details of their day’s events, let’s quickly review why “Workplace Wellness Days” are so important.  

What’s the Purpose of a “Workplace Wellness Day”? 

When your organization is ready to consider employee well-being, implementing a “Workplace Wellness Day” helps to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours, and builds a sense of team and culture cohesiveness. It can provide employees a fun, healthy and interactive way to connect and recharge as well as an opportunity to get to know and build relationships with senior leaders, management, co-workers and the organization’s Wellness Champions (i.e. team members who have been tapped to promote wellness initiatives within the organization).  

You may want to kick off new wellness initiatives with a special Workplace Wellness Day devoted to promoting healthier habits. Or, you may re-offer or promote past, successful initiatives that your organization has already embraced.  

Regardless of the reason, devoting an entire day to employee well-being is important for all stakeholders from employees and leaders to workplace wellness champions and coordinators.

Not only does this kind of day bring existing offerings to the forefront, it also helps promote a friendlier, more united office culture, and can serve as a much-needed break from the daily stressors of a typical workday…and in the end, cultivate happier, healthier organizations.   

Case Study: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Wellness Day Schedule 

Of course, if you don’t fill your wellness day with varied and enticing programming, employee engagement will likely fall off…fast.    

As a seasoned Certified Master Workplace Wellness Ambassador, Rebecca Kolstee knew just how crucial programming would be to the success of her municipal wellness days. But she also knew that every municipality—like every organization—is different, so she wanted to leave room for flexibility.  

To that end, she set up a website with programming suggestions. Each municipality was then free to choose as many—or as few—as they liked, creating unique schedules for the day.  

Here are some of the activities they hosted along with additional ideas for planning your own employee “Wellness Day”:  

Lunch and Learns: Team members bring lunch (or get served a healthy treat, depending on budget) and eat while partaking in a wellness-related presentation and discussion.  

Casual Day: Employees ditch their suits and heels and come in their comfiest attire (some organizations may need to include dress code suggestions in order to ensure a minimum level of decorum.) To expand the wellness day to the community, municipalities were encouraged to donate any casual day proceeds to a local charity of their choice.

Potlucks: Team members sign up to bring a healthy offering and pool their recipes, while sitting and socializing over the shared meal.  

Fitness Events: From relay races to morning 5Ks, any activity that gets team members to move more finds its perfect place on a Workplace Wellness day.  

Lunch Time Walks or Walking Meetings: Get the whole team to go for a noon time stroll or put forward the suggestion to hold walking meetings on your Wellness Day! 

Workplace Garden: This is a great time to start a wellness garden or use the day to harvest some fresh vegetables you have already grown.  

Virtual Reality Adventures: Host a dynamic event using a Virtual Realty apparatus that simulates any of the following experiences for employees: a soothing, stress releasing atmosphere; a physical workout or golf game; or a heart pounding shark adventure (as a form of escapism). The result will be very happy, energized employees.

 “Celebrate Success”: Acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of the employees and teams within your workplace. Take time to notice and celebrate what employees have done to make the workplace a more positive environment. 

Wellness Challenges: Use the wellness day to kick-start a wellness challenge. Offering health and wellness challenges is a fun way to help employees stay motivated. You can introduce a variety of different challenges, ranging from physical activity to healthy eating or staying hydrated. And be creative with the delivery: post pictures on social media; use apps that allow employees to challenge each other; or go for the personal touch with a face to face, onsite, introduction.  

These are just a few of the offerings that can make your Workplace Wellness Day a hit. But even with the most creative and exciting events, your organization’s Wellness Day will fall flat without these key elements: employee awareness, participation and buy-in. And, for many Workplace Wellness leaders, that can be the toughest piece of the puzzle! 

Building Excitement: the Crucial Key to Successful Wellness Days 

It can be challenging enough to get one organization to opt into wellness programming, but for Rebecca, that challenge was multiplied 51 times over.

Because of that, she told me…

“A main priority for the wellness program was to make it as easy as possible for their municipalities to deliver wellness initiatives throughout the day.”

In addition to the website with pre-designed program offerings, she also created unique social media platforms in order to promote their wellness days and build excitement.   

To train Wellness Champions in each municipality, Rebecca created (and recorded) a webinar that introduced the Wellness Day website, helping them understand how to get the most out of its resources.  

To secure top-down participation, Rebecca sent multiple emails to senior leaders, asking for their full support in promoting their Wellness Day to employees and elected officials. She also encouraged them to provide staff with flex time that would facilitate participation in the events.

To easily get the word out to participants, Rebecca pre-drafted promotional emails for wellness champions and senior leaders to send directly to staff.  

With careful pre-planning and promotion, and a wealth of engaging activities, Rebecca’s Nova Scotia-wide Workplace Wellness Days were a major success with over 60% of the municipalities participating in their first offering in May 2019, and a 20% increase in municipal engagement in 2020. 

Implementing “Workplace Wellness Days” are just one of the many ways in which our Workplace Wellness Center of Excellence Ambassadors like Rebecca are cultivating inclusive wellness offerings, enhanced well-being and healthier work cultures.

Launching a “Wellness Day” in Pandemic times!

At the time of preparing this article, Rebecca was kind enough to send me an overview of their second Wellness Day offered on May 22, 2020.

Captured below, is Rebecca’s account of the planning and facilitation of this year’s events and the improvisations required to work around the pandemic imposed challenges and limitations.

This year, I established a committee to help plan, promote and implement the initiatives. The committee had representatives from 5 municipalities from across the province. Due to the pandemic and physical distancing, many of the municipal employees were working from home, so we needed to put a spin on this year’s Wellness Day.

We created a host of activities that municipal employees and elected officials could do virtually and/or while maintaining physical distancing.

This year we wanted our Wellness Day to focus on gratitude. We all recognized that everyone has been working extremely hard through the pandemic, while also trying to deal with the tragic events (i.e. Nova Scotia mass shooting) that occurred in the Province. 

Our municipal employees, senior leaders and council members worked tirelessly to help our communities through these difficult times. To recognize and honor their efforts we arranged to have our senior leadership, namely our CAO’s (Chief Administrator Officers) and Council members, express their gratitude to their employees via recorded videos.

Here are a few of our leadership’s “Gratitude” videos saved to YouTube…

Our Wellness Day Events!

Leading up to this year’s Workplace Wellness Day we held a week-long wellness BINGO challenge and launched a 10-week Trek Challenge (i.e. walk, run, bike etc.) across Nova Scotia. We had over 300 participants sign up and currently engaged in this challenge which is amazing.

During the day itself, we hosted a “virtual” yoga session, nutrition talk and a cooking demo (i.e. spaghetti squash buffalo chicken).

We extended the day’s events into the evening with a “paint night” and trivia session.

Most of the sessions were recorded and placed under a password protected area on our website to provide employees with unlimited/future access to the sessions.

Reflections and Learnings!

The events were all very well received. Since the sessions were recorded, we are able to continuously monitor the viewership. This is one of our evaluation strategies of this year’s Wellness Day.

Our committee also conducted a thorough debrief of the Day. It was determined that more CAO’s embraced this year’s Wellness Day than last year’s. We also had an increased number of participants and are still experiencing participation via the ongoing events and views of our recorded events. 

It was helpful to have a team plan the initiatives this year. This process will continue next year. We also chose a theme for the day and provided a variety of activities to meet the varied needs and interests of our employees. 

The only thing we might do differently next year is start the planning process a bit earlier. Offering Wellness Days require a lot coordination and preparation. Therefore, starting the planning in February would be most ideal. Due to the pandemic, our priorities and resource allocations required a number of last-minute shifts and improvisations.

To learn more about our 2020 Municipal Wellness Day visit nsmunicipalwellness.ca/ or reach out at rkolstee@amans.ca.

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