Department of Health Norfolk
In order to have a successful workplace wellness program, it is imperative to have the support of leadership. Demetria Lindsay, M.D., District Director for Norfolk Public Health is an advocate for employee health and wellness programs. With her support, the best aspects of our CommonHealth wellness programs are the development of informative and creative ideas to help implement policy, system and environmental change within the organization. This method of design has been used to inform, educate and facilitate workplace measures to help discourage tobacco use and promote physical activities at our sites.
In efforts to help create a culture of healthy employees, one of our most impactful initiatives was to establish a local tobacco use policy and smoke free grounds for employees. With the support of management, the initial steps were to investigate, implement and enforce a tobacco and e-cigarettes use policy for all sites. This initiative was created to form a local enforcement policy consistent with Virginia Department of Health Tobacco Use Policy. However, instead of instituting a punitive mandate for smoke free grounds, it was our goal to inform staff in meetings and biweekly newsletters on ways to quit smoking and how to get help before implementing a new policy. Every effort was made to create awareness on how to break the habit of smoking and stressed the benefits of CommonHealth’s “Quit for Life” employee tobacco cessation program. In the meantime, environmental changes were implemented with smoke free grounds signage and ashtrays were removed from the main entrance. The new tobacco-Use Policy secured 100% official acknowledgement, signed receipt from all staff, and submitted to human resources. Supervisors and managers are responsible for enforcing and reporting policy violations.
The Quit for Life campaign was a success because we were able to reach out to help our employees with educational information, tobacco and smoking cessation resources, before implementing a clearly defined tobacco use policy and signs as part of our CommonHealth wellness program.
The Norfolk Health District strives to provide opportunities to encourage employees to get up and move more, along with CommonHealth campaigns to help promote physical activity in the workplace. Another successful campaign was our stairwell initiative. The goal of this physical activity was to encourage employees to incorporate stair climbing into their daily routines, instead of using the elevators. Environmental changes were made to enhance the physical environment and appearance of our stairwells. Through the support of a mini-grant through another organization, we designed and installed 18 artistic aluminum signs for all three stairwells at our main site. Each sign has motivational health and wellness messages. Also, signage was installed by all elevators and doorways to encourage employees to take the stairs. During the stairwell challenge, tracking cards were developed to count the number of steps taken by each employee. The winner who climbed the most stairs received a gift certificate that was donated by a staff member.
With the support of Cynthia Duncan, Regional CommonHealth Coordinator our campaigns and worksite initiatives have been successful in efforts to help improve the overall health and wellness of our employees.
James Madison University
The CommonHealth program has grown exponentially over the last year. We have moved this program from a weekly email blast that went out to a small group of individuals to a more comprehensive and interactive wellness program. Over the last year, we have promoted several wellness events/campaigns with high employee participation, including members of the university’s senior leadership team.
“Take a Ride, JMU” was synchronized with the state’s initiative, “Take a Ride, Virginia”. We invited local bike shops to set up on the Bluestone Trail that runs right through our campus. Employees were able to speak with cycling experts regarding safety, bike trails, and upcoming events. We had drawings throughout the day with bike-related prizes for people who attended the event.
We mirrored “Move It, Virginia” with our campaign, “Move It, JMU” by encouraging employees to move more during their work day. Participants submitted photos of how they found time during the workday to squeeze in a little more movement. The winner received a 45-minute massage.
One of our most popular campaigns was “The Biggest Loser”. We had 175 participants who collectively lost 1122.3 pounds during the competition. During the competition, we sent out recipes, exercise routines and inspirational messages to keep people motivated. Participants weighed in at specified times/locations across campus. We had an individual winner as well as a winning team. Winners received a tote bag stuffed with goodies to help keep them on track with their new, healthy lifestyles.
We ended the spring semester with “Step It Up”. This competition encouraged employees to log their daily steps with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps each day. Several participants logged over 10,000 steps each day. We had over 1,500 entries for a total of over 20 million steps taken! The winner received a new pair of walking shoes.
We are currently in the middle of our summer campaign, “School’s Out for Summer”. Participants are submitting photos of how they are balancing work and life during the summer and enjoying the beautiful weather. The winner of this contest will receive a gift from our local four-seasons resort.
We utilize social media, digital signage, emails and word of mouth to get information dispersed across campus and increase our participation. We have started kick-offs for each campaign. This has been a great way to increase excitement about the campaign! We will also use these as a tool to recruit wellness ambassadors from all areas of JMU.
We have a lot planned for the future of CommonHealth and employee wellness and JMU and are very excited to see our faculty and staff live healthy, happy lives!
Department of Environmental Quality – Tidewater Regional Office
The success of the CommonHealth Employee Wellness Program at the Department of Environmental Quality – Tidewater Regional Office (DEQ-TRO) in Virginia Beach finds its roots in foundational support from CommonHealth employees and DEQ-TRO employees. Not only do DEQ-TRO employees embrace the opportunities provided through periodic CommonHealth campaigns; but, we also have been enjoying lunchtime fitness classes for over 17 years.
Originally the classes were state-subsidized and overseen by a contractor for CommonHealth until the Summer of 2007 when the budget was cut as the nationwide economy showed signs of a recession. A core set of DEQ-TRO employees agreed that on-site classes were indeed beneficial and subsequently initiated an employee-funded fitness program which continues today. Over half of the employees who currently participate in the TRO lunchtime fitness classes started when the CommonHealth classes initially formed in the late 90s. Two of the participants retired in 2016 and still make it a point to attend classes currently.
Aside from the overall good feeling that class members receive after participating in class, other benefits include the ability to stay calm, focused, and productive at work; the chance to develop office relationships outside of individual programs; and the opportunity to be an example of healthy lifestyle choices in an office setting. Continued success for the CommonHealth and the lunchtime exercise programs is based on participant commitment and dedication as well as support from the DEQ-TRO Regional Director and DEQ management.
Likewise, CommonHealth Program, which initially spearheaded the lunchtime fitness classes, has shared new ideas and ways for DEQ-TRO employees (and their families) to choose healthy lifestyles as public servants. With her kindness, positivity, and sincerity, Ms. Cindy Duncan, our CommonHealth Regional Coordinator, has shared a wealth of information for us and has been one of our biggest fans over the years.
Department of Health - Prince William Health District
The most impactful thing about the CommonHealth wellness program for the Prince William Health District, Manassas Clinic appears to be a common goal of bettering ourselves through our daily choices. The fact that no one is going after a wellness goal “alone” seems to be very apparent. Many members of our team use their before work and lunch break time to go for walks or runs, often encouraging co-workers to come with. We are fortunate enough to have a summer farmer’s market every Thursday in which many of us walk to, and then lug our treasures back on our lunch break. Fresh and local healthy treats are the norm for many. Hearing the words “do you want to go for a walk before or after we eat?” are often heard throughout the building on any given day.
In addition, one of our Nurses recently began a “support group” of sorts after going to a diabetes prevention training in which she learned easy to use techniques the help prevent diabetes. Many began logging food intake and exercise times on a daily basis…making us all more aware and ultimately, more accountable for the choices we make when it comes to food and exercise.
For us, becoming CommonHealth Certified was less about “becoming certified” and more about recognizing the environment that both management and non-management alike have been utilizing for years. Yes, we have cake at our potlucks, but we also have an amazing array of fruits and veggies and healthy protein choices too, which helps everyone with their personal and common goals alike. If someone wants a buddy to walk with, it’s only going to take a minute to find one. And, when one person signed up for the “color-run,” a few others were all too ready to join as well. Many things in life are easier and/or more fun when done with others; and the wellness program has activities that have helped us incorporate just that into our daily lives.
The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) has participated in the state’s wellness program since its inception in 1986. VITA, and its predecessor agency, the Department of Information Technology, has always had enthusiastic CommonHealth coordinators, and has a tradition of providing CommonHealth programs as well as offering other fitness and wellness-related events for employees.
VITA currently has three coordinators who represent different areas in the agency and work together to plan programs and distribute materials. CommonHealth programs are presented on site, either as a seminar or as a learning station. Attendance is always very good, and lately it’s been so popular that we run out of incentives! We also have good participation by people who are not able to attend a program but instead review the materials on the website and submit coupons for the incentive. All of the programs are promoted in our monthly employee newsletter and reinforced by email messages sent to everyone in the agency. And, we provide healthy snacks and recipes at these events!
There is a bulletin board in the break room and a page on VITA’s intranet site dedicated to CommonHealth information and resources. VITA’s “Wellness Statement” is displayed on the intranet and explains that VITA and its leadership fully support CommonHealth and are committed to providing a workplace that encourages healthy behaviors. CommonHealth is part of the culture at VITA.
Aside from hosting CommonHealth programs, the coordinators at VITA offer additional opportunities for health and wellness activities. For more than 10 years, we have provided flu shots on site. We hold blood drives four times a year. Four times since 2014, we have sponsored a weight loss competition. Employees pay a nominal fee to enter. We have held team and solo competitions. An internal website is available for participants where weight loss tips, tools and information are posted. Winners split the money that is collected. A total of 109 participants have lost more than 523 pounds!
One of our favorite ways to offer healthy activities to VITA staff is to combine it with fundraising for the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC). For the last three years, VITA has held a 5K run / 2K walk to raise money for CVC. Employees pay an entrance fee, which is donated to CVC, and CommonHealth provides water and snacks. Last year’s event added a bit of childlike fun. For an extra donation, walkers could jump rope, hopscotch, hula hoop and play bean bag toss! A lot of fun was had raising money for a good cause! These events have brought in more than $1,500 for CVC charities.
We are very proud of our CommonHealth program at VITA and are committed to helping our employees be healthy and well.
Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services
We at DCLS pass the weekly well notes in emails, promote the current programs. We have organized many group events including group walking for 15-20 minutes. Our best participation for group walk was when the director got involved. We called the event ”Walk with the Director”. That made lots of others to join. When we get management support, it is always well participated program.
Everyone enjoys the CommonHealth related events. We do 30 min programs, send out emails and put fliers as well. Our most attended sessions are when the regional coordinator comes to the site and gives presentation. I have been told that attending these types of events was a good time spent away from the stressful day. We give out healthy treats from time to time either at the event or without the event. Treats are usually granola bars, fruits or water bottle at the end of group walking exercise. Also, giving the option to do the challenges was very successful. Governor’s challenge was very well participated. People enjoyed getting the little note along with the pin. This types of program and challenge can be offered again this year in the fall.
We had couple of additional different de-stress events here at DCLS. The coordinators from local meditation center came twice and we meditated as a group. After the interest received from the group and with the help of the management we have started meditation sessions here in DCLS. We have secured a room for three sessions of twenty minutes each on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This was a result of promoting programs during the Dial Down campaign. Again, this was possible because the management was extremely helpful and willing to work with employees. I was also able to get speaker for Reiki and Chakra balancing from “Qi to wellness”. She was very powerful speaker and got very good response from the employees. Many have signed up individual sessions with her later on.
We had a speaker who spoke on Hypnotism and how that works to start healthy life style including quitting smoking etc.
What I see here at DCLS as a CommonHealth coordinator is that everyone wants to participate and willing to make better choices for their overall wellbeing. When management gets involved and supports the health related programs, it makes a difference . As a result of CommonHealth programs and interest among the employees we are in process of starting group walks on regular basis instead of doing it occasionally. All wants to have a healthy lifestyle and everyone is willing to listen and learn from different programs. I do get feedback that everyone wants some kind of incentive to attend these programs. That gives them reason not to miss the event .I also get feedback that they would like to see more programs offered instead of just twice a year.
CommonHealth is a great way for the employees to learn about healthy choices and improve their health, body as well as mind. These programs can be fun when attended as a group.
The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth
The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) is the state agency responsible for preventing and reducing youth tobacco use and childhood obesity. Our initiatives include improved nutrition, reducing sugary drink input and increasing physical activity. VFHY staff are constantly discussing these topics and sharing the latest data and information regarding the negative health impacts of tobacco use, poor diet and lack of exercise, both in staff education and via outreach methods such as social media. We encourage participation in CommonHealth events such as 30 for the 30th, the Governor Weight Loss Challenge and the Walk the Skyline Challenge and has invited CommonHealth speakers to talk to staff on topic such as exercising at one's desk and how to manage and improve joint pain. VFHY also encourages our staff to eat healthy, exercise and choose to drink water instead of sugary drinks. Standing desks are available upon request in our worksites. VFHY also makes time available for employees to walk during lunches and breaks and encourages employees to move or exercise in their offices during breaks.
Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services
Through the CommonHealth program, the Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) has made great strides in improving the overall wellness of our office. The program has encouraged us to utilize the resources we have within our office to help shape the environment into a more health-conscious workplace that promotes positivity and productivity.
Our best wellness practices include the “Stand Up! Stand Out for Health” challenge, which is a health initiative that we started over a year ago to encourage staff members to move throughout the day by utilizing their standing desks to work while standing up. Throughout the year we challenge the OEMS staff to work while standing up for at least fifteen minutes every hour, for one day out of the week. The challenge has been well received and has encouraged many staff members to begin using their standing desks on a regular basis.
Our office Lunch and Learn sessions that are offered twice a month have also contributed to our efforts in improving workplace wellness. Each session provides staff members the opportunity to enjoy their lunch break while learning and discussing an array of topics ranging from information on Microsoft applications to work-life balance and topics on specific areas of health, which are shared through the CommonHealth presentations.
With the help of these initiatives, the Weekly Wellnotes and our office walking group, staff members at the OEMS are able to access a variety of health-related activities and information to help improve, not only their health, but their family’s health as well. Having that support from our management team has increased participation in health-related events and shows OEMS staff that there is a high level of interest and support in workplace wellness within our office.
VDOT really does strive to be an agency that is mindful of the importance of wellness in the workplace. It’s where we spent so much of our time so it makes sense to promote an environment where our employees have an opportunity to take care of themselves, both mentally and physically. We encourage walking clubs – having recently completed the Walk with Ease Program in May. We offer weekly Weight Watchers at Work meetings and try to incorporate healthy food choices at work functions. It makes for a happier, more productive workplace when employees feel they are a part of an agency that promotes such a culture.
Tidewater Community College
A sample of the appreciation for the CommonHealth program at Tidewater Community College from Agency Coordinator Chuck Thomas:
We are proud to be one of the elite agencies recognized as CommonHealth Worksite Certified. Our staff is enjoying the unlimited resources of calculators, nutrition, fitness, general health, challenges and work place stretching videos. Below are few comments from staff receiving our weekly wellnote.
On behalf of the faculty and staff of Tidewater Community College- Portsmouth Campus. We would like to thank the committee for providing the resources and tools to promote workplace health.
William and Mary
Words from the CommonHealth Agency Coordinator, Mane Pada, on revitalizing the program at W&M:
This is a fairly new role for me so I started with a blank slate. I quickly realized the importance of developing a robust and well-structured Health & Wellness program at W&M. The idea of promoting activities and projects that encourage our employees to become healthier individuals which -in my opinion- it translates into happier and more productive employees, really appealed to me. I have discovered since so much research that supports its benefits! The main challenge was to figure out how to get started!
I learned to reach out and I noticed a wealth of resources that -actually- were there the whole time but we have not utilized to our benefit. Organizations such as: Anthem, Alzheimer’s Association, CommonHealth of VA, Legal Resources, Thomas Nelson Community College, TIAA, etc. PLUS our own internal resources such as Campus Recreation, Counseling Center, our campus nutritionist, the IT Department, etc...all waiting to be asked to participate in our efforts!
Strategically speaking it seemed that I needed to begin by organizing these valuable list of potential topics into buckets and/or by specific areas.
Currently, most of the workshops and events I coordinate fall under the following categories (they all "belong" to the bigger hat, I call Health & Wellness):
I believe that all these different areas contribute and help our staff members and faculty feel more valued and appreciated. There is power in knowledge and knowing how to be healthier (physically and mentally); more financially savvy; aware of our legal resources; better trained in technology; etc. will encourage us to maintain a more enriched and balanced life which in turn will benefit and will transfer into our every day jobs and professional responsibilities.
This initiative is in its beginning stages. I am very excited about the opportunity to promote health and well-being. There is so much more we can do! I cannot wait to watch its progress!
CommonHealth – the Virginia Employee Wellness Program