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Going about the business of re-energizing a Wellness Committee.

“It’s a lot easier than I thought to get people interested in wellness. I think people are looking for guidance, motivation, a push to get going, and to get inspired,” says Jackie Gomes, member of the Financial and Consumer Services Commission’s (FCNB) Wellness Committee.

In 2008, the committee was re-energized when their General Counsel came on board as the new chair. Under this new leadership, an Executive Management Statement was created that tells the story of the organization’s philosophy and is aligned with the same four focus areas of wellness that the Wellness Branch of the Department of Social Development addresses:

The commission recognizes the importance of a healthy workplace environment and is committed to employee wellness. Our Wellness Committee, comprised of management and staff, is established to implement and promote a wellness program.

To promote a healthy workplace environment, we are committed to supporting wellness initiatives and programs in the following four components of wellness:

1. Healthy Eating
2. Physical Activity
3. Psychological Wellness
4. Tobacco-Free Living

“We’ve been really supported by management,” says Jackie. “The impact on the organization is not big in terms of the amount of time employees need to take off to participate and they see the value. They are getting healthy, engaged employees as a return.”

With new energy flowing through the group, they took a look at the wellness activities they were already doing and built on what they already had. “A Lunch and Learn series was in place,” notes Jackie. “But since 2008, the committee meets on a more regular basis, and we have new initiatives and try new things every year.” Many of the activities they put on are run by volunteers and involve little extra cost.

Since the Commission has offices in both Fredericton and Saint John, each has its own Wellness Committee that tailors activities to their location’s specific needs. In Saint John, they hold one wellness week every three months that’s centered around a theme, like pumpkin carving in the fall, with activities happening every day during that week. A quarterly newsletter is released around the same time. In Fredericton, they’ve opted for a Wellness Wednesday, where one Wednesday per month is allocated to healthy activities.

A wellness survey is done every year to get a sense of what employees are enjoying and what they want more of. “There are some things you try for a while and then you try something different.”

A perfect example of an activity that has evolved is the Biggest Loser challenge, an activity that was done during one of the first years of the program to see who could lose the most weight. It was an activity that was initially popular but is no longer done because the group has become so fit! Now, they host a pedometer challenge and some walking and running groups have really taken off. “We now have one employee that challenges other employees to races as friendly competition,” says Jackie.

Group picnics are also popular, where the Wellness Committee sets up a table with a healthy lunch in an outdoor location that employees can walk to. Blankets are spread out, a table is set up and people socialize, eat and play a few games like ring toss and Frisbee.

“It’s a great way for everyone to get to know each other a bit better. Colleagues are coming together more because of the initiatives.”

And the workplace itself has changed as well. With the support of management, there are now standing workstations in both offices and flexible work arrangements were implemented. The fitness reimbursement was promoted and now gives employees the flexibility to choose physical activities that interest them like yoga and dancing. And the description of personal days was broadened to allow for volunteer opportunities. Vending machines were replaced with a Wellness Cupboard that the Wellness Committee restocks with healthy snacks. And every Monday, a fruit basket is delivered fresh for the employees to enjoy.

Another big component of the programming is biannual health assessments where a registered nurse comes in to do blood tests, giving employees the chance to learn about their blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides.

“Everyone loves these. We do it every second year, going back and forth between Fredericton and Saint John, and then you can see over the two years if your results have changed and if there is anything you need to focus on. At least half of the staff is involved in these health assessments.”

These assessments also give the Wellness Committee valuable information. “Based on the results, the RN will provide us with a report on what we might want to focus on as a Wellness Committee.” Jackie says that she’s noticed people change their eating habits to address their sodium intake and blood sugar as a result of these sessions. In fact, they had had to increase the size of their weekly fruit basket because it’s been so popular!

And the Wellness Committee has no shortage of volunteers: there are always people in the wings ready to come on board to help and contribute ideas. “It’s not a hard thing to do and not a hard thing to get people excited about,” says Jackie. “We have people waiting to get on the Wellness Committee!” It’s clear that everyone wants FCNB’s wellness story of healthy, engaged employees to continue!

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