We start all Health Links success story interviews with the same question, “Why does your business care about being a healthy workplace?” When interviewing the Center for Health, Work & Environment, Events & Community Outreach Manager Cortney Cuff answered, “That’s a loaded question for this office.”
It’s true. Health Links™ is housed within the Center, whose mission is to “advance worker health, safety and well-being.” Creating healthy workplaces is the core purpose of what we do. “We definitely want to “walk the talk” when it comes to being a safe and healthy workplace,” says Brenda Thompson, educational administrative coordinator. “We preach it, but we want to live it too.”
SAFE (Safe And Fun Education) Squad, the employee group responsible for creating and promoting the Center’s health, safety and well-being programs, strives for an equal balance between safety and health-themed initiatives. In an office setting without many obvious occupational hazards, maintaining this balance can be a challenge. The SAFE Squad leans heavily on the Health Links Healthy Workplace Assessment™ as a tool for understanding what safety concerns in a seemingly hazard-free space such as an office.
Within a new employee’s first two weeks at the Center, a member of the SAFE Squad guides them on a scavenger hunt for all the safety-related locations and resources within the office including the nearest emergency exit stairwell, the fire extinguisher, AED, emergency landline phone, and first aid kit. The Center also encourages to pursue their physical safety by providing a winter safe driving course and ergonomic consultations for employee workspaces.
Each year the Center participates in the practice of shinrin-yoku, Japanese for “forest bathing.” Our team takes a leisurely, long walk in the Rocky Mountain foothills, accompanied by many breaks to sit, snack, and enjoy the peaceful forest. After the hike, we gather together for snacks and drinks a local restaurant.
Although shinrin-yoku is a close contender, there may be no better example of the balance between health and safety as the basket in the middle of the Center office which holds both fruit and chocolate.
“SAFE Squad helps the Center walk the talk,” says research instructor Jaime Butler-Dawson. “We don’t just recommend organizations encourage exercise in their workplaces, we do it ourselves. We take mental health breaks throughout the day, we exercise with our coworkers, we try to live up to our own recommendations.”
SAFE Squad, to no one’s surprise, has found Health Links™ an incredible asset in helping them walk the talk. “Our team has been much more focused since taking the Health Links assessment,” says Erin Shore, senior professional research assistant. “We have a set up a calendar with health and safety themes for each month which has encouraged us to be more strategic with our programs.”
“The assessment has helped us identify gaps in our program,” says Katie Guthmiller, Total Worker Health program coordinator. “As public health professionals, most of us are health and safety experts, but it’s nice to have a refresher on the basics on what our programs might be missing.”
Although the Center has the advantage of being made up of public health professionals, we face the same challenge most other organizations do when it comes to promoting health and safety—resources.
“We’ve done a really good job at getting creative with a limited budget,” says Cuff. “But time might be the most important resource. We set aside time to meet and through our creativity, we accomplish a lot, regardless of the amount of money we have.”
This allotment of resources, both time and money, is one of the many ways leaders at the Center demonstrate their commitment to Total Worker Health® for their own employees. “Leadership is consistent in attending our programs,” says Shore. They also model work-life balance, whether by taking advantage of flex time to spend with their families or by setting clear boundaries by not emailing employees over the weekend.”
With the help of dedicated employees, resources, involved leadership, and Health Links, the Center for Health, Work & Environment is “walking the talk” of employee health, safety, and well-being.
Written by Laura Veith, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Health Links and the Center for Health, Work & Environment based at the Colorado School of Public Health.