When the results from the last WSU employee survey were released, the Office of Research (OR) was surprised that most employees had little to no information about the health and wellness programs offered at the University.

In response to the survey, Denise Keeton, assistant director of business operations in the Office of Commercialization, created the “New Year, New You: Healthy Lifestyle Challenge” for OR employees to participate in throughout the month of January.

“A few years ago, I made some healthy lifestyle changes for myself. Shortly after, I started to see positive changes in other areas of my life as well,” said Keeton. “After the Office of Research All-Hands Staff Meeting, where we talked about wellness options available at WSU, I started to think about how a wellness challenge could be beneficial for our office.”

“The goal of this challenge is to help people in the Office of Research improve their overall health,” said Keeton. “Anybody can do something for one week, but to do a challenge for a whole month requires people to make an effort to make small changes to their daily lives. This challenge is designed to help participants create long-term habits that they can continue once the challenge is over.”

OR employs nearly 90 people in 16 different units. Of those 90 people, 37 people from 14 units signed up to participate in the challenge. Keeton divided everyone into six groups at random.

“People give up easier if they are only competing against themselves. By placing everyone into teams, my hope is that participants will encourage, motivate and support each other while also getting to know other people within the OR,” said Keeton.

In an anonymous post-challenge survey, one participant commented how much they enjoyed participating as a team, saying, “Doing something healthy and meaningful as a work group was really refreshing. We often work on work projects together, but working on something so personal was a bonding experience and an opportunity to connect on a more holistic level. I interacted and connected with people I would have never connected with.”

Each week, participants had the opportunity to earn 10 points per day for their team. Points were earned by completing a workout or a physical activity, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy and nutritious meals, completing acts of self-care, and watching for emails explaining daily or weekly challenges for an opportunity to add bonus points.

“I incorporated self-care into this challenge because our mental health is as important as our physical health. This time of the year can be especially difficult for mental health as the January blues often set in. By including self-care, the challenge encourages people to do something that helps feed their soul,” said Keeton.

A second participant praised the inclusion of healthy tips, saying, “I incorporated a lot of the water tips, as well as the positivity tips. I’m always depressed during the winter, so my mindset and general food and water consumption dips. It was good to have small notes reminding me to focus on those things, as well as little tips on how to do better.”

Each activity was valued between one and three points. Participants were asked to track the amount of points they earned each week and submit their tracking forms to Keeton on Monday of the following week. Each person’s points contributed to the overall group’s team points.

Everyone who turned in their tracker before the deadline was entered into the weekly random prize drawing. Each prize reflected a different aspect of a healthy living lifestyle.

Additionally, each week Keeton sent out emails with tips and information that participants could use to incorporate into their healthy lifestyle choices. She also shared a list of wellness classes and other wellness options open to all WSU employees.

“I wanted to keep people engaged,” said Keeton. “Some participants didn’t know that wellness classes were offered at WSU. By providing a list of days and times when these classes took place, I informed them about what resources are available and when.”

The challenge, which wrapped up on Sunday, February 2, received such a great response from participants that Keeton is thinking about the possibility of hosting more challenges in the future.

“I would love to host a challenge three or four times a year,” said Keeton. “My hope is that other units will see what we’re doing and get inspired to do something similar. Perhaps an opportunity will arise where we could collaborate with another office on a joint challenge.”

The winning team, named Trifecta, was announced on Wednesday, February 5, and included Thom Allen, Cascade Herriott, Tyler LaVoie, Esther Pratt, Dan Vakoch, and Nina Woodford.

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Self-care while working from home

It’s not easy to be at home 24/7. We are used to going to work, being around other people, and simply enjoying the freedoms of life. As many of us are adjusting to working from home, here are some ideas that could help all of us with the transition.

Ways to Eliminate Distractions While Working Remotely:
Get Dressed: Are you wearing sweats or your favorite comfy clothes? It may feel nice for a few days to be in your lounge wear, but for work, does it help you be productive? Try wearing clothes that make you feel ready for work.
Create a designated Office Space: Make a little office area in a corner or a room. Include a desk, chair, lamp, and dedicated workspace where you can leave your laptop. This will make a huge difference.
Use a To-Do List: Even if this is not something that you normally need to do, it could still be helpful in the remote work environment. At the beginning of each day, write a list of what you need to get done that day. You may need to re-evaluate the list during the day, but having it to refer to will really help.
Break up Your Work: Sometimes it can be very daunting to work on the same thing for hours at a time. Make a plan to mix things up throughout the day. Take a break from one project and work on something new. This could help keep your brain more focused on the task at hand. You might even surprise yourself with your efficiency.
Post Your Schedule/Communicate Your Intended List with Colleagues: Communicate with your unit staff/co-workers. Then even if you think you have communicated enough, communicate some more. We are all working by ourselves. Sometimes it gets lonely and we need to be reminded that everyone is still out there working with us. One way to do this is share you plans for the day. Check in as you finish or have updates. It helps keep you connected to others.
Know What Distracts You the Most: Let’s face it, there are way more distractions at home than in your office. So know what distracts you. Remove those distractions from the equation.It’s not always easy to do, but it will help.
Take Periodic Breaks from Your Laptop: Do you feel Zoom fatigue? Make sure to set some time aside each day to get up and stretch or exercise.