By: Mila Jokovic 

While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted operations for various groups around campus, the Wellness Committee looked for ways to keep Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) staff connected when working remotely.

“People always want a sense of community,” says Matt Coyne, an account coordinator in CEE’s Co-operative Education unit. “There was a lack of community as we all went to remote work and couldn’t do much outside of the house.”

Formed in 2019, CEE’s Wellness Committee and aligns itself with the University of Waterloo’s Wellness Collaborative. Currently, the committee has 16 members from across CEE’s six units.

CEE’s Wellness Committee prioritizes “mental wellness, spiritual wellness, sense of belonging, active living and healthy eating, and commitment to wellness at all levels,” explains Ross Johnston, executive director of Co-operative Education and founder of the committee. To promote these values, the Wellness Committee hosts engaging events for the CEE staff such as mental health workshops, cooking classes, seminars and trivia. 

Part of our ongoing strategic plan to develop talent for a complex future includes future-proofing ourselves

Ross Johnston, executive director of Co-operative Education

“Wellness Week, and the ongoing wellness activities offered throughout the year, help to equip our staff with the tools to handle a volatile and evolving world. One of the highlights is that we’ve seen increasing engagement across the portfolio and participation, not just on our committee, but also in terms of people attending the events that folks helped put on for their colleagues. We're really emphasizing the importance of a connected, supportive and inclusive community.”

CEE has also hosted two Wellness Weeks—the first was held in December 2021 and was an opportunity to limit meetings, give staff a chance to catch up on work, and take time for their own personal wellness and wellness-promoting activities. After positive feedback from many staff, CEE had a second Wellness Week in Spring 2022. Due to the nature of some of the units and staff roles, not all CEE staff were able to participate in the Wellness Weeks. However, the CEE leadership team supports all staff in making time to prioritize their wellness and ensure their wellbeing.

“So often people talk about mental health and wellbeing, but they don't put things into action,” says Michelle Maree a records coordinator in CEE’s co-operative education unit. “Not only does the Wellness Committee talk about the importance, but they put on a Wellness Week to focus on mental health.”

The activities hosted by the Wellness Committee are beneficial to many employees, especially while working from home without the opportunity to interact with coworkers face-to-face.

Steve Barr, a student advisor in CEE’s co-operative education unit commented that “It’s always great to see the smiles, just that refreshing change from the day-to-day grind. It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch with people just by not being in the regular routine of a pre-pandemic world. These wellness activities go a long way to help us stay connected with colleagues.”'

To emphasize their commitment to mental wellness, the committee holds workshops centered around mental health awareness. In May 2022, the committee hosted a session called Building Resilience: Coping with Uncertainty. Sue Fraser, employee career advisor and learning specialist from the Centre for Career Action, hosted the session.

One of the committee’s most popular events is trivia, with questions about sports, music and pop culture. In addition to providing CEE staff with a fun activity, the trivia events have introduced discussion around important topics. For Black History Month, staff participated in a trivia game that was less about competition between colleagues, and more about educating peers on key themes.

“I am grateful that we've been able to utilize the quiz aspect into an educational component,” says Johnston. As we begin to return to more in-person work, the Wellness committee plans to continue with virtual events and activities to accommodate our hybrid work environment.

CEE staff can expect more wellness events in the upcoming months centered on LGBTQ2S+ Pride, National Indigenous History Month and more. The Wellness Committee also encourages staff to share ideas for upcoming events with any of the committee members.

Thank you to the CEE Wellness Committee members.