Ashley Krul, MSEd, CWP, CHC
Ashley Krul received a bachelor’s in exercise science with a concentration in physiological sciences. She then received a master’s in exercise physiology – adult fitness and wellness education. She is a Certified Wellness Practitioner through the National Wellness Institute as well as a Certified Health Coach.
: When we think about wellness in the workplace and what that means to all of us, it probably means different things to different folks. And that's why it's great to have my guest today, Ashley Cruel. She's the program coordinator of Employee Wellness at Suma Health, and she's gonna help us to define the terms and understand what wellness means, whether that's physical, financial, or otherwise.
This is Healthy Vitals, the podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Ashley, it's so great to have your time today. We're going to talk about wellness in the workplace and what that means in practical terms, in terms of like, you know, what you do. So, what does that mean to have wellness in the workplace?
: First off, I would love to define what wellness actually means. So, wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence. And this is the definition by the National Wellness Institute. Wellness is everything that contributes to healthy living. Wellness is positive and affirming. Wellness is not just diet and exercise, as most may have always assumed. But I think since COVID happened or occurred, people are starting to realize this. There is so much more that contributes to wellness and the successful outcome of being well.
So to answer your question, having wellness in the workplace refers to all health promotion activities or policies that support positive employee health, wellbeing, and behavior, which will ultimately create a positive workplace and positive employee performance.
: Yeah, that's the goal, right? And I think you're right. Whether it's because of COVID or not, when it comes to wellness, we're thinking more about, you know, not just the physical, but also the mental part of it. And so, I'm sure that you're addressing all of that. And maybe you could tell us a little bit about the dimensions of wellness.
: Absolutely. So based off of the National Wellness Institute, there are six dimensions of wellness. These dimensions encompass or make up what is one's overall wellness. The first dimension is occupational wellness, which is your wellness in the workplace. The second dimension is physical wellness, which is being physically active, and also understanding how your body functions on a daily basis, as well as your body's warning signs. The third dimension is social wellness, which is maintaining the quality of relationships in your life and communicating with others. The fourth dimension is intellectual wellness, which is the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can benefit our personal and professional lives. The fifth dimension is spiritual wellness. This could be personal beliefs and values that one may have that provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. This is not necessarily a belief in a higher power, but it could also mean having a connection with nature or just an overall outlook on life. So, finally, the sixth dimension is emotional wellness. This would be feelings that you have and how to healthfully manage them and understand them.
So again, these six dimensions are what the National Wellness Institute believes make up one's wellness. But I also like to include three other dimensions myself that I believe are very important to one's overall wellness and should be included as well. And these dimensions are financial wellness, which is understanding financial processes related to maybe savings, income and debt, while utilizing resources to achieve long-term goals towards future financial objectives. The second is nutritional wellness, which is having a nutritionally balanced diet. And this one is typically included in the physical wellness dimension, but I think it's important to kind of separate these two. And then, finally, environmental wellness, which is your space of living and being, and this would include your home and your workplace.
: Nice. And yeah, I'm going to take some notes on this one. I want to have you give us some tips on financial wellness. We could probably all use some suggestions, especially when it comes to our finances.
: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So find ways to save money at work, whether that be packing a lunch instead of buying, which surprisingly may help you save money, but also keep you mindful of what you're eating as well. I would also highly recommend investing in a retirement program that is offered at your workplace, especially if they offer a company match. Invest enough to get the match because that is essentially free money.
Another tip that maybe most don't consider is have an emergency fund just in case you were to lose your job. Some say three months is typically enough for an emergency fund. But for me personally, I like the idea of having six months saved up. If not resolved or prevented financial problems can interfere with work and cause sleeping issues, which will obviously leave you feeling tired at work, may cause mental fatigue from thinking about it all the time, could cause you to lose focus. It may cause you to have a negative outlook on life and could possibly even create disturbances with coworkers. So, it's important to be financially well. All of these tips or suggestions don't have to be accomplished all at once, but changing just one thing will make all the difference.
: Yeah, I definitely can. What are some physical wellness tips you can share?
: So, a few physical wellness tips would be just make sure that you're getting up and moving as often as you can. Exercising at any sort of capacity is what is most important, but it's always recommended to get some sort of strength training in, aerobic exercise, such as maybe running, biking, swimming, including stretching in your routine as well to improve range of motion and, you know, keep your body as limber as possible. Monitor your vital signs such as your blood pressure and your heart rate as well. Know what your normal blood pressure is. Know what your normal heart rate is. Know what your labs are, such as your cholesterol, tiglycerides, glucose. And always make sure to visit your primary care physician every year for a well visit and be up-to-date on all preventative screenings and always understand body warning signs. If something feels off or different, don't waste the moment. Get checked by a doctor as soon as you possibly can.
: Yeah. Like today, I know that my back hurts because I had to shovel snow because we got a bunch of snow overnight. But you're so right. You know, those wellness visits and just listening to our bodies and all that. So, great suggestions. Let's talk about social wellness, what that means exactly, and how can we improve that at work.
So, social wellness is maintaining positive relationships and communication with others. Then, that could be with family, friends, and coworkers. The overall goal with social wellness is to live in a harmony with others rather than conflict. And how you can improve on social wellness at work is by always making sure to communicate with coworkers.
Also, spending quality time with your coworkers is so important. This brings everyone closer, makes everyone feel more comfortable and at ease too. Another thing that employees can do is, you know, have a gathering or a party or a potluck of some sort. And I know this is kind of prevented quite a bit during COVID, but maybe you're able to do it now more often, but even just eating together whenever there's a possibility to do so. You could even go for a walk with your coworkers during breaks. The overall goal is to find ways to spend that quality time together and create a workplace bond. And, you know, finally, always make sure to help your coworker if there is a need. When you help others, they are more likely to be adamant to help you when needed. You can also learn so much from others and learn valuable skills by helping a coworker out.
Yeah, definitely. So, let's move to intellectual wellness. What does that mean exactly? How do we keep our minds sharp, if you will? Maybe you can give us some tips.
: Yeah. Intellectual wellness is the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can benefit our personal and professional lives. It's the desire to constantly learn. And there are various ways that you can improve on intellectual wellness in the workplace. And some of those ways are, you could learn a new role or a task. By learning something new, you begin to see the overall big picture of how things may work in your company. By learning a new role or task, you become more valuable or beneficial to the company, and you also add diverse skills to your toolbox as well. Secondly, always ask questions. You're bound to always learn something new if you just ask. And finally, do something out of your comfort zone, something that you don't typically do, and something that will challenge your mind. Don't always choose the easier assignments. Again, you're bound to learn new skill sets by opening your mind to new things.
Yeah, I love that. Just kind of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone when you can. What are some of the ways and things you've done at Summa Health, you know, in terms of implementing wellness options for employees at Summa?
My main focus was always to encourage employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well and staying active. And while I still believe these are very, very important, there is a need to focus on mental health now that is greater than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have wellness options that serve all dimensions. But some of our bigger initiatives for employees include our Oasis Room, which is located at our main campus, which is a room that employees can go to in order to escape from the chaos for a bit. This room has low lighting, calming music, yoga mats, and just a calming aura for employees to utilize 24/7. We also have three Code Lavender carts available for departments to utilize should a traumatic event or situation occur. And this cart is stocked with Keurig K-cups, chocolates, cookies, information about our employee assistance program, as well as the stress management tools that we have for employees. This cart is to be utilized in a space for employees to just take a mental break when some sort of traumatic event may have occurred.
We also have four free fitness rooms that are located at various sites for employees to access, and two of them are available 24/7. And these are very much utilized. And I also hold various wellness challenges such as the yearly Maintain Don't Gain Challenge, which begins before Thanksgiving and ends after the new year. And the goal of this challenge is for employees to maintain their weight and is definitely an employee's favorite. I also hold two walking challenges yearly that are held through our vendor portal and employees can sync their phones and tracking devices to the challenge. And then, I also hold other virtual challenges through our portal, such as the Sleep Challenge, Stressless Challenge, and a Water Drinking Challenge. I'm even hosting a virtual freezer meal workshop series for employees coming up. So, I'm eager to see how that works out. But my main goal is to have a wide range of wellness options for employees so that there's some things for everyone to enjoy and utilize.
: Yeah, definitely a wide range. You are very ambitious and I know Summa cares so much, you know about their patients and their communities and also their employees. So, great to hear what you're doing to help them. And as we wrap up here, what's the biggest advice you have for someone interested in wellness or self-care?
Yeah, my biggest advice is to invest in yourself. And when I say this, I don't mean that you have to go to the spa to get a massage, go on a shopping spree, or even go on a vacation, although I definitely prefer vacation for self-care. You don't have to spend a dime to invest in yourself. You can do something as simple as taking time for yourself alone, just giving your mind a rest and try to think about absolutely nothing. Maybe relax and binge on a series. Go for a walk or my personal favorite is waking up earlier, especially if you live at home with others. I absolutely love waking up earlier than everyone else, even if it is just 20 to 30 minutes earlier. I can gradually wake up and enjoy my coffee in peace for a little bit and it just starts the day off right for me. Otherwise, the day just starts with chaos and it doesn't put me in for a good start to the day. But I guess what I am saying is make sure that whatever you're doing, it's enjoyable. It's what you want to do. It's not what society thinks you should do, and it's what eases your mind, body, and because that is what wellness and self-care is all about.
: Yeah, it sure is. And you know, for me, I can totally identify with what you're saying. I love to get up earlier than my family, have that coffee. Sometimes I put some Legos together. I'm really into Legos in my old age, sort of returning to my childhood in some weird way. So, I put on some music on our smart speaker. I maybe put a Lego set together and I have a nice cup of coffee while everybody else is still asleep. So, I totally hear you and I really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much. You stay well.
Yes, not a problem. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
: And if you're interested in working for a company that's committed to supporting wellness in the workplace, visit summahealth.org/careers
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And if you found this podcast to be helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the full podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time