Student-led wellness breaks boost employee morale

Nearly every day of the week, students in the Health Physical Education and Recreation program lead wellness breaks. The breaks are designed to give HPER students hands-on experience in their major and UAA employees a break during their work day in order to relax, de-stress and improve their work performance.

UAA Employee Appreciation Day, 2018. Kyra McKay
UAA Employee Appreciation Day, 2018. Kyra McKay
UAA Employee Appreciation Day, 2018. Kyra McKay
UAA Employee Appreciation Day, 2018. Kyra McKay

Wellness breaks encompass a holistic approach of wellness, which includes six dimensions; physical, occupational, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. This approach intends to give participants a more complete definition of wellness.

“When we go through wellness, I think most people completely skip to physical health, but wellness is just so multidimensional,” Benjamin Griffith, a senior physical education major and wellness break leader, said. “We’re just trying to change that narrative around and actually educate people for a healthy life.”

The breaks are very flexible and tailored to the participant’s needs and the specialties of the student leaders. Popular activities in the past have been full body stretching, lightweight exercise, mediation, massages and art therapy.

“I personally love exercising, and I love sharing that passion with others… I feel like whoever comes appreciates that, too,” Yvonne Jeschke, a senior studying physical education with an emphasis in sport management, said. “All they want is a stress relief from work, and they can just distract themselves with some movement.”

The activities are located in multiple locations on and off campus and at various times in order to include as many participants as possible.

“By having these wellness breaks at work being brought to employees, it’s eliminating most or all of the barriers that people have, including time, money, location and motivation,” Kyra McKay, a graduate with a bachelor’s of science in physical education with an emphasis in leadership and fitness, said.

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McKay is the first ever Employee Wellness Practicum Coordinator. McKay has worked closely with the Employee Wellness Program in various positions since it began in 2015. After a staff morale survey conducted by Staff Council showed low results, Staff Council reached out to HPER and asked them to provide in-person wellness programs to boost employee morale.

“My favorite part is the social aspect that these wellness breaks bring and seeing employees and how they’ve never met each other before when they work in the same building, getting to interact with each other, and seeing those relationships build,” McKay said.

Aside from benefiting the employee participants and creating long-lasting relationships, wellness breaks are also beneficial to the student leaders.

“[Leading] definitely keeps me organized,” Kian McNair-Speech, a physical education major with an athletic training minor, said. “I get to learn new things, too. When I’m teaching, I’m gaining knowledge and learning just as much as [the participants] are. It’s such a friendly and non-pressured environment.”

Coming up next in the wellness break schedule is a staff and faculty wellness break on Oct. 23 at Mat-Su College, led by Cooper Hanson in the Fred & Sara Machetanz Building, Room 202, from 2:30 – 3 p.m.

On Oct. 24, a core work wellness break in the Social Science Building, Room 213, will be led by Casey Wright from 11:30 – 12 p.m. Carlin Scott will lead “Rid That Afternoon Dip” in the Allied Health Science Building, Room 147, from 12:20 – 12:40 p.m, and Benjamin Griffith and Coby Smith will lead “Essential Steps to Increase Workday Wellness” from 2:30 – 3 p.m. in the Administration and Humanities Building, Room 148.

For a full schedule including the times and locations of upcoming wellness breaks, visit the UAA Employee Wellness page on the UAA website.