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Employee Wellness News

Posted: July 31, 2023

August 2023 Employee Wellness Newsletter

August is for allies, how we can be the help & cultivate a new normal! Join the Wellness at Work program, build community & earn rewards. A new program for joint & muscle pain plus more wellness trends in the news.

 

Picture with a sunset background and field of sunflowers. Words that say "Needing help is normal. Let's make talking about it and being the help normal, too."

Wellness Wire - A New Normal

I read a quote by Ronne Brown, "We deserve to live in environments that bring out the softness in us not the survival in us."   

Yet, too many times we witness the reality of harsh physical and emotional environments. Many among us are grappling with life-situation fatigue and dealing with environments that perpetuate a fight-or-flight survival response. When we feel like this on a regular basis, it puts us in cortisol-induced stress and anxiety-filled spiral. To cope, we may turn to behaviors like food and substance overuse, technology time-drain, and other less-healthy habits. This accelerates the slide in our mental and physical well-being. The cycle of illness versus wellness. Statistics indicate this is actually the norm and I think it's a shame.  

This is why I'm proposing a new normal - not just a mindset shift - but a different approach to workplace well-being.

Our theme for August is about creating allyship through altruism. Allyship is the ongoing intention of fostering a culture of belonging through listening, encouraging, supporting, championing, and advocating with colleagues despite backgrounds, differences, or disagreements. Allyship hinges on our willingness to be altruistic by focusing on others' needs, not our own self-interests.  It also goes one step further by purposefully embracing the diverse collective and lifting those around us who need compassion, support, or recognition. In most corporate well-being circles, this aligns with cultural competence. 

At any given time in our lives, we are going to need help. It may not be mental health support. It could be just assistance with an overwhelming project, understanding finances, clarification about a misunderstanding with an assigned task, or support from friends during a difficult time. Really, it can be any number of things. What's not normal is talking about or asking for help. We may feel shame, doubt, or our pride holds us back. Perhaps we're not in a situation where those bonds of belonging have been forged to the point that we feel secure enough with colleagues or supervisors to ask for help.  (This is not to imply that areas of our organization don't have this. I've witnessed allyship in many, many ways across APS.)

There is this idea of individualism versus isolation. Where a person just wants to 'do their own thing', which is fine, as long as they're not feeling isolated. Or, because of their individualistic nature, there is an assumption they want to be isolated and thus not always included in a group collaboration or event.  While some people are individualists, most still want to be at least asked to be included.

Additionally, we may not immediately recognize when someone is struggling and need support. Let's face it, we have busy, complicated lives of our own. In any given season our capacity to be the help can be limited as well. For some of us, it's awkward and we don't know what to say or how to say it. 

 If this is you, know that you're not alone. Having the right tools to start the conversation is, well, where we need to start. 

How to start the conversation:

Judy Venczel, LPCC, Counselor and Certified Mediator in the APS Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers this advice: 

It's important to consider a private setting with limited distractions such as an office, going for a walk, etc.  Express concern and be direct.  Ask how they are feeling and describe the reasons for your concern. Acknowledge their feelings and listen, openly, actively, and without judgment. Offer to help. Provide reassurance that this will pass and that there is a lot of support and help available. Be patient. Recognize that helping someone doesn't happen overnight. Continue reaching out with offers to listen and help.

Judy gives these starters to help you know what to say:
  • "I've been worried about you. Can we talk? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?"
  • "I see you are going through something. How can I best support you?"
  • "I care about you and am here to listen. Do you want to talk about what's been going on?"
  • "I've noticed you haven't seemed like yourself lately. How can I help?"

APS offers all employees and immediate family members free, confidential counseling services through the EAP department. No copay or insurance card is needed.  Virtual and in-person sessions are available. Please call 505-880-3718 to schedule an appointment.

A 2022 Gallop article "What Drives a Culture of Belonging" states that belonging is about being respected, welcomed, and valued. All of these aspects play an integral role in our social, emotional, and intellectual well-being. We have an innate need to feel like we belong yet 40% of people say they feel isolated at work. It's widely noted that our society is experiencing a loneliness epidemic that correlates to (and can be a result of) depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, and other preventable chronic illnesses. 

The article goes on to list that in a culture of belonging:

  • Everyone appreciates you for what you bring to the group.
  • There is a genuine desire for meaningful relationships.
  • There is an appreciation for the differences between people.

There is no "pick me first" type of schoolyard game dynamics. No one is left last or feeling like the least contributor to the whole. Every person on the team matters and is valued. 

Besides the fact that cultivating a culture of belonging through altruism goes a long way to recruiting and retaining talent, it also makes where we work - and spend the majority of our waking hours - simply a better place to be. If we're spending that much time on something, shouldn't it feed the beautifully diverse aspects of our well-being?  

How to build belonging in groups/teams 

  •  Resist assuming needs and ask clarifying questions.
  • Be an active listener
  • Try not to stereotype and put people in boxes
  • Don't let fear of failure, or saying the wrong thing, keep you from trying
  • Try to understand from another's point of view, be empathetic and encourage different ideas/opinions in a 'no judgment zone' atmosphere. 
  • Schedule regular connection times and mix role groups to encourage different business area/school group collaboration.
  • Regularly express gratitude for the different-diverse- talents in your team/school/dept by adding a simple recognition program  
  • Add (or keep) some type of authentic interaction in employee meetings. 

As we forge through the first couple of weeks of school establishing operational norms for the year, my encouragement to you is to consider the norm of how we can help one another and bring a sense of softness in our interactions to buffer the hard-edged realities we sometimes face. 

It's in that softness we learn to lean on each other, open lines of communication, and encourage a more balanced, healthful way of survival that intrinsically cultivates a connected sense of community and well-being. 

For more direction on simple ways to build allyship, connect to the APS Employee Wellness Event Calendar. Every day this month has small actions to build an allied-altruistic culture.  Also promoted in the calendar this month are wellness challenges on the new Wellness at Work/Virgin Pulse platform. Scroll below to access your Wellness at Work invitation to join and learn about more wellness resources. 

Do You Suffer From Joint & Muscle Pain? 

Hinge  Health is a new virtual physical therapy solution to help people with joint and muscle pain.

Get the relief you need to feel and function better with this NEW virtual physical therapy program by Hinge Health. 

Hinge Health gives you the tools you need to conquer joint and muscle pain including back, neck, knee, and shoulder pain, recover from injuries, prepare for surgery, and stay healthy and pain-free.

Learn more and register for the program. Begin your journey today with a physical therapist and health coach team!

Hinge Health is available at no cost to employees covered under the APS Benefits plans and eligible dependents.   

New!  Expanded Benefits for Weight Loss, Diabetes, Blood Pressure & Mental Health!

A description of the enhanced benefits of livongo.

Manage diabetes, pre-diabetes, blood pressure, weight and healthy lifestyle goals, and mental health with this integrated wrap-around solution. Livongo is a holistic program that empowers people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other health challenges to feel better and do more. 

This is an integrated solution with free 1-1 health coaching, mental health support, and connected device monitoring.  Depending on your health condition you'll receive a blood pressure cuff, glucose meter/test strips,  and/or connected scale. It's all seamlessly integrated through a mobile app with results you can share with your doctor. 
*This is a free program for all employees and eligible dependents under the APS Benefits plans. 

Getting started is easy!  

  • Text “GO APS” to 85240 to learn more and join
  • Join by visiting Go.Livongo.com/APS/register
  • Or call 800-945-4355 and use the registration code: APS

Register Anytime For The New Wellness at Work Well-being Platform

picture with people eating well, moving and text about the new wellbeing platform.

APS partners with The Solutions Group to bring you a variety of well-being programs as well as the Wellness at Work platform and employee wellness incentive program. We are happy to announce our well-being program had a significant upgrade in the transition to a new platform called Virgin Pulse.

The wellness program through the Solutions Group is still called "Wellness at Work" but the platform is hosted on Virgin Pulse.

The new mobile app has enhanced wellness options, easier access, and simplified activity syncing.

Full-time employees received an invitation email on Jan. 4,18, Feb. 23, and July 11 from Wellness at Work  wellnessatwork@phs.org (it's not spam). Do a search for the email invitation with your link to join. 

Employees on the previous platform can access your new Wellness at Work platform with the same username & password.  New users can easily register in less than 5 minutes. This is open to all full-time APS Employees. (*Additional instructions are in the APS employee wellness event calendar.)

Note: If you are a full-time APS employee covered as a dependent under the Presbyterian Health Plan, or ANY health plan, register as a 'non-covered' APS employee. If you are a full-time employee NOT covered by APS Benefits plan, register under "non-covered" APS employee. 

The 2023 APS Employee Wellness Incentive Program runs from Jan. 1, 2023 - Dec. 31, 2023. This is a voluntary wellness reward system for all full-time employees. 

Financial Wellness with Nusenda

Nusenda Credit Union has been the Albuquerque Public Schools Federal Credit Union since 1936 and offers comprehensive financial services to APS employees and their family members. 

The APS Employee Wellness Banzai Site offers financial literacy courses and interactive simulations that engage users as they learn about finances and how to build credit, reduce debt and/or save for life expenses like buying a home or car, starting a family, and planning retirement. Take a look at the Nusenda benefits flyer and reach out to Nusenda for more information. 

 August Well-being Webinars

Every month APS employees have access to a variety of well-being webinars. All webinars are recorded.  All the information and links/QR codes to join are in the Employee Wellness event calendar *Register and receive the recording for on-demand viewing at a time that is convenient for you

  • Saturday, Aug. 5, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. - Life on Mindfulness workshop & meditation
  • Wednesday, Aug. 9, 12:00-1:00 pm & Aug. 23 3:30 pm: BCBS NM Members - Well onTarget Information Session
  • Wednesday, Aug. 16, 12:00-1:00 pm Mastering Time Management - Fit more joy into your day! 
  • Monday, Aug 28, 12:15-12:30 Mindset Monday- Mindful Budgeting
  • Thursday, Aug. 24, 12:00- 1:00 pm Cooking Show - SEA - Food Can Be Easy! 

Virtual and Email-Based Wellness Opportunities 

  • Life on Mindfulness: Check out the new Life on Mindfulness website with the password APSLOM. This is a free, flexible program for all employees that offers daily drop-in meditations, new weekly and monthly content, featured meditations, and Saturday workshops. Everything is recorded for on-demand access. Links for daily drop-ins and the Saturday sessions are in the APS Employee Wellness Calendar. Enroll in the Life on Mindfulness Program for all content and email reminders. This site is mobile phone optimized so you can access a wide variety of recorded meditations anytime, anywhere. *The Life on Mindfulness program is open to all APS employees. 
  • Health Coaching: If you would like help with managing a chronic illness and weight loss to improve your health, or to simply feel better, APS offers free health coaching to all APS employees. *Open to all APS employees.
  • 30 Ways to Well-being is an email-based program. Register and receive daily wellness emails with simple yet innovative practices to do every day. This will bring new awareness for you around stress, sleep, movement, nutrition, connection, and more! This is an ongoing program. Enroll and engage at your own pace. *Open to all APS employees.

On-Site Wellness 

Short wellness presentations for school staff and APS departments. We can tailor to your needs and fit time ranges from 15-60 minutes. Some topics include:

  • Just the basics - APS wellness benefits and resources
  • Stress, Burnout, and Resilience
  • Social well-being
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Financial Well-being
  • Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Health
  • Understanding Healthcare Costs & Medical Consumerism

Schedule Pet Therapy

This is for APS employees. If you would like to offer your staff or department a couple of hours of furry-cuddle-stress-relieving therapy time, fill out this request form. Please note that accommodations must be made for any colleagues who have allergies to dogs. 

Your monthly dose of fitness, nutrition, and wellness trends!

 News: Strength Training for Weight Loss

For those interested in weight loss and management, here’s more evidence to support the value of strength training to lower body fat. 

 Nutrition: Protein in Meat Substitutes for Muscles

Can protein in meat substitutes tilt the balance in favor of building muscle to the same degree as their genuine counterparts? 

 Mind-Body: Walking and Social Connection

People may want to consider supporting and joining simple local activities, such as neighborhood walking, buddy/work-break walking groups,  to boost “social capital.” 

 Recipe: Chickpea Pasta With Avocado Sauce

The nutritional résumé of avocado is a likely reason it can have a positive impact on heart functioning, making this creamy chickpea pasta much more comforting.  

 Fitness Handout: Lessons for Living Longer

People who live in the world’s Blue Zones are living longer. What are they doing to increase longevity?