‘Work Well’ program promotes culture of wellness at UND


Juan Pedraza

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‘Work Well’ program promotes culture of wellness at UND

It's really all about feeling well, working better, and taking charge of your own over all wellness. That's basically the mission—and the core commitment—of the University of North Dakota Work Well program, which is housed within the UND Wellness Center.

"The mission of Work Well is to promote a culture of wellness for UND staff and faculty by providing information, services and programs to support healthy living," said Kimberly Ruliffson, MPA, coordinator of the UND Work Well program. "The program offers something for all staff at UND from walking challenges, to health screenings, to Weight Watchers at Work, or even resources for stretching in your office to prevent obesity and muscle fatigue. Being active in your health is not just running a marathon, but focusing on your personal risk factors that strain your body and subject you to expensive and difficult chronic issues such as heart disease and diabetes."

The program is reviewed by the Work Well Advisory Board comprising of staff and faculty representatives from across the campus. Their expertise and knowledge help shape Work Well's organizational structure and function. The board helps Work Well's support staff by providing advice and recommendations about programs, goals and objectives that support the mission.

Additionally, the Work Well program has volunteer "ambassadors" who serve as liaisons between their departments and the UND Work Well program. Ambassadors play an absolutely essential role by providing information and promoting and encouraging their colleagues to engage in Work Well programs and services.

"With workers in America today spending more than one-third of their day on the job, employers are in a unique position to promote the health and safety of their employees. The use of effective workplace programs and policies can reduce health risks and improve the quality of life," said Dr. Laurie Betting, UND associate vice president for health and wellness.

"Health is a continuum and we recognize that it means different things for different people," Betting said. "It's really about a mindset and a commitment to health that intersects at all levels of life. Ultimately it involves personal accountability, but our Work Well program is about meeting people where they are on the journey and encouraging them to grow and acquire new skills—and ultimately, enhance the quality of life for faculty and staff. "

The Work Well program is housed in the Wellness Center, but Kim Ruliffson and the program assistant, student worker Becca Erickson, engage in daily outreach all across campus, including the Aviation program's airport facilities and through communication with other satellite locations, such as the Family Medicine locations in Bismarck, Fargo and Minot. The employee population (non-students) at UND is approximately 3,900, including 2,904 benefited employees.

"Kim partners with a lot of people all around campus, such as Human Resources, Dining Services, and Student Health," Betting said. "Kim also coordinates a health coaching program that includes individual health coaching to address health and wellness goals. It's not just lip service—UND leadership is directly involved. President Robert and First Lady Marcia Kelley model healthy behavior by walking, biking, skiing and working out. They fit all of this into their very busy lives because, ultimately, they know that this benefits their lives."

"UND is way ahead of the curve on employee wellness," Betting said. "That's why we have been recognized nationally."

For example, the CEO Roundtable on Cancer has accredited UND as a CEO Cancer Gold Standard organization recognizing UND's effort to improve the health of employees and reduce their risks of cancer. The CEO Cancer Gold Standard is granted only after an institution meets or exceeds the rigorous requirements set out by the CEO Roundtable on Cancer. Only a handful of colleges have received this recognition.

For Ruliffson (pronounced Roo-lifson), who recently completed her master's of public administration degree in the UND College of Business and Public Administration, Work Well encompasses our actions about our health today that will impact our well-being for the future. It is about making small changes and giving ourselves and co-workers pats on the back for accomplishments. It is also remembering that our health and wellness is beyond our body and very much in our mind too, therefore controlling stress and finding daily purpose are important. That is why UND has established enhancing the quality of life for faculty and staff as a strategic priority to achieve an Exceptional UND.

"The multidimensional theme means incorporating the physical occupational, emotional, and social aspects of wellness," Ruliffson said. "It's about a lot more than visiting the doctor once a year and eating a salad occasionally. It's a daily commitment."

In addition, to encouraging employees—both faculty and staff—to participate, the program also provides health screenings for spouses through the College of Nursing. The screenings are offered three times per semester, rotating through six different locations on campus. There are other programs that are reaching out to UND families, including having a family partner in the campus-wide challenges or engaging in Family Nights.

"We're raising the bar for the value of worksite wellness," Ruliffson said. "It's never too late to start."

Juan Pedraza

University Relations

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