“Work comprises such a large part of someone’s week, so why not make it a healthy, pleasant experience?” said Lisa Steinkamp, PT, PhD, MBA, director of the SMPH Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. “This, in turn, will likely increase productivity as well.”
Along with James Keck, PhD, associate dean for basic research training, Steinkamp served as co-chair of the SMPH Building Community Well-Being Strategy Work Team, which also included faculty and staff from both basic and clinical sciences, students, post docs, program directors and administrators.
The 19-member group was tasked with identifying strategies to encourage personal and professional fulfillment while fostering an environment that inspires healthy lifestyle choices and supports the well-being of the whole person. Their efforts culminated in a report presented to the Building Community Steering Committee that included three strategic recommendations:
- Prioritize SMPH wellness through a commitment to workplace autonomy, trust and flexibility.
- Engage the SMPH community in wellness through enhanced communication and sharing of diverse well-being practices.
- Expand the roles and expectations of leaders to infuse and support well-being at all levels of SMPH.
The recommendations became key elements of the Building Community Strategic Plan, which was published in November 2020.
“These strategies need to be woven into the fabric of the SMPH culture,” said Steinkamp. “It will create happy, healthy, and productive stakeholders who look forward to coming to work.”
The team worked through a multiphase process facilitated by the UW–Madison Office of Strategic Consulting that included analyzing the current environment, visioning the future and identifying barriers.
“Our team was fantastic,” said Keck. “We came from very different places and we learned a lot from each other and ended up with a rich plan.”
In addition to the strategic recommendations, the plan offered a number of suggestions and laid the groundwork for the development of a Well-being Advisory Committee, which is co-chaired by team members Sarah Webber, MD, assistant professor of hospital medicine and director of well-being, Department of Pediatrics, and Renae Beier, operations manager for the Department of Medicine.
“Often times in our lives when we’re busy personally and professionally, we don’t take enough time for self-care and that’s when we need it most. Working on a cause that promotes mental and physical well-being is something I’m passionate about,” Beier said. “I feel the physical and mental well-being of any organization—especially those working in health care—is often overlooked and needs to be prioritized.”
Keck said he initially thought the work team would come up with a menu of options related more to structure and infrastructure like yoga classes at noon and rooms for meditation, but the results were less tangible.
“Those things are of value, but not to everyone,” he said. “The things of value to everyone are human kindness, giving grace, respect. The biggest thing that people wanted was to feel a sense of being welcomed through each of those areas in their space—regardless of who they are, regardless of title.
“I think the biggest thing that will come from this and the rest of Building Community is making our workplace one that people are thrilled to tell others, ’You should come and work here because this is the way we operate. We are a kind and thoughtful group and there is tremendous respect for each other’.”