“It’s so important to have an outlet,” says Thomas Lynch, Full Stack Developer at Education Commons, who also happens to be Education Commons’ social committee Chair for this year. “An outlet can be many different things, like pursuing hobbies or socializing with friends.”
“But there’s something about being active that hits differently.”
This May, during Wellness Month, Thomas and the rest of his colleagues at Education Commons are getting active! It’s all part of the Wellness Challenge for Education Commons – a team effort to embrace wellness by encouraging physical well-being and building a collaborative spirit.
Balancing our working lives
When asked why physical activity is vital to wellness, Thomas points to the nature of Education Commons’ work.
“Our jobs at Education Commons often have us in front of computers, sitting at a desk. It’s easy to forget what that does for you...staring at the screen, how it affects your posture,” he says. “We like to work with technology, but that can sometimes come at the exclusion of something else. If you’re on your computer, you’re not out there walking or biking.”
Thomas also recognizes that wellness through physical activity is sorely needed in a post-pandemic world. He remembers when he took up biking during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I needed to get out of the house,” he says. “Especially in Toronto, where the winter is long and dark.”
Integrating wellness into working culture and community
According to Ai-Ri Brown, Academic and Administrative Business Process Analyst at OISE and member of the OISE Wellness Post-Pandemic Working Group, OISE's working culture should cultivate a sense of community and belonging.
"Members of the OISE community want to feel supported by their local departments and programs,” says Ai-Ri, who has coordinated OISE’s Wellness Program since 2018. “We’ve found that, after engaging with the OISE community on what wellness means to them, community members appreciate having an institutional culture that builds and fosters a resilient and flexible community.”
Thomas agrees. “We are people, not machines, both during and outside the job,” he says. “It's nice we have the allowance and space to pursue wellness in a way that works for us.”
Tracking physical activities through the Pacer app
Education Commons is putting a spin on wellness to foster a sense of community. Using the activity tracking app Pacer, Education Commons team members update each other daily with the number of steps taken and the distance travelled.
Pacer also has social media elements to it, so we can “like” each other’s progress and send messages of encouragement. Our leading members, like Thomas and Technology Adoption Consultant Laize Bacay, are logging well over thousands of steps and hundreds of kilometres travelled!
Thomas, who set up the Wellness Challenge on Pacer this year, has also introduced fun, weekly mini-challenges in the app for the team to tackle. One week, we walked the cumulative distance from Toronto to Mont Royal in Montreal. Another week, the group participated in a virtual marathon in Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, with historical checkpoints along the way.
Sugirthan Ganeswararajan, Manager of Departmental Academic Operations and Administrative Services at the Department of Applied Psychology & Human Development (APHD), thinks approaches like Pacer benefit physical well-being and team-building.
“Apps like Pacer are great for promoting healthy challenges in a team,” he says. “It also disciplines us to get moving and cheer each other on our physical activities. As we all know, physical activities are key to well-being.”
Join us in the next Wellness Challenge!
The Pacer activities have been such a hit that other OISE departments are joining us in the Wellness Challenge. Please join us too for the next challenge!
With more participants, we can continue to build wellness at OISE through fun, virtual challenges that encourage physical activity – maybe next time, we’ll be crossing the entire country together!
Screenshot from Pacer; Smartphone border courtesty of rawpixel.com on Freepik.