Stop talking, start doing: The pursuit of wellness while you work

Happiness is a skill.

One day.
Twenty-four hours.
1,440 minutes.
86,400 seconds.

How much time do you dedicate to your own happiness in one day?

For Velta Vikmanis, at least 30 minutes.  Vikmanis, Coordinator, Nursing Transitions and Commitment, University Health Network (UHN), wears many hats while on the job. She’s also a running enthusiast, avid stair climber and works with a personal trainer twice a week – complements of the UHN Wellness Centre.

Alison Cocking, UHN Wellness Manager, explains how increased workloads, complex business relationships and a fast-paced healthcare culture can lead to poor employee morale, lower productivity, absenteeism, and difficulty balancing professional and personal lives. “We need to remember that ultimately, healthy, happy healthcare workers are more likely to provide better patient care; wellness is also an engagement issue,” says Cocking.

“A year and a half ago I made a commitment to do something that’s healthy for me everyday – whether it’s climbing stairs, running around Queen’s Park or taking a Wellness class,” says Vikmanis. “The Wellness Centre has enabled me to strike that work-life balance.”

Ballet boot camp, Pilates, spinning, yoga, Zumba and Healing the Healer are just some of the programs offered by the UHN Wellness Centre. The Centre provides UHN employees with a positive space to relax, de-stress and participate in programs designed to improve health and wellness.

UHN recently created a series of short video clips led by Michael Apollo, Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence Trainer, which guide employees through simple practices of stress reduction. The four-part series outlines the benefits of deep relaxation and adverse effects of stress. “Stress reduction is not something that magically happens,” says Apollo. “It’s something that needs to be practiced.”

Apollo explains that impulse control and flexibility are two major detriments of stress. “In a stressful situation, we tend to react rather than respond skilfully. We’re inflexible to what’s happening and unable able to cope with change as well as we could in a relaxed state,” he says.

Apollo describes the important shift in wellness perceptions in the workplace: “realizing that each employee is a unique human being impacted by stressors has shifted the playing field,” he says. “Companies are starting to understand that the goal isn’t to drive employees toward burnout, but rather encourage them to be happy and healthy.”

Apollo explains that risk management, cost-effectiveness, employee retention and organizational excellence and sustainability are also major factors contributing to overall workplace wellness – the goal is to “make the UHN organization as human as the employees within it,” he says.
Additional UHN Wellness Centre amenities include health screening and complementary therapy rooms, a resource library with computer access, an ergonomic demonstration area and a kitchen for cooking demonstrations.

“Fifty-one pounds ago, I would eat and consume whatever I wanted, but it was a short-lived experience,” says Vikmanis. “Wellness is worth the investment in yourself.”
*To learn more about the UHN Wellness centre, visit: