Employees' ability to work from home has aided the university's efforts to complete the spring semester through online instruction, but spending time away from colleagues and without normal routines can create other issues.
Since 2014, ISU WellBeing has served benefits-eligible employees. The program is working to help employees successfully adjust to their new normal during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We embrace the idea of being able to support people wherever they are in this journey in a way that helps them lead healthier lives," ISU WellBeing coordinator Stephanie Downs said.
The program is centered around six elements of well-being and healthy lifestyle:
As much of the world practices social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Iowa State employees must find new ways to remain connected and support each other. Since 2017, Adventure2 has provided opportunities to engage in activities designed to enhance the six elements of well-being.
Employees are awarded points for participating in activities and earn prizes -- for example, gift cards -- as they progress. The program runs each year from September through mid-August, and activities range from a daily steps goal to improving a credit score. Each activity has information about its importance, tips for completion and resources for more information.
Some activities require a team, which is a good way to meet other employees outside of a specific department or college.
Coping with stress and mental health are current program highlights. Participants can leave comments about completed activities, giving others valuable feedback. It also provides a virtual community of support.
"You can see what others are doing and how they are connecting and what is working for them," Downs said. "A lot of these [activities] are designed to help support people during a difficult time. They are just little nudges. So even if people don't want to do them, they can look for ideas for what might help them."
Downs said a recent analysis found nearly 2,600 employees registered for Adventure2, with 69% participating in the program. The results have been encouraging, with users giving a satisfaction score of 4.3 out of five.
ISU WellBeing partnered with student wellness on its "Keep Community. Stay Informed. Be Well" campaign. It provides information and resources for well-being during online instruction, remote work and social distancing.
"We really felt we could help in the ‘be well’ portion," Downs said. "A big part of this is the mental side of it."
Stay calm, be present and embrace life are the three areas focused on, and each topic has activities to complete and strategies for being successful.
Every Friday from April 3 to May 15, ISU WellBeing hosts Friday Walk and Talks to virtually connect employees on a mile walk starting at 12:10 p.m. Participants can call a friend, walk with family members, take a pet for a walk or use Webex to connect with the ISU WellBeing team. Email Downs with a subject line "Friday Walk and Talks" for a meeting invite.
Well-being Wednesdays began April 8 and continue through May. The weekly Webex meetings (2:30-3 p.m.) provide information on staying well and remaining connected. There also is an opportunity for participants to talk about concerns they may have. Email Downs with a subject line "Well-being Wednesday" conversations for an invite.
Midmorning mindfulness meetings started April 2 and occur every Tuesday and Thursday (10-10:15 a.m.) through May. ISU WellBeing team members lead a 15-minute Zoom session that focuses on relaxation breathing techniques, meditations or being present. Email Downs with a subject line "midmorning mindfulness" for an invite.
The employee assistance program (EAP) is free, confidential and available to all employees and their families. Through a third-party vendor to the university, EAP offers support through a 24-hour telephone line, financial and legal consultations, counseling, life coaching and more.
EAP has resources to manage many of the challenges the pandemic is presenting -- for example, stress, work-life balance, anxiety, depression and coping with change.
"They will be offering weekly webinars and stepping up to fill a need," Downs said. "Typically, 5% of our population uses it, but they said they are seeing much higher increases. If they can't fully support you, they can refer you to the care you need."
Downs also said the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers workshops and programs and will continue to expand offerings.