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Group at a distance doing yoga
Colleagues at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Centre, participate in weekly outdoor yoga sessions to help relieve day-to-day stress. (Photo: UHN)

Staff at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Centre, are breathing a little easier lately – and all it took was one call to UHN's Wellness Department.

Like many colleagues across the organization, the team at Bickle, UHN's complex continuing care site, is committed to supporting wellness at work.

"We keep our eyes open for opportunities to manage the stress that occurs day-to-day," says Amanda Beales, a registered dietician, who is also a Bickle Wellness Ambassador.

"From zumba and yoga, to soap-making workshops, we look for creative ways to participate in wellness activities together."

So, after months of cancelled fitness classes as the pandemic forcedindoor spaces to close to groups, they decided to reach out to UHN's Wellness Department to suggest launching outdoor yoga.

One week later, the team was rolling out their mats, as Tania Williams, UHN Wellness Coordinator, led them in a class on the lawn.

"The responsiveness of the Wellness team was immediate, and we're glad we made the call," says Patricia Wong, a Wellness Partner at Bickle.

"Practicing yoga in the sun feels so meditative, and we're so happy to have it back."

'Wellness, itself, is complex, so our approach needs to be diverse'

Reliance on Wellness services have increased during the pandemic, and it's not uncommon for teams to bring their own ideas forward.

"What we're hearing from staff is that they're feeling stressed and burned out, so our focus is on resiliency, mental well-being, and safety," says Tania.

"Yoga supports the mind, body, and spirit, so we were happy to help make it happen with the Bickle team."

They just needed the go-ahead from UHN's Infection Prevention & Control team, who advised that participants keep a proper distance of two metres, bring their own equipment, and limit numbers to nine at a time.

Other Wellness opportunities are as varied as TeamUHN's needs, and include a stress management workshop – another idea brought to the team; virtual group exercise; BRITE practices; the REFRESH program, which is acustomizable series of short sessions focusing on mental and physical practices and exercises; a peer-to-peer support line; and respite centres at six sites across UHN.

'We encourage colleagues to bring ideas to Wellness'

"We see that wellness, itself, is complex, so our approach needs to be diverse," says Tania. "While our respite centres average over 2,600 visits per week – with some staff visiting more than once a day, to relax or take an arts-and-crafts or stretch break – engagement with our peer-to peer support line also tells us that staff appreciate having different avenues, to find the support they're looking for."

Since proving successful at Bickle, outdoor yoga is now offered at Toronto General and Toronto Western, hospitals.

"We encourage colleagues to bring ideas to Wellness, and what can work for one team, can often work for others," says Tania.

"We want to support TeamUHN's well-being, as best as we can, but we know it's a moving target. We want to make sure we're moving with it, and providing what is needed to UHN – on an organizational, departmental, and individual level." 

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