FIU excels in nurturing employee wellness

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As the fourth-largest university in the nation, home to more than 10,000 faculty and staff members, FIU takes the health and fitness of its employees very seriously.

The Division of Human Resources embarked on a revitalized health and wellness journey 5 years ago with the launch of Panther Active Wellness Services (PAWS) and expanded services offered through the Office of Employee Assistance. In April, the university was recognized with the 2019 Florida Worksite Wellness Award, presented to organizations for their superior efforts in nurturing the health and well-being of their workforce.

“Human Resources is laser-focused on our people strategy,” says Vice President of HR El pagnier Hudson. “We value the personal health and well-being of our faculty and staff and this award embodies our commitment to the wellbeing of our workforce. It is yet another distinction that elevates FIU as a great place to work.”

Challenges and activities—such as the Panthers Walking Challenge, Couch to 5K, lunchtime workshops, health screenings offered by Baptist Health of South Florida—give FIU community members an opportunity to get active and take control of their physical health. In addition to the physical component, PAWS introduced the Journey to Financial Fitness and Momentum OnUp programs, which aim to encourage and equip participants with the tools necessary to get their finances back on track.

Employees Sofia Baralt (assistant director of employee records), Anabel Mesa (employee records coordinator), Dayne Campbell (customer service assistant), Crystal Hsu (assistant director of benefits), and Ana Aviles (recruiter) teaming up at this year’s Couch to 5K.

Nathan Burandt, program manager of PAWS, says that without health and wellness, you can’t succeed.

“FIU knows that the backbone to everything it does is the faculty, staff  and administration. Our goal is to meet the needs of FIU’s faculty [and] staff in all aspects of their lives. Offering programs that promote the health and wellbeing of each employee is just one way that we continue to make FIU a great place to work.”

Along with physical and financial wellbeing, FIU recognizes addressing mental health is just as important. The Office of Employee Assistance offers faculty/staff one-on-one confidential and professional assistance by a licensed psychotherapist and certified employee assistance professional. In addition, faculty and staff are encouraged to take advantage of the mindfulness meditation sessions, which focus on stress management, resilience, compassion, work-place values and culture.

“We can’t ignore that work and life are tightly wound together,” said Isabel Alfonsin-Vittoria, director of the OEA and two-time alumna. “We’re colleagues, so we care very much about each other and we are also a part of the fabric of the same university system that they work in.”

Employees took part in a mini mindfulness exercise with guest speaker Marly Q at the 2018 PAWS End of Year Celebration.

The mindfulness meditation sessions focus on cultivating discussions so that employees can reflect on how they’re feeling and share experiences and gains with one another. Sharing these victories promotes positive behavior and engagement. Alfonsin-Vittoria says she has noticed that visitors to these sessions seem more relaxed and comfortable.

“I always think I don’t have time for it, and then, when I go, I’m so glad I did. I just feel refreshed,” said Katie Boulos, manager of special projects and initiatives at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work and frequent attendee of the Mindfulness & Meditation Workshops.

For more information on the Panthers Active Wellness Services programs contact Nathan Burandt at nburandt@fiu.edu.

 

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