Alice House Wellness Monday
Snapshot View of Practice
Alice House’s Wellness Monday is a formalized benefit for staff that aims to improve staff mental health and well-being and reduce chances for burnout. It provides dedicated time and opportunity to pause and reflect, develop strategies for well-being, and practise self-care. This time could be used doing yoga, meditation, physical activity, therapy, peer mentorship, going to the beach, or using journals to plan for the month ahead.
Name of Shelter
Type of Shelter
What is Alice House Wellness Monday
The Wellness Monday initiative aims to improve staff mental health and well-being and reduce burnout, by providing a formalized opportunity to pause and reflect, develop strategies for well-being, and practise self-care. On the first Monday of every month, the office is closed and the entire staff team is allowed to decide how they wish to use this time to best prioritize their self-care. This time could be used doing yoga, meditation, physical activity, therapy, peer mentorship, going to the beach, or using journals to plan for the month ahead. They are encouraged to reflect on professional and personal life stressors, their impact on overall well-being, and ways they can be prevented.
“In our VAW sector, we are almost always pushing and not taking time for [self-care]…Well-being comes even before the needs of the clients because it’s necessary for us to provide quality services. This intentional time allows one to dial into [one’s] own self-care and minimize secondary trauma and burnout.”
During the pandemic, Alice House noticed that staff members were regularly working differently, harder, and longer. Working from home blurred the boundary between work and home. Coupled with the personal stress of dealing with the pandemic and the unknown, the team was feeling professional pressure and stress. The management team, as a committee member of the Vicarious Trauma Working Group for the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, was familiar with burnout and how it was impacting sector workers. They decided to commit to efforts for vicarious trauma prevention and improving staff well-being by introducing the idea of “Wellness Monday.” They discussed with staff members what would be helpful and what the dedicated hours could look like, whether the staff members were allowed to do anything during those hours, like sleep in, whether they were expected to write a report about their activities, etc. The team decided that staff members should have the autonomy to decide how they wish to spend this time, as long as there is a conscious effort and thought in how that activity would help them improve their self-care and overall well-being. The team did a three-month pilot before adopting this initiative.
How does the program work
The idea is that Wellness Mondays are used to foster a self-aware, mentally healthy, and engaged team to provide the best level of care to women and children accessing services at Alice House. Wellness Mondays are not the morning off or time to get caught up on laundry or any personal tasks you are behind. It includes the following features:
- Pause and Reflect on your current well-being in the workplace. Identify any workplace or personal stressors that might be impacting your well-being. Assess your burnout or compassion fatigue and identify any unresolved exposures to trauma in the workplace that may need to be debriefed or tended to. The team uses this Burnout/Compassion Fatigue monthly assessment tool.
- Strategy Development includes discussing your needs with a supervisor. Add additional time in your work or personal schedule for mindfulness and look for peer support. Research and find wellness practices and create a wellness plan for the month ahead that includes both professional and personal wellness practices.
- Practise Self Care by taking some time for mindful, calming activities and/or physical activities that may include yoga, running, chi gong, walking etc.
There is no requirement to formally report on activities practised on Wellness Mondays, however, the supervisor does check in periodically to get feedback on the usefulness of the time spent, and any identifying trends or recommendations for wellness strategies that could be helpful.
What is the impact of this program
The team has shared very positive feedback about the initiative in a survey. Specifically, they felt that they could use this time in a meaningful way and that it had a direct impact on their overall well-being. Wellness Monday also fits the organization’s values. Having a small management team and a 10-person staff team has allowed them to directly engage with this initiative and understand its impact on their well-being. Building self-care into day-to-day work is something the organization deeply values and prioritizes; for example, staff members can also have extra money for counselling or massages if they have exhausted their existing benefits. Staff members who are pursuing social work degrees from the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers can also account for the Wellness Monday hours as their professional development.
“It is our hope to encourage staff to incorporate self-care and wellness into their lives outside of work as well. Its effectiveness depends on the meaningful engagement of the employees themselves.”
Challenges in Implementing
- It can be challenging to come to a common understanding about what the dedicated hours look like and what could not constitute self-care, and yet give staff members the liberty to decide and be flexible in how they wish to spend that time.
Tips for those who wish to do something similar
- Make sure that you engage with the staff team about what this would look like, how it works, and the reasoning behind it. Create an introduction blurb describing what is it about. If required, you can make individualized plans for staff members depending on what would work for them. Find the best time based on what staff and the organization can accommodate.
- You can try this project on a pilot basis for three months. It’s straightforward and did not need any funding or the funder’s approval.
- Recommendations for workplaces that cannot shut down or shelters that have 24-hour mandates could have different staff/teams take different days. They can book their dedicated hours ahead of time so that this can be accommodated in their work schedule.