Business owners explore employee, community wellness

Participants attend a session on how to start a wellness program. Courtesy of Harvard Ed Portal

3 min read

When Lindsey Gaudet and her husband Ed Thill decided to open a gourmet bagel shop in Medford, they recognized that taking care of their employees’ mental and physical well-being would be just as important to their company’s success as the variety of choices on their menu.

This prompted Gaudet to take part in a free series, Improving Your Business Through a Culture of Health, offered at the Harvard Ed Portal in Allston.

The three-part series, which focused on employee health, wellness, and community health, was based on content from HarvardX MOOC  (massive open online course) through a collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Business School. Both the MOOC and the Ed Portal series explain Culture of Health, a movement that maximizes good health and well-being of employees, consumers, community, and environment, ultimately contributing to a healthier population and economy.

Harvard Chan School alumni and master of public health candidates translated the MOOC content into a more personalized, face-to-face workshop format for the Ed Portal series that fostered the sharing of ideas among participants. The series curriculum looked at how to recognize workplace hazards and implement safety programs that meet OSHA guidelines; explored the concept of employees’ mental, emotional and physical wellness both in the workplace and beyond; and defined consumer health and community health from a business owner’s perspective.

For Gaudet, the information she gained has helped to transform her approach to setting up her workplace in a more meaningful way.

“I went in [to the Ed Portal program] thinking I wanted to try and find a way to eventually provide affordable health insurance and maybe some yoga discounts to my staff. But the course got me thinking about so many other areas — smoking cessation, equipment and layout set-up, nutrition, posture, and the importance of quiet breaks,” Gaudet revealed. “For instance, I’m adding a wellness section to our employee handbook to be expanded over time.”

Another workshop attendee, Susan Lindsay Mello, is a nurse who is certified in lifestyle medicine and works as an independent contractor with stroke survivors and caregivers through Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Having a chance to brainstorm with others provided Mello with a constructive forum in which to explore creative ways to put wellness to work.

“I attended the workshops hoping to learn new strategies for outreach and implementation to help expand our existing program with satellite groups in communities beyond Charlestown,” she said.

One of the takeaways Mello gained is that “it’s vital to provide easily accessible resources and programs within a community because transportation can pose a barrier to services, particularly for patients with mobility challenges,” she said. “The discussion helped me to widen the lens of how I approach finding partners to collaborate with in the community to improve the delivery of health care services.”