Raise the Bar: Summer Spotlight Week 1

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We’re well into Week 2 of our 60-day Raise the Bar challenge and one thing is clear: the consistent level of creativity and commitment across the University of Washington as groups work together to promote wellness in the workplace.

Just like wellness, your strategies have taken many forms: “wellness walls” that promote healthful office environments; hand-drawn maps suggesting routes for walking meetings; fitness breakout sessions and team outings to boost productivity; even something as simple as placing fresh flowers can be integral to changing an environment for the better. One group even went out and got a team fish (but more on that later).

Each week in this space we’ll be spotlighting your stories of success so others can get inspired to implement their own positive changes. As the challenge progresses, we encourage you to post your photos, successful strategies, and other reflections to our Whole U Being Active Facebook group, share them on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #raisethebaruw, or email them to us directly at wholeu@uw.edu. Now, let’s take a look at what you cooked up in Week 1!

An easy-to-implement, but altogether under-sung component of workplace wellness is hydration. Graduate researcher Andrea Joseph submitted the following photo of the Nance Lab team hydrating together. Cheers!

Kristen LaBrecque, Transfer Advisor and Recruiter at UW Bothell’s Division of Enrollment Management, reported on the efforts of her team, who chose to Raise the Bar by creating a “Wellness Wall” and “Kudos Cards” to encourage one another. They capped a successful Raise the Bar Week 1 kickoff with a team walk on UW Bothell’s beautiful campus.

Tracy Chen and her team in the Department of Pathology at UW Medicine kicked off Raise the Bar by taking a lunch walk to the lake before pausing for this wonderfully composed team portrait. “So proud of my team!!!” Chen says.

Margaret Bracken Thompson sent us the following photo of puzzle-making in the lunchroom at Harborview’s Ninth & Jefferson Building. What a great way to destress and clear the mind during the lunch hour (and not a piece out of place)!

Lori Hess and her team at the School of Dentistry kept it classic by breaking out the kettle bells! Thanks to Rose Cunanan Meriales for sharing this photo (L-R: Arva, Anh, Mary Jane, Colleen, Marlene; Front row: Marina). You can check out Lori’s team’s kettle bell workout sheet by joining our Whole U Being Active Facebook group.

Along with her team from UW Bothell’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, Rachel Posada Fletcher created a “meeting map” and posted it in the kitchen to encourage people to have walking meetings.

“We’ve also put up these very motivating posters to encourage people to take the stairs,” Fletcher says.

“We set up an impromptu staff lunch gathering in the Sunroom where we ate lunch together and did the Chair Dips ‘Flex at Your Desk’ exercise.”

Check out the Week 2 “Flex at Your Desk” videos below:

Jessica AdamsGynecologic Oncology Division Coordinator at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, shared that in addition to meeting to learn and practice some arm exercises (led by team member Jan), her group decided to go fishing—in a sense, at least.

With a walk to the pet store on our lunch break, we picked up a beautiful betta fish,” Adams says. “After scouring the Internet for fitting OB/Gyn-themed names, a catalyst survey was created and all voted on naming him Zygotes, or Ziggy for short! We can get lost in the swirl of its tails and the vibrancy of its color as it swims around and around in its tank.”

Ziggy the betta fish, shown just after its arrival before making its way to its home in a permanent tank.


Jessica Agee from UW Radiology shared these photos of her team’s Stress-Free Zone—simultaneously demonstrating they can relax as well as draw! In case you’re wondering, the magnet word art reads: “which fish can dream of being a purple owl.” Who could have guessed Raise the Bar Week 1 would take on a fish theme? And so suddenly!

Agee shared a few strategies she found helped motivate her team in Week 1:

With a group of us in the same area, we could find strength in numbers to encourage ourselves and our coworkers to do some of these things more often. We find that each person in our group is good at something different, and they can lead the group and challenge everyone to try something new.

For instance, when I ask if anyone wants to do lunges, I hear groaning. But if I start doing lunges in the hallway and invite people to join, I suddenly have some followers, giggling along behind me. It makes things more fun—and people don’t feel silly if they’re not doing it alone.

Organization Meets Motivation

The team of Katrina, Malyse, Kasey, and Clare at the Dean’s Office Business Unit at the UW School of Medicine wowed us with this intuitive Raise the Bar “positive environment board”—a one-stop station for workplace wellness (don’t forget to keep track of your area checklists!). Shoutout to Malyse who led Katrina’s team while Katrina was away.

Katrina Beyer offered us a thorough reflection of her team’s Week 1 efforts: what worked, what’s working, and ways teams can improve.

What was your team’s reason for joining Raise the Bar challenge?

“I registered our team because we have a few new staff members and I thought this would be a fun way to get to know each other. Our office is/are big fans of the Whole U program and try to participate in as many activities as time allows. It’s great for team building and helps us get out of the office for a little exercise, an informative lecture, or other (much needed but often forgotten) quick breaks.”

What things did you do to improve your workplace environment?

“So far the team is doing great—exercising as a team and individually! We have displayed motivational posters, created a ‘positive environment’ board which includes weekly updates and goals for the team that the whole office can see, implemented the use of ‘wow cards,’ and shared healthy recipes in preparation for our potluck.”

What was one challenge your team found and overcame?

“Recently, our team became a bit obsessed with trying all the different flavors of chips in the Plaza Café at UWMC. Now, our afternoon walks include going outside and enjoying the sunshine instead of going on the hunt for fried and salty snacks.”

Can you tell us something you’ll take away from this challenge?

“I hope our whole office continues the use of ‘wow cards’ long after the challenge ends. I’ve used them in other office environments prior to my time here at the UW. There have been many times when I thought to myself, ‘that person deserves a wow card!’ So happy to be using them again. I also hope we continue to take walk breaks as often as we can.”

What are some tips your team has for other teams/departments or just anybody who wants to improve their workplace?

1. “Praise and positivity are contagious!”

2. “When you are going to the water fountain for a refill, invite others to join you.”

3. “Say hello to or smile at someone you would normally ignore as you pass each other in the hall.”

That’s a wrap for Week 1! Special thanks to UW Medicine for their support! Keep sharing your in-depth stories, reflections, and photos. If you submitted answers to questions, but didn’t see your answers here, stay tuned in coming weeks! We’ll feature a selection every Wednesday throughout the challenge as part of this Summer Spotlight series. Until next week, stay cool and keep up the great work!

Another great sign by the team at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at UW Bothell.