Wellness in Your School or Department

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Explore ways to foster a culture of wellness in Columbia schools and departments.

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Office of Work/Life Resources

The Office of Work/Life develops and delivers departmental, school-wide, or building-wide wellness workshops, programs, and initiatives to Columbia faculty and staff. 

Request a Workshop or Program


Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, with an open curiosity, and letting go of judgment.  It can be practiced during daily activities including walking, eating, and listening. With a “beginner’s mind”, participants start to explore mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques during this one-hour interactive, experiential workshop.

Instructor: Polly Wheat, M.D., retired Executive Director of the Student Health Service, Columbia University Medical Center.  Dr. Wheat trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn and has been teaching mindfulness meditation since 1994.

Format: Workshop.
Duration: 1-2 hours.
Fee: There is a small fee to cover the instructor’s time.

The EAT 5 Nutrition Initiative offers a series of nutrition workshops to help participants increase fruits and vegetable intake to get closer to reaching the goal of eating five cups per day.  Each workshop includes an interactive nutrition session, food demonstration with tasty samples, recipes, and educational handouts.  

Workshops include:

  • Start Your Day, the EAT 5 Way
  • Time for Lunch, the EAT 5 Way
  • Snacking, the EAT 5 Way
  • Shake Up Smoothies, the EAT 5 Way
  • EAT 5, Holiday Sides

EAT 5 Nutrition Instructor: Daniela Neman is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Wellness Specialist brought to Columbia University by the university’s medical plan, United Healthcare/Optum. Daniela has been practicing nutrition in New York City for over 5 years.

Format: Workshop or a longer series (3-5 sessions).
Duration: 45 minutes-1 hour workshops.
Fee: There is a small fee to cover the cost of food and supplies.

Based on the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge Program, this workshop encourages participants to make positive changes in daily living which can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Components include:

  • EAT 5: Eat five cups of fruits and vegetables each day
  • MOVE 30: Exercise for 30 minutes a day
  • TAKE 10: Take the time to relax at least 10 minutes each day
  • SLEEP 7: Sleep seven hours a night
  • 4 ME: Take care of yourself with daily health habits

The presenter will lead workshop attendees through all five of these healthy lifestyle elements, providing tips, guidelines, and available resources.

Presenter: Deborah Hughes Ndao, MPH, Director of Wellness, Office of Work/Life, Columbia University
Format: Workshop
Duration: 1 hour
Fee: No fee

The Office of Work/Life can coordinate with Humana, Columbia University’s Employee Assistance Program to offer workshops that cover a wide range of wellness topics including but not limited to:

  • Stress management
  • Positive psychology
  • Sleep health
  • Office ergonomics

These workshops are led by consultants hired by Humana and are typically one hour in length.  

Programs & Initiatives

Yoga@Work is a challenging yet relaxing yoga experience focused on increasing flexibility, strengthening mind and body, and improving range of motion through postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation and meditation techniques. All levels welcome.

Instructor: Evelyn Pate, Registered Yoga Teacher, has been teaching yoga since 2011 and has a base training in Anusara Yoga, a therapeutic and heart-themed alignment practice.  She is known to the Columbia community for leading the Walk to Wellness Program at Manhattanville and yoga classes at the NYP/Plus One Fitness Center, CUMC.  

Format: Workshop or a longer series (5-8 weeks).
Duration: 1 hour.
Fee: There is a small fee to cover the instructor’s time.
Note: This program is offered in partnership with Columbia Physical Education and Recreation. Comfortable, loose-fitting work attire or exercise clothes recommended.

The Healthy Lifestyle Challenge (HLC) is a worksite wellness program developed by the Office of Work/Life that encourages Columbia employees to make positive changes that can lead to a healthier lifestyle. As an additional benefit, the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge serves to create increased levels of inter- and intra-departmental social exchange and contributes to a positive work culture.

Why Do It?
Chronic conditions are among the leading causes of death in the United States although they are largely preventable with behavior adjustments.

Program Aims:

  • Increase employee satisfaction, energy, and overall health
  • Increase level of intra-departmental social exchange and positive work culture

When Is It?
Weekly challenges are developed for a five-week period of time. Including registration and awards, the program lasts seven weeks total.

How It Works:
Each week, employees will be challenged to adopt or maintain a healthy lifestyle behavior.  

  • Week 1 - EAT 5: Eat five cups of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Week 2 - MOVE 30: Exercise for 30 minutes a day
  • Week 3 - TAKE 10: Take the time to relax at least 10 minutes each day
  • Week 4 - SLEEP 7: Sleep seven hours a night
  • Week 5 - 4 ME: Take care of yourself with daily health habits

How to Launch the Program:
Designate someone to coordinate a Healthy Lifestyle Challenge in your department or school.  Have the coordinator contact the Office of Work/Life to register, discuss logistics, receive materials, and set up the participant registration survey.

The Take the Stairs campaign encourages the Columbia community to choose the stairs instead of the elevator as a quick way to get physical activity and save electricity.  

The Mount Kilimanjaro Take the Stairs Team Challenges are designed to encourage physical activity, promote good health, and save electricity, while working together as a team.

Why do it?

If able, stair climbing has many benefits:

    Taking the stairs is good for the environment because it conserves electricity.
    Using the stairs is often faster than waiting for the elevator, especially during peak times. Typically, taking the stairs for trips of 7 floors or less is the fastest way to get to your destination.
    Walking up the stairs burns around 700% the number of calories burned standing in an elevator.
    Being active is healthy for your heart, muscles, and bones! Taking the stairs can improve cardiovascular health, good cholesterol, bone density, and muscular strength.
    Overall, being physically active can benefit your physical, mental, and cognitive well-being. Using the stairs can provide you with an energy boost during stressful times.
    How It Works:

Challenge teams of colleagues to ‘virtually climb’ Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (2,578 flights; 38,680 steps) in 28 days.

How to Launch the Program
Designate someone to coordinate a Take the Stairs Challenge in your department or school.  Have the coordinator contact the Office of Work/Life to register, discuss logistics, and receive materials.  


Additional Resources

Distribute the Office of Work/Life’s quarterly wellness newsletter to your department or school.    

Are you responsible for purchasing food and beverages for your department or school? Learn about the Columbia Recommended Food and Beverage Standard and find tools on making a healthy purchase for your team or group.

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Columbia University Resources

In addition to our own programs and initiatives, learn about other Columbia wellness programs and resources.

The Learning and Development Office offers custom classes for individual departments.

Columbia University recognizes the growing demands on faculty and staff who have both professional and personal responsibilities as well as the increasing challenge of finding new and better ways to effectively manage people, time, space, and workload.  Flexible work arrangements (FWA's) are a critical resource for maintaining job satisfaction and quality of life among Columbia University staff.  FWA's may promote productivity, enhance job satisfaction, enable recruitment and retention of valuable staff, and reduce greenhouse emissions consistent with the University's environmental goals.

Visit this website for detailed information.

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External Resources

Looking for more? Here are resources outside of Columbia.

  • Visit the CDC’s website for further information about workplace health promotion.
  • Review these considerations to make your next meeting a walking meeting.
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