Promotion of Health and Workplace Productivity Among Caregiving-Employees at Dalhousie

The following is a brief summary of a research study done by Leslie Binnington, Janice MacInnis, and Brad Meisner, with the help of the Caregiver Support Group at Dal, on caregiver health in the workplace.

Background: There is ample research on caregiver role strain and burden. The build up of daily stressors related to caregiving is known to have a negative impact on caregivers’ emotional, mental, physical, financial, and social health. In addition to these negative impacts, employed caregivers’ work performance (e.g., work productivity, employee engagement, job satisfaction, etc.) can also suffer.

Objectives: The objectives of this research study was to A: understand how caregivers’ health and work productivity may be influenced by caregiving/employee roles at Dal, and to B: explore potentially effective workplace assistance recommendations, from the employed caregiver perspective, for Dalhousie.

Participants: 11 female participants completed in-person interviews, as well as two surveys. One on health and work performance, and another on the negative/positive aspects of the caregiver experience.

Results: For objective A, the results were broken down into three broad themes: “Feeling the Crunch”, “On Vacation, But Not Really”, and “At Work, But Not Always”. “Feeling the Crunch” referred to the challenges negotiating a balance between work and caregiving roles. “On Vacation, But Not Really” referred to some participants taking time off (i.e. vacation days, etc.) to attend to caregiving responsibilities. “At Work, But Not Always” referred to being at work, but being interrupted during the workday by caregiving responsibilities or intrusive thoughts.

For objective B, the recommendations were broken down into two categories: institutional-level, and individual-level. The institutional-level recommendation was a caregiving/caregiving policy that aimed to raise awareness of the issue and decrease inconsistencies in how caregiving accommodations are handled/approved. The individual-level recommendations were: to create a structured schedule, engage in health promoting behaviours (as much as possible), acknowledge and accept one’s limitations, and focus on one’s strengths.

Conclusions: It is clear that the work and caregiving roles interact in a primarily negative and cyclical manner. Employers have much to gain by intervening and improving the situation of employed caregivers.

Dal launches new Quality of Work Life survey

On Monday, April 20, faculty and staff at Dal will be invited to take part in a new survey about a wide range of aspects of work at Dal, from teaching and research to administration, and everything in between.

Called the Quality of Work Life Survey (replacing the previous biennial Workplace Survey), it will not only provide Dal’s leadership with workplace assessments but also offer faculty and staff immediate individual health profiles. Read more.

The survey will run from April 20 – May 4. If you have questions about the Quality of Work Life Survey, please visit the FAQs or send an email to

Mental Illness at Work – Erin Sutherland’s experience

This video shows Erin Sutherland, an employee of the Canadian government, talking about her experience with mental illness.  It speaks to the power of the workplace and leaves us with some of her lessons learned.


Walktober Update

We are one week into the Walktober challenge across campus. Here are some updates:

 1) We have 26 teams registered for the Walktober challenge. This is AMAZING – kudos to everyone for participating! 

2) On October 18, 2014  Dalhousie will be hosting a Tiger Fun Run/Walk during Dalhousie’s homecoming festivities. This would be a great way to get the family involved and to get your steps in! Here is a link for more information:

3) Over the next week we encourage you to start taking ‘selfies’ while you walk with your team or individually. Use the #Walktober in your tweet and mention #DalhousieU.

4) We have drawn our first weekly prize winner – Danielle MacDougall from Occupational Therapy! Danielle received a ballot for every day she achieved 10,000 steps. Remember to document your steps on to be entered weekly! 


Walktober at Dal – Stepping Up to Health…. Together

woods image

The month of October is being transformed into “Walktober” for 2014. Walking groups are being assembled to track activity, motivate each other, and support the goal of increasing physical activity among employees at Dalhousie. While a daily goal of 10,000 steps is agreed to provide health benefits, the overall goal of Walktober is participation and increasing current levels of physical activity.

This initiative is being coordinated with support from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the President’s Office, and Human Resources, and coincides with October being National Healthy Workplace Month.

How does Walktober work?

The idea is to form teams of Dalhousie employees, organized by a champion or team leader, who will help each other to accumulate steps or other forms of physical activity during the month of October. Each team will have a group presence on the WalkaboutNS website, where individuals can enter their daily step counts or activity levels. Each week, participation prizes will be drawn at random for individuals who have accumulated days with physical activity. You can use the website to challenge other teams, or simply to help encourage members of your team to become more active. The website can even be used to challenge teams from other institutions who are participating in the WalkaboutNS project. There will be a celebration of our collective walking achievements at the end of Walktober where additional participation prizes will be awarded. Individuals and teams will receive updates by email, providing tips for increasing physical activity and walking, and identifying prize winners and step count leaders.

Want to create a team? Visit, create your personal profile, then create a new team under the “Groups” tab, using Dalhousie at the beginning of your team name to help track institutional participation, i.e. “Dalhousie Medicine Marchers.” We would be happy to help team leaders get started: email or Teams can consist of any group of Dalhousie employees, whether they are already established walking buddies or work colleagues who wish to support each other. Please help spread the word to your colleagues to increase the number of people participating.

Want to join a team? Visit, create your personal profile, then join an existing team.

How do you track activities?

There are many affordable – or free – tools that can help you monitor your activity:

-          Decide what tools will help you monitor your activity:

o   Pedometers – If joining a team, some pedometers may have already been provided to your team champion or many options are available in local retail outlets.

o   Mobile apps – Most smart phones (iPhones and Android) have pedometer options through the application centre. For Example, on the Apple App Store, there is great free pedometer app entitled “Pacer.”

-          Not a walker? Convert other activities to steps on Under the “Walkabout Info,” you will find the “Resources” tab that has a section on step conversion, titled “Track Your Steps.” Here you will find activities listed with their step conversions.

Add to your step count each day from your profile page on and watch your step total grow along with your team’s total. Setting a big goal for your group and watching your progress over time can be motivating, helping you achieve more than you thought you could. Typical goals include accumulating days with 10,000 or more steps, or collectively walking enough steps to reach Cape Breton from Yarmouth!

Helpful resources

The website has been designed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation to provide a wealth of information on many topics, including (but not limited to):

- Suggested walking routes around campus

- Why 10,000 steps a day?

­- Tips for sneaking in steps each day

- Devices to count steps or monitor activity levels

Inquiries: or