GCTC keeps employee wellbeing top of mind during COVID-19

Staff Writer
The Shawnee News-Star

For more than 50 years, Gordon Cooper Technology Center (GCTC) has served as a vital educational resource to youth and adults in the East Central Oklahoma region. The school, which serves approximately 1,000 full-time students and has over 15,000 short-term enrollments annually, became a Blue Zones Project Approved™ worksite in 2018 by committing to create a healthier work environment for its colleagues.

GCTC has 117 employees, with approximately 60 of its staff engaged in well-being improvement activities through the school’s wellness incentive program. Each quarter participants need to earn 150 points to receive an incentive, and the number of participants to successfully meet incentive goals has nearly doubled since 2017. Proactive communication has been essential to the success of the program, as the school issues frequent reminders and holds people accountable to their wellness commitments while also offering consistent support and encouragement.

Cama Watts has served as the Business and Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at GCTC since 2017, and has successfully spearheaded efforts to engage employees in the school’s wellness program: “We found that Blue Zones Project aligned closely with GCTC’s mission to help people succeed. Providing well-being improvement opportunities for our employees also aligns with our guiding principles, which call for us to better prepare and equip staff to provide the best training, education, and services for the customer. Employees with high well-being and improved health are positioned to more effectively serve our constituents.”

Since becoming an approved worksite, the GCTC cafeteria has expanded healthy options, including offering more fruits and vegetables, and the school has added healthy snacks to vending machines. They also hold a “health week” for employees, and have had Blue Zones Project team members and other guest speakers hold lunchtime workshops and seminars designed to promote well-being improvement.

At the beginning of the school year, nobody would have anticipated the challenges inherent in maintaining well-being in the midst of a pandemic. Despite the temporary closing of the physical campus in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, GCTC continues to support its faculty, staff and the surrounding community through a variety of initiatives.

GCTC is staying in touch with all employees through a regular wellness email offering healthy recipes, exercise tips and other suggestions on staying the well-being course.

Wellness bingo has also proven popular with GCTC staff. The school mailed employees a bingo card to complete, with participants choosing from various well-being activity options such as eating broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Completed cards receive points towards the quarterly incentive goal, and several employees have already submitted the completed cards.

The school has also offered virtual activities for employees, including group stretching sessions and online scavenger hunts, where participants are given a wellness-related item to find, and the first to show it on camera receives an incentive.

GCTC has also taken other steps to support the community during the COVID-19 crisis. Members of the GCTC Robotics Team have created 3-D printed face masks and distributed them to local hospitals for use by staff. The school is also donating other supplies to hospitals and other local care facilities. GCTC is also providing free wifi in the school’s parking lot for those in more rural areas of the community with limited service.

GCTC hopes to reopen for in-person classes and training in the summer. Until then, the school has much to be proud of as they strive to maintain employee well-being while actively supporting the community. For more information about GCTC, visit www.gctech.edu.