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myHR: October 14, 2020

4 Ways to Stay Active This Fall

Legs running up steps

One of the best ways to support your health is to get moving. This can be a challenge as the temperatures get cooler and we begin to spend more time indoors than outdoors. That’s why Penn is providing plenty of opportunities to keep faculty and staff active and energized this fall. From teams-based step challenges to strength training workshops to walks at Franklin Field, Penn has a variety of options for you to stay healthy, stay connected to your colleagues, and improve your well-being. 

Step It Up to a Better You Penn Challenge

Are you ready for some fun and healthy competition with your co-workers? If so, grab your sneakers and join Penn’s Step It Up to a Better You Challenge. The challenge will run from October 26 through November 15. Registration begins on October 16 and is open to all Be in the Know participants. 

As part of the 2020-2021 Be in the Know campaign, this three-week challenge allows you to create and join virtual teams, then compete to see which team can log the most steps over the course of the challenge. Joining the challenge is easy. Participants will receive an email from Penn Healthy You about the kickoff and a reminder to register on the Virgin Pulse platform. Once you register, go to the Challenge page on the platform and follow the prompts to join a team.

You can also create your own team by following these steps:

1.     Navigate to the Challenge page on the Virgin Pulse platform

2.     Toggle to “Create a Team”

3.     Choose a team name and photo you want to represent your squad

4.     Invite friends to join your team

5.     Click “Create Your Team” to get started

No more than five members per team are permitted. Once you join or create a team, make sure you have your device or mobile app connected to the platform. Then use the challenge chat to inspire your team members and rack up your steps. You can earn up to 15 points and $15 Pulse Cash (up to the $300 per year rewards maximum) for joining a team and reaching the final destination. You not only earn rewards for joining the challenge, the winning team also gets bragging rights.

The Step It Up to a Better You Challenge also consists of five stages that provide healthy tips and advice on staying active, nutrition, sleep, managing stress, and improving productivity. For example, in the Activity Stage, you can find creative new ways to add steps to your day such as turning a Zoom meeting into an opportunity to walk outside while you discuss a project or assignment, or setting an alarm to step away from your desk and move every hour. As you make your way through the challenge you will unlock and get access to each stage.

For more information about the Step It Up to a Better You Challenge, visit the Virgin Pulse platform. If you’d like to join the challenge, but haven’t signed up for the Be in the Know campaign yet, visit and join the fun.

Get Fit Together  

Human Resources in partnership with Campus Recreation will hold weekly group fitness classes including strength and weight training and various types of yoga, through December. Each virtual class will be held from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Click on the sessions below to register. 

October 23: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 
October 29: Vinyasa Yoga
November 6: HIIT Strength
November 11: Mat Pilates
November 19: Yoga Sculpt
November 24: Gentle Yoga
December 4: Vinyasa Yoga
December 8: Bodypump
December 17: Barre
December 21: Yoga

You can also enjoy Campus Recreation’s virtual group exercise classes for free by registering for a virtual group exercise pass online. Also, sign up for a free one-on-one virtual fitness consultation with a personal trainer. 

Exercise with the Family    

Make October 22 “Family Fitness Night” and grab the kids or others in your household for a family-friendly Body Combat Workout. The virtual session will be held from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. This high-energy martial arts-inspired workout is non-contact and can help you relieve stress and burn up to 740 calories while you learn moves from Karate, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai. Register for family-friendly Body Combat online

Fitness at Franklin Field 

The weather is still nice enough to get outside, so head over to Franklin Field for Open Recreation. Franklin Field is open to faculty and staff with a valid PennCard. You will also need a free Franklin Field Open Recreation membership to use the field. To obtain a free membership, visit the Campus Recreation Member Portal. Field hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-9 a.m.; 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; and 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Reservations are required to use the field. For more information, review the Franklin Field Open Recreation policies and requirements

Improve Your Work-Life Effectiveness 

African American father with infant daughter and laptop on lap

October is National Work and Family Month. In the midst of the pandemic, it helps to take a moment to focus on the relationship between your career, home, and community. To support work and family balance, Penn offers Work-life programs along with COVID-19 well-being resources to help you care for yourself and your loved ones—whether you’re working from home or onsite, searching for senior or childcare, or seeking your own personal development.

Here are some highlights from Penn’s Work and Family Month schedule. All programs are free for benefits-eligible faculty and staff. To register for any of the events, click on the dates below.

Strategies for Managing Stress and Avoiding Burnout
October 15, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

It is natural to become stressed when the demands on time and energy have become too great. This can happen both at home and at work and can severely limit productivity and effectiveness. This workshop shows the physiological stages of stress development, and its harmful effects on the body. It also addresses the defining symptoms and different sources of stress. This useful information is incorporated with helpful stress relievers and imagery techniques.

Balancing Work and Family
October 20, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Through open discussion, this workshop outlines how to work toward attainable personal and professional goals, while reducing stress levels. It also offers effective workday tips for reducing discomfort and guilt, and successfully “keeping it all together.”

Family Friendly BODYCOMBAT Workout
October 22, 4-5 p.m.

Join Campus Recreation and the Division of Human Resources for a family friendly BODYCOMBAT workout. This is a high-energy martial arts-inspired workout that is totally non-contact. Punch and kick your way to fitness and burn up to 740 calories in a class. No experience needed. Learn moves from Karate, Taekwondo, Boxing, Muay Thai, Capoeira and Kung Fu. Relieve stress, have a blast and feel like a champ. Bring your kids and encourage your family to move with this fun fitness activity.

For more information about resources to support you and your family’s wellness during the pandemic visit the Wellness & Work-Life webpage.

Wellness During COVID-19

In response to COVID-19, Penn is committed to supporting the well-being of its staff, and faculty with resources aimed at improving well-being, reducing stress, and creating a positive work-experience whether you continue to work remotely or have returned to campus. Here are some resources to consider.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) powered by Health Advocate – Penn EAP Provides eligible faculty and staff, and their families, access to free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and referral services for personal and professional life issues from any location. Call 1-866-799-2329 for assistance. Counseling options include in-person, video, text and chat. 

Penn’s Health Plans and COVID-19 - Penn’s insurance carriers, Independence (Blue Cross), Aetna, CVS Caremark, Keystone (IBC), and Penn Medicine’s Connected Health Virtual Care Telemedicine Practice are all closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. They are committed to making sure that our participants can receive appropriate testing and treatment for the virus if needed.

Virgin Pulse - Stay healthy and stay connected with Penn's new wellness platform partner. Virgin Pulse offers an exciting array of well-being options and resources to focus on your health and optimize your Be in the Know experience. Use the Virgin Pulse mobile app for wellness activities and resources on the go. - Through Penn’s partnership with, you can search for and hire caregivers using this website: You can also arrange temporary backup care in your home at a affiliated childcare center, or at an adult relative’s residence. Your Penn benefit also provides you with the support and guidance of experienced Senior Care Advisors who can assist you and your families along your journey through the uncertain terrain of senior caregiving.

Resilience Skills in a Time of Uncertainty - We are all facing different and difficult challenges as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to support you in this time of uncertainty, Penn is sharing this free and unique version of Dr. Karen Reivich’s “Resilience Skills” course from the Specialization Foundations of Positive Psychology.

Working Remotely

During the COVID-19 crisis, many staff are working from home. Remote work can pose challenges, but you can operate successfully with the right tools and set up. Here are some resources you can use.   

Tips for Working Remotely, Health Advocate blog

Quarantine Fatigue: Coping with Burnout, Health Advocate

Creating a healthy space to work at home, Health Advocate blog

For more information about resources to support you and your family’s wellness during the pandemic visit the COVID-19 Well-being resources webpage.

Creating a Positive Mindset

Happy middle-aged woman, smiling with arms outstretched.

Negativity in the workplace can create an unstable work environment that impacts creativity, productivity, and opportunities for collaboration. One staff member’s outlook can influence another’s, and potentially impact the organization’s whole culture. You can contribute to creating a workplace that is encouraging and affirming, and it starts with evaluating negative attitudes that you may have. Learn how to accentuate the positive at the Challenging Your Negative Attitudes virtual workshop on November 17, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Talent Development Coordinator Jamie Apgar, the workshop facilitator, says the workshop will focus more on working on your own negative attitude rather than trying to challenge that of others.

“Before examining the attitudes of others in our life, we need to start with who we know best — ourselves. This step is imperative because we need to see if our own attitudes are part of the problem and contribute to negativity. Only after we have an honest conversation with ourselves, to learn how we potentially contribute to negativity, can we then try to understand and navigate the negative attitudes of other people,” says Apgar.

In this training, Apgar will discuss four key topics:

  • Adjusting your own attitude. Attendees will participate in a self-assessment exercise to gauge their own attitude level and explore some ways to improve their attitude.
  • Pessimism vs Optimism. Pessimists tend to think a situation is permanent while optimists see it as temporary. An optimist will focus on specifics, while a pessimist will make universal statements. Participants will learn the differences between each perspective and how using distraction and disputation techniques can increase optimism.
  • Reframing negative situations. Learning how to dissect negative situations can help you create a more positive response to them. Participants will use the EXPEL Model (Explain, Pinpoint, Evaluate action, Link to self-esteem) to rethink negative circumstances and playback how they could have handled a negative situation from the past more positively.
  • Coping with negativity that results from change. There are many ways you can navigate and cope with change. Apgar will discuss several, including letting go, gaining balance, and exploring alternatives.

Apgar says, “Taking a step back to understand your own attitude has the potential to create a more positive work environment because you are now more self-aware of the attitude you bring to the table. Depending on what you find out about yourself, you may need to adjust your own attitude to help create a more positive work environment.”  

Register today for the Challenging Your Negative Attitudes workshop and learn how to turn your negativity into positive work experiences that benefit you, your colleagues, and your organization.

For more professional development programs, visit the Learn & Grow section of the Human Resources website.

Fall, Winter, and Spring Holidays Reminder

Pumpkins, gourds, apples, and other seasonal vegetationIt can be difficult to make plans during an ever-changing pandemic. To make it a little easier, here is a reminder of Penn’s upcoming holiday observances to help you prepare for the end of the calendar year and the 2021 Spring Term.


Thanksgiving--Thursday and Friday, November 26 & 27, 2020

Christmas Day--Friday, December 25, 2020

New Year’s Day--Friday, January 1, 2021

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day--Monday, January 18, 2021

Memorial Day--Monday, May 31, 2021

Special Winter Vacation

Each year, the President, Provost, and EVP assess the feasibility of observing Penn’s traditional Special Winter Vacation. Based on this assessment, the Special Winter Vacation granted to faculty and staff will be December 24, 28, 29, 30, and 31, 2020, and January 4 and 5, 2021. 

A Drug-free Workplace

Sunny blue sky with cloudsFor the health and safety of the community, the University of Pennsylvania is committed to maintaining a drug-free workplace. Drug and alcohol abuse endanger individual users, as well as their family, friends, and coworkers. The use of any substance that impairs your workplace judgement or abilities puts you, your colleagues, and Penn students at risk—especially in a pandemic.

As Penn observes National Drug-Free Work Week, October 12-17, please take the time to review the University’s drug and alcohol policies.

Penn’s Drug and Alcohol Policies

Penn prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, sale, possession or use of any drug by its employees in its workplace. Complete policy details are available online:

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a serious disease, but many effective treatments are available. Visit Penn’s Health Advocate for facts about addiction, recovery, and support services for faculty and staff.

Help Is Here

If you or a family member has a substance abuse problem, we encourage you to seek help. Penn provides free, confidential counseling services for you and your immediate family members through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP will assist you with challenges that may interfere with your personal or professional life, including substance abuse.

For more information about the EAP’s counseling and referral services, visit the Employee Assistance Program web page or contact the Employee Assistance Program 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 866-799-2329.

You can also refer to Penn’s addiction treatment publication for information about treatment benefits and resources.

Models of Excellence Nominations Due October 23

Kyle Cassidy, Information Technology Communication Analyst Senior, Models of Excellence HonoreeDo you know an outstanding staff team or staff member? Don’t miss your opportunity to give campus-wide recognition. Nominate them for a Models of Excellence award by Friday, October 23. Now that faculty and staff are working in various locations, it’s important to celebrate Penn community achievements together. The University-wide Models of Excellence program gives you an opportunity to acknowledge great staff across Penn’s schools and centers like Kyle Cassidy, Annenberg School for Communication.

Thanks to a nomination by his peers, Cassidy received a 2020 Models of Excellence Award for his achievements in developing educational technology. He applied his creativity and technical skills to a range of communications projects, such as a virtual reality Narcan training he created in partnership with Penn Nursing. But his contributions to Penn education and research didn’t stop there.

In March 2020 physicians at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York Presbyterian Hospital reached out to Cassidy and his colleagues to find ways to share their clinical COVID-19 expertise with doctors and nurses in other regions of the United States. With support from the Annenberg School and Penn Libraries, Cassidy was able to collaborate with a team of doctors in New York. The team went on to develop remote teaching materials to help health care professionals in the Midwest to prepare to treat patients with COVID-19 before the pandemic hit their communities.

This year, you can nominate individual staff members and staff teams for the Models of Excellence Award, Model Supervisor Award, or Pillars of Excellence Award for weekly-paid staff.

In addition to these long-standing awards, you can nominate staff members for a special Sustaining Penn through COVID-19 category. This one-time category was created in recognition of the unprecedented challenges the Penn community faced throughout the pandemic, and the remarkable strength, ingenuity, and supportiveness staff have shown in response to these challenging times.

The 2021 online Call for Nominations booklet provides details about the standards for each category. You can also view the Quick Start Guide to Submitting a Models Nomination to help you navigate the process.

If you have questions about this year’s call for nominations, please contact the Models of Excellence team at

Healthy Meals: Chicken Curry Stir-Fry

Chicken curry stir-fry

This healthy, colorful Indian-inspired stir-fry packs delicious flavor while cutting calories and sodium. Tender chicken thighs are coated in curry, cayenne, and other spices, then sauteed with fresh vegetables and pre-cooked brown rice.

Find the recipe here.

Click here to send us your healthy recipes and tips.

Did You Know: Onboard@Penn Will Reopen Soon

Onboard@Penn on Walnut Street will reopen on a reduced schedule on November 9. Hours for in-person operation will be by appointment only Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More details to come in the October 28 myHR newsletter.