Mercy Flights EMT, Julia Stouber, walks (or rides) the talk when it comes to health and wellness. As a health care provider, she deeply understands the connection between physical and mental health. As a full-time first responder and graduate student, she also knows how challenging it can be to set aside time for exercise and mindfulness. That’s why she bought a bike when the pandemic hit early last year and decided to use her commute time for self-care.
“The job we do inherently exposes us to high stress,” said Stouber. “Studies have shown that physical fitness helps mitigate the negative results of those exposures and also supports neuro-chemical wellness. I thought an innovative way of actioning Mercy Flights’ Wellness Philosophy would be to bookend my shift with a bike ride.”
The challenge, explained Stouber, was finding an out-of-the-way place to park her bike at work that was simultaneously protected from environmental elements. When Julia mentioned the idea to create designated, protected bike parking to colleagues Jennifer Johnson, (Paramedic) and Chad Keever, (Fleet manager), the wheels started turning and the idea gained momentum.
“During this time, leadership was changing and we were asked what we wanted, so I asked for bike parking. The idea was received very well by administration,” she said.
According to Keever, a small bicycle rack to accommodate 4 bicycles was installed in 2020 and 4 covers that are weather-proof and UV-resistant have been provided recently. Keever added that if more Mercy Flights team members begin biking to work, leadership hopes to evaluate and explore other ways to support them in the future, which could include more accommodations.
Johnson, who cycles to work as much as she can, loved the idea of coming up with a better solution for bike storage at Mercy Flights’ headquarters.
“It’s a little more difficult for me because I live so far away. It means I have to drive my car most of the way and bike the rest, but it’s worth it to me to have that exercise and decompression time after a long stressful day,” said Johnson. “It’s important to promote healthy and environmentally friendly practices and activities in the work place.“
Keever, who helped champion Stouber’s idea with leadership, is excited to see the project moving forward and is working to coordinate the effort. The next step, he says, is communication and getting more team members interested in cycling to work.
“I think that employee health is important and keeping people moving and active gets us one step closer to healthier employees. For a lot of people, there is not enough time in the day to go to the gym so using your time going to and from work to exercise is a great opportunity,” said Keever.
The bike storage project was completed by just in time for the National Ride Your Bike to Work Week (May 17-23).