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why wellness matters at work


Why Wellness Matters at Work

Wellness. It’s something we all want for ourselves and our teams. But “wellness” is in danger of becoming just another HR buzzword.

Wellness isn’t fluffy, or a nice-to-have, or just a program for employees to shave a few dollars off their medical premiums. If you can help employees adopt healthier behaviors, you’re on the way to building more engaged, productive teams.

I’ve seen the evolution of wellness strategies implemented in companies over the last several years. At first, wellness programs were just a requirement to read articles and watch videos on healthy life choices. Now, organizations are implementing healthier food options in employee cafeterias, creating social activities around fitness, and performing acts of community service as a team.

Wellness programs should help employees reach their full potential physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually. Let’s look at the physical aspect of wellness. Here’s what I’ve learned — through 16 years of working in HR and on my personal wellness journey — about how to build a team that’s healthier, happier and more productive.

Work/Life Balance

We can’t talk about reaching your full potential without talking about balance. We all want work/life balance, right? It affects all four aspects of wellness and is an important foundation for a happy and productive workforce.

There have been times when I have found myself so engrossed in my work that I was ignoring pretty much everything else in my life. I was exhausted, not eating right, and making time to exercise felt totally out of reach.

It may be hard to turn work off at the end of the day, but no one performs at their best when they never unplug or recharge. Help your team by following these tips:

  • Break the cycle of constant work. Remind people to schedule regular work hours and stick to them, even if they work remotely or travel for work.
  • Set a healthy example. If the boss is emailing late at night, people get the message that being always-on is okay — or even expected. If you don’t want your team working at night and on weekends, you shouldn’t be either.
  • Take a break. Create a daily calendar reminder to remind yourself and your team to take a break. Go sit in the break room or cafeteria during lunch. Take a 15-minute walk around the building with someone different each day (and don’t talk about work). And always take your vacation time — no matter what.


Have you ever caught yourself snapping at people more than usual — only to realize you haven’t worked out in several days? Yep, that’s me, raising my hand high. I’ve gone days, weeks and even months without working out to buy myself more time in the day to work or sleep when in the end it’s only making me feel more stressed out.

Exercise is a critical factor to increase happiness and productivity while reducing stress.

Is your team struggling to make movement a priority? Here are some tips for finding motivation:

  • Share accountability. Share your goals with your teammates. Knowing your team is cheering you on will make you much more likely to close the laptop and focus on yourself.
  • Make wellness fun. Start a competition or team challenge to motivate your team to get moving, either together (lunchtime walks around the building) or on their own.
  • Make it work for you. You will only be motivated to stick with a program that you enjoy and that fits into your schedule. If you hate running and love to swim, don’t join a running club, but make sure to take full advantage of that indoor pool at your local gym. With my unpredictable schedule, I couldn’t commit to the classes at my favorite spin studio so I brought the “studio” to me. Owning a Peloton bike allows me to take on-demand classes on my time at home.
  • Offer incentive programs. Don’t just offer a reimbursement for a fitness center or home workout equipment. Offer an incentive to those who use it. Gone are the days of taking a 5-minute health questionnaire, entering an estimated blood pressure and clicking on a few video links to receive $20 off your medical premiums each month. Motivate your employees to incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily routine.

Healthy Eating

Focusing on work/life balance and creating space for exercise are important. Making healthy food choices is the next step. When you’re glued to your computer, it’s easy to grab whatever’s available for lunch. I work from home and am on the road, so it’s easy to blow off a healthy meal and grab whatever is quick and easy instead. But I realize that Cheez-Its aren’t exactly brain food, and bad eating habits interfere with productivity.

I have seen companies dramatically rework the food for sale in the on-site cafeteria. The salad bar became the cheapest option, while the fries and chicken tenders were expensive (and eventually completely phased out). I’ve also seen companies swap out vending machines with healthier grab-and-go options.

You can help your team make smart food choices. Consider these ideas:

  • Offer healthy on-site options. Rethink what you serve in the company cafeteria. If you don’t serve food on-site, give employees healthy, easy options — like offering to order salads for lunch, or working with nearby restaurants to give discounts to employees.
  • Rethink “celebration” food. If you work in an office, it can feel like every day is another celebration — birthday cake, retirement party cookies, “just because” Friday doughnuts and Jane’s famous candy drawer. If you’re bringing in junk food regularly, it might be more of an unwelcome temptation than a treat for your team. Rethink how you celebrate with food.
  • Encourage healthier options on the road. For those who are not working in an office or who frequently travel, share tips for healthy travel snacks or better meal options at airports. How did you first learn about your favorite protein shake (since I don’t leave home without mine)? Because someone once told you about it. Keep sharing tips and ideas with your team.

HR leaders can make a major difference in helping employees create and keep physical wellness goals. It’s easy to gloss over “wellness” as just another buzzword. But on an individual level, if you can make a difference in employees’ daily habits, you’re guaranteed to build happier, more engaged, more productive teams.

Janine Comito is a senior advisor at IA. With a strong business analysis background, Janine has a unique understanding of highly complex HR challenges and the best solutions to achieve optimal results. She is also an excellent party planner who is famous for baking up a batch of her pumpkin whoopie pies.


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How Does HR Transformation Affect the Employee Experience?

How Does HR Transformation Affect the Employee Experience?

The car wasn’t mine. I had borrowed it from my stepfather to drive from my temporary home in Northern California to what was (in my mind) the perfect job opportunity. The drive time should have been no more than thirty-five minutes. I was dressed in the best suit I could afford, white shirt neatly pressed, shoes shined, resume printed in triplicate. It was a typical sunny morning once the fog burned off, and the drive was uneventful. Then it wasn’t. The sedan directly in front of me on the highway suddenly and unexpectedly lost control. Careening at 65 miles per hour in ever-widening overcorrections of the wheel, the driver eventually rammed headfirst into the median. Glass exploded, his car accordioned, other drivers slammed their brakes, and then eerie silence filled the void. Quickly pulling over near the wreckage, I managed to click on my hazard lights before running toward the now smoking vehicle. Seeing the unconscious driver bleeding profusely from the neck, I put all of my weight onto the pressure of the wound. Thankfully, I could feel every heartbeat. He never woke. Sirens suddenly blared and I was relieved by the Highway Patrol and EMTs. I walked back to my stepfather’s car, buckled my seatbelt, turned off the hazard lights and drove on to my interview. Arriving approximately ten minutes late, I checked in with reception and took a seat in the lobby. Without offering an explanation, I apologized for my tardiness and hoped that they would still be willing to see me. Reception made a phone call, and a man emerged from a door to the right of the front desk. He stopped, looked at me, looked at reception, and then looked at me again. Ceasing his approach, he immediately reentered the door from whence he came, and my wait continued. A few minutes thereafter, a young woman — let’s call her Barbara — came out to see me. She explained that she was the recruiter for the position and that regrettably the hiring manager was no longer seeking candidates. I expressed my disappointment and shook her hand in thanks. That was the moment that I saw the blood caked on my hand. I was covered in blood. Shocked from the trauma, I had never stopped to look in a mirror, to assess my appearance, or to truly process what had occurred. Barbara didn’t flinch — she simply wished me well and helped me toward the door. Ironically, my interview was with a prominent health care provider. I shared this very story a few months ago with a group of talent acquisition leaders. It was in the context of a discussion on the critical nature of the candidate experience in a very competitive labor market. After my presentation, a woman approached me and asked if I had a moment to chat. She extended her hand to introduce herself. Let’s call her Barbara. Barbara told me that she never forgot that day and vividly recounted details I had forgotten. Beyond my horrific appearance, she shared that she was very upset by her organization’s response to the interview. She had found it unconscionable that a health care provider that espouses very specific values could turn away a human clearly in need of support and assistance. She smiled at the irony of us meeting now, in this context, so many years later. Immediately after the fateful interview that never was, she expressed her feelings to the hiring manager and her direct superior. Neither cared at the time. So she voted with her feet, quit her job, and never looked back. To this day, she credits that moment for setting in motion a series of moves that led to a position where she can ensure candidates never suffer the same fate. There was passion in her voice and palpable power in her story. I was awed by the moment. She reminded me that every experience matters. Whether as candidates, employees, contractors, retirees, partners, or customers, basic dignity and care are core human tenets. When we make decisions as leaders, we often look for guidance in the latest research report or the hot industry buzzword. But what if we took a different approach? What if we started every experience focused on developing basic human decency? What if we thought about the little, personal, unforgettable moments, instead of the big picture? I think it’s worth a try.

One Sunny Morning

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