What is the most challenging aspect of your role as chief well-being officer?
Recognizing that well-being is essential to high performance, more organizations are looking at ways they can design well-being into work itself so that both workers and the organization can thrive. But despite this, we are seeing a disconnect between employers and workers when it comes to prioritizing well-being, according to our latest Deloitte Human Capital Trends report. Bridging this gap and helping organizations and senior leaders understand that well-being needs to be embedded at all levels—individual, team and organizational—is one of the biggest challenges we face right now.
Why has health and wellness become so integral to any company’s business plan?
I believe that every organization is on its own well-being journey. There are some industries that have understood for years that health and wellness are vital to its success and, in some cases, safety. For instance, airlines have known for a long time that pilots need to be well-rested to operate airplanes safely. At Deloitte, we’ve supported the health and wellness of our employees for years, but within the last six years, we’ve shifted our focus to well-being and the whole person, recognizing the changing dynamics of family and expectations, as well as the important role that mental health plays in the workplace. Every organization is different, and leaders should understand their workforce’s needs relative to the work that they do, in order to create a well-being strategy that works.
How did the shutdown of travel and in-person meetings affect wellness?
The pandemic has shown us how important face-to-face interactions are to our well-being. In-person connection, both inside and outside the office, is such a vital part of how we build and cultivate relationships personally and professionally. Despite our ability to quickly adapt to a virtual environment in the workplace, it’s clear that human interaction, no matter what the context, will be important moving forward. Even introverts like me are looking forward to connecting in person.
What are some examples of how you and your team have had to pivot during the pandemic to promote and maintain that healthy balance?
I was already leading a virtual team, so we had behaviors in place to support well-being before the pandemic. Some of those include holding a weekly team check-in call; scheduling time for no meetings and focused work; being open and transparent about when we need time off and supporting each other to truly disconnect; and checking in with each other on how we are doing and feeling. The pandemic is illustrating how important it is to be truly human at work. We didn’t try to sideline or cover emotions on our team. Instead we created an environment where we all can feel comfortable speaking out about what we are experiencing and what support we require from each other.
Sleep seems to be underappreciated for those in demanding jobs. Why is it so hard to push away from the “stay up late” and “burn the candle at both ends” stereotypes?
Sleep is incredibly important, no matter what your job is. In fact, a well-rested workforce is one of the most overlooked competitive advantages in the workplace. Existing cultural norms and perceptions, coupled with the use and ubiquity of the latest technologies, continue to undermine an employee’s ability to disconnect, rest and, of course, get quality sleep. Working long hours has become a badge of honor in our society—or what I like to call the “badge of busy.” But chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of health conditions from high blood pressure to dementia, as well as a number of mental and emotional issues. It’s important for individuals and organizations alike to reframe their attitudes and perceptions regarding sleep and rest to see them for what they are—the ultimate performance enhancers.
What is one step to winding down and getting ready for sleep?
A bedtime ritual helps signal to your mind and body that it’s time to get ready for sleep. Our modern world and the technology we interact with daily is designed to keep us alert and engaged. A bedtime ritual helps us disconnect from these distractions and gives us cues that help us relax so that we can get the quality and quantity of sleep needed to perform at our best every day.
Is there a well-being misconception that limits people?
There is a myth about well-being that you have to make big, sweeping changes to your life and work. It’s actually the opposite. To make well-being accessible and sustainable, it is important to focus on the small behaviors, or micro-steps, which add up to make a big impact. When you try incorporating smaller, bite-sized behaviors into your day, you can build on those to create habits. I’m personally a big fan of micro-breaks. These are small breaks (five or ten minutes) to focus on your well-being, like stretching, meditating or just stepping away from your computer to do nothing. You would be surprised at how just a few minutes can make a huge difference.
As people return to more travel in 2021, are there new tips for well-being?
One of the big takeaways during the pandemic is the importance of self-care. At a time when we were so busy taking care of others, many of us overlooked ourselves. I hope moving forward that we can all make self-care a priority, no matter what it looks like. And for those of us, like myself, who typically do travel a lot, we need to make sure that we continue to embed our self-care rituals into our schedules and focus on incorporating immune-boosting behaviors to stay well. Here are a few of my favorites:
- I like to use meditation apps for a quick five- or ten-minute meditation on the plane or in the airport.
- I pack a journal with me so I can write down three things I’m grateful for every night.
- I carry my favorite water bottle with me so I can stay hydrated wherever I am.
- I pack healthy snacks to stay energized and avoid temptations (though I fully support indulging in your favorite treat sometimes, too).
- Eat foods that are good for your mood, like leafy greens, and get adequate fiber to maintain a healthy digestion.
- Make sure you get adequate sleep and plan for downtime while traveling so you can stay focused and engaged throughout the day.