immediately become better problem
solvers, better thinkers and are much
Do you have any thoughts on ways
HR and benefits leaders can move
the needle in terms of leader and
There are different definitions as
to what involvement means. What are
we expecting leaders to do? Show up
at every marathon that we run? I think
leaders need to be open and honest
about their journey and be as supportive
as possible. Leadership is central to
what we do here at WELCOA. The first
of our seven benchmarks—which we’re
in the midst of changing—used to be
CEO support. Now, we’re talking about
committed and aligned leadership.
We know that the most impactful
person in your organization, when it
comes to your individual health and
wellnesss, is your direct boss. It’s
not necessarily the CEO, though the
CEO can certainly set the tone, vision,
norms [and] traditions.
If you have a tough relationship
with your boss, your Sunday nights will
be pretty anxious. You might not sleep
well and show up Monday with a lot of
anxiety. That’s ultimately going to lead
to your health declining.
So I think what leaders need to do
is be people who can support their
employees in their goals. I don’t think
leaders need to be out there running
marathons. Everyone is on their own
journey. As organizations, I think we
need to acknowledge that.
Earlier, you mentioned taking a
holistic approach to well-being.
I assume part of that involves
mental well-being, right? If so, are
you seeing organizations begin to
address this in a meaningful way?
Yes, I think mental health is
definitely gaining a lot of attention, and
for good reason. Stress is a huge issue
and often leads to mental-health issues
and, ultimately, poor health behaviors.
It leads to not eating well, not sleeping
very well, not moving as much. For
too long, employers have been afraid
to talk about mental health, to their
As you know, a lot of companies have
employee-assistance programs; they’ll
check that box and say that’s enough
to solve the problem. But it’s clearly
not. Especially in today’s working
environment, the lines between work
stress and home stress … are very
blurred. Now that we’re so connected
with technology, we bring whatever
baggage we have at home into the
office, and we bring whatever baggage
we have at the office into our home.
Helping people deal with what
might be going on [in their lives]
needs to be an important strategy for
any health and wellness initiative. I had
the opportunity to be in New Zealand
last year, and one of the issues that
employers there are trying to tackle
involves domestic abuse. If employees
are going home to deal with a
domestic-abuse situation, they’re going
to come to work and not be productive.
They might be there physically, but not
emotionally or mentally.
I think companies really need to
start thinking about how to make sure
they have the right policies in place—
and employees have the right support
and resources, or other means, to get
the help that they need.
Obviously, financial debt is a major
contributor to employee stress,
right? What’s the role of employers
when it comes to helping employees
on this front?
I mentioned that stress is a huge issue
affecting today’s workforce—and the
No. 1 contributing factor to that stress
is financial worries. So I think helping
employees deal with financial burdens
and stress is extremely important.
The top reason for bankruptcy today is
dealing with the over whelming cost of
a medical emergency. That can break
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