Business of Well-being

Changing the Narrative in Corporate Wellness, an Interview with CCWS Graduate, Renee Fortuna

Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist

Wellness is evolving in the corporate world as the events of the last few years have shifted the paradigm. Employers, business leaders, and managers have realized the inadequacies of conventional corporate wellness programs and how the one-size-fits-all, generic approach of corporate wellness does not achieve optimal wellness outcomes.  

The Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist (CCWS) program provides business leaders and HR managers with the requisite skills to build an effective corporate wellness program in the new normal. CCWS brings in a team of leading experts in corporate wellness to train business leaders on the nuances of corporate wellness and how an individualized approach to addressing employee’s health and wellness concerns is the way to drive engagement.  

In an interview with the Corporate Wellness Magazine, Renee Fortuna, a corporate wellness expert and a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist talks about the program and how it has reshaped her approach to employee wellness. She also shares deep insights to the true meaning of wellness and how to move the needle in optimizing employee health.

How important is well-being to you personally?  

I have always been a fit person, but in the last 10-15 years, I started educating myself on how to be the best me from a wellness perspective and how to lessen my risk of chronic disease. Unfortunately, chronic illness, specifically Alzheimer’s, is present in my family tree, and this led me down the road of researching prevention.  This research steered me to an interest in general well-being and longevity.  I researched nutrition, activity, sleep, and meditation, and began to pay great attention to how those things impacted me and others.  I followed industry leaders, learning as much as possible about food and medicine and how all the pieces of well-being were interrelated.  Wellness became my passion and I wanted to do work that would share that passion with others.  I knew this was the work I wanted to do, and Corporate Wellness was the best way to align my passion with my business skills.  


What changes have you noticed over the last year with corporate wellness?  

I continue to see the personalization of content and programs, along with the mental health focus since the pandemic, but what strikes me most currently is the wealth of specialty wellness services.  It feels like we are finally looking behind the curtain on issues that have been taboo in the past.  I really enjoy seeing all the new and creative ways that we are looking at women’s health, whether it is fertility strides or, more recently, bringing menopause services and products to the forefront. We are doing better at looking at substance abuse and trauma and allowing for multiple avenues to get help in those areas.  I hope we continue to see creative solutions in those areas considering all the pressure children are under today with social media and the visibility of adult problems in their world.  Corporate Wellness programs are doing a much better job of supporting the whole family and the complicated dynamics that come along with it.  


Where do you see the industry headed?  

With AI growth, we will do a better job of getting the right information to the person at the right time.  I think we have had trouble getting the right personalized content easily delivered to individuals in the media that they prefer.  As machine learning understands the needs of each individual and how they best respond to engagement activities, hopefully, we will see the increased utilization that we have been looking for.  

I do feel like in addition to the continued deep dive into chronic disease, we will see longevity and genomics coming into the mix at a greater level.  People are seeing the value of taking care of themselves and as they do… living a long and more importantly, healthy life is a goal for many.  This is the area that excites me the most. I have been following the blue zones for years!  

Now let’s talk about Wellness Travel, I feel like this is another industry avenue that is making great strides and will only be stronger in the future.  I feel like the pandemic opened people’s eyes to this in a brand-new way.  Wellness retreats and medical travel align health and vacation - is there a better combination? I have participated in multiple wellness retreats across the globe, many of which have focused on yoga, meditation, and sound baths; these are coupled with hiking, culture, and great people. These travel experiences are a great way to have access to medical treatments or to reset mentally and physically.  


What are the most important focus areas for you in corporate wellness in the upcoming year?  

This year, I will be focusing my efforts on helping companies analyze their current programs, and vendors to help them determine how to move forward.  My strengths include being able to identify services and programs available to employers through their current vendor support and presenting them to employees via a “wellness program” without extensive additional resource commitment.  Corporate wellness should be accessible to all companies big and small…we just must deliver it correctly.  

In addition, I will continue my research and education in the arena of longevity and genomics. It seems that there is a great opportunity to educate individuals and families on the impact of daily choices and the environment on their long-term health.  While most people understand this fundamentally, breaking it down into smaller specific “if this then that” examples that individuals understand and relate to, we might start to get individuals on the right path.  Wouldn’t it be great to see the small changes deliver great big results?  


If you could give our readers one piece of advice regarding wellness programs, what would it be?  

With the increase in cost across services and programs, understand what is available to you through your medical, employee assistance programs, and current specialty vendors.  There are services, fitness challenges, training dollars, and training options, as well as wellness dollars that may be available to you.  Take another look at your contracts and ask your vendors to do a deep dive with you on all the services under your contract.  Be creative in how you present these options to your employees, drive them to one place but let them access your page from a laptop or their phone, whatever is most convenient for them.  Try to use multiple media on that page or link them out to various media – everyone engages differently.  Here is where AI might play a better role in the future; if I engage in videos but not articles then present me videos whenever possible.  It isn’t always that we need a “new” wellness vendor or a “new” service, sometimes it is making better use of all the things available to us.  Remember, get to know your population and meet them where they are at.  The best programs fail if you are presenting them to the wrong groups or in an inconvenient way.  


Why did you go through the CCWS Program?  

I went through the CCWS Program early on in my Corporate Wellness journey.  I was transitioning from a strong Accounting and Project Management background into Human Resources and Corporate Wellness. I wanted to ensure that I built a strong foundation for this aspect of my transition.  My long-term goal was Corporate Wellness and the company that I was working for (AT&T), housed this area in Human Resources.  Corporate Wellness at that time was rather young and candidates needed to have Human Resource experience.  I started my journey by accepting a Project Manager position for AT&T’s Annual Enrollment.  This meant I needed to educate myself in Corporate Wellness off hours while running Annual Enrollment for 1.2 million employees and dependents. I found the CCWS to be an efficient way to solidify a base and have an avenue for staying on top of the latest trends.  It provided me with the confidence and expertise that I need to negotiate moving over to the Corporate Wellness team at AT&T.  


What was the most valuable takeaway of the CCWS program for you?  

The CCWS program helped me build the confidence that I needed to step out and have a voice in my company regarding our wellness programs and direction.  The certification was a unique credential on our team, and it opened the door to stepping into the design and analysis of the program and its utilization.  It provided me with the tools that I needed to have strong conversations with my leadership regarding recommendations for vendors, services, and sub-programs like the Champions and Challenges.  My project management skill set allowed me to lead RFP and implementation efforts in our Corporate Wellness arena, my accounting background allowed me to make good recommendations based on financial impact and budgetary considerations, and the CCWS and my other education in this area helped drive my design and analysis abilities.  It certainly helped to take my wellness career to the next level. I love that I have ongoing resources to keep me up to date on wellness trends and continuing education.

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→