The culture of work is a key factor that influences employee mental and emotional health and well-being. While business leaders and employers may place a huge focus on traditional workplace wellness programs, it is important to pay attention to the work culture and how this can be pivoted to address employees’ diverse well-being concerns.
Talking work culture in an interview with Corporate Wellness Magazine, Jessica Domann, a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist (CCWS) describes the role business leaders play in influencing employee well-being and how workplace wellness transcends traditional programs. Jessica serves as Advisor, Benefits, and Total Rewards for Phillips 66, with more than five years’ industry experience in corporate wellness.
How important is well-being to you personally?
Well-being had been at the center of my life long before it became my career. As a former athlete, I’ve always understood the importance of physical fitness and athletic prowess, but I didn’t understand the mental and emotional well-being aspect until a few major injuries changed my athletic career trajectory. My time as an athlete led me into what I studied in school, became certified in, and better equipped me to help others lead a healthier lifestyle both physically and mentally.
Prior to 2023, I engaged in my personal well-being by exercising, eating healthy, staying up to date on my preventive care, and having a focus on self-care. That changed drastically in January 2023 when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. I went through 16 rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, 20 rounds of radiation and I’m now through 10 rounds of immunotherapy with 3 infusions left to go. During this year my definition of personal well-being shifted. Taking time for things that make me feel good, such as massage therapy and acupuncture, became more important. Since walking and yoga became my go-to exercises, I have a better appreciation for gentler exercises that aren’t so hard on my body. I have never struggled with my mental health, but I have experienced so much value in therapy sessions and processing my emotions in a healthy way. Prior to this year I had a lifestyle of well-being because it made me feel better and I knew how important it was. Now my lifestyle of well-being is to ensure I can live the longest and healthiest life possible.
What change have you noticed over the last year with corporate wellness?
Corporate wellness had a narrower focus a few years ago, but leaders are learning that we need to support individual needs and personal health status, not just what a company defines as wellness. Wellness has a different definition for everyone, and employees are more aware of what well-being means to them. For some, it may be engaging in social good such as taking time to volunteer in the community. For others, wellness may be talking with a health coach or counselor because accountability and a support system are necessary for them. Those things don’t fit into the traditional corporate wellness box, but employees still need traditional wellness support with things such as mental health, stress and preventive care. Organizations are doing a better job of recognizing their diverse populations and that diversity also extends to an individual’s health status and needs.
Where do you see the industry headed?
I see the industry focusing more on the needs of the individual. Individuals’ definition of personal well-being will become more of the focus, such as mental and emotional health support, health measurements improvement and financial well-being resources. The industry will hopefully pivot to find ways to support employees avoid a disease diagnosis and understanding why knowing your numbers matters. We do a good job of making sure our employees are aware that they need to complete their annual preventive screenings, but we don’t necessarily tell them why or what they need to learn about during a preventive visit. For example, women are told to schedule appointments for their annual well woman exam and mammogram once they are of an age for it. However, women are not well informed about how to interpret the outcomes of those screenings, such as the risks associated with dense breast tissue. We need to be better at educating employees about the “why”.
The industry will also need to adapt to new workplace cultures with work from home flexibility. These new cultures blur boundaries, but also take the employee away from the traditional in-person engagement opportunities. The definition of a “culture of well-being” at an organization may need to be newly defined to not lose out on talent and retain top performers.
What are the most important focus areas for you in corporate wellness for the upcoming year?
The strategy is centered around holistic well-being. A big focus is on providing well-being benefits, resources, and engagement opportunities that are geared toward individuals’ personal well-being needs. We are doing this by focusing on our four pillars of well-being: financial, social, physical and emotional. We strive to ensure that everything provided meets the needs of our diverse population including their interests, goals, what stage they are in for behavior change and adoption of a healthier lifestyle. We will continue to offer the traditional well-being model with activities and rewards to continue to engage the population in their well-being on a regular basis. However, we will also dive deeper to help employees understand the why behind the resources and benefits available to encourage employees to be active participants in their own healthcare. They will have the power of choice so they are able to engage in what matters to them most.
If you could give our readers one piece of advice regarding wellness programs, what would it be?
Listen to your population, ask them what they need and what matters to them, collect data and then work to find ways to provide what is needed to support them in their personal well-being journey. If you don’t start with where your population needs the support, your work will not make the biggest impact. Your program needs to be driven by the need to create a healthier population and improve individual health measurements while also being engaging. As leaders of wellness, we cannot just provide programs and resources that we want to, we have to give our employees a voice and provide them with what they are asking for help with.
Why did you go through the CCWS program?
I went through the CCWS program because I needed more tools in my “toolbox.” I knew the future of corporate wellness was ever evolving and I wanted to be armed with the right tools to provide the most engaging resources for our population to make the most impact. I’m thirsty for knowledge and the CCWS program was the right fit to arm me with knowledge during and following the certification program.
What was the most valuable takeaway of the CCWS program for you?
When I first became certified, the most valuable takeaway from the CCWS program was the content about the latest rules and regulations required to offer a corporate wellness program. Compliance must be considered when designing a program but gaining a better understanding of those guidelines was very eye opening. Now that I continue engaging in CEU learning and webinar sessions, I have learned a lot from my peers. The CCWS community has a lot of value.