Espresa + Les Mills Present a Research-Based, Thought Discussion: Employee Total Well-being, Delivering Healthy Engagement

Your company’s mission, vision, and values are the core drivers of business success. These foundational documents articulate what your company is trying to do and what it stands for. But to make the most of these integral elements, companies must learn how to align employees with company values through overarching goals as dictated by their mission, vision, and values.

Watch the webinar and/or read the transcript below.

Featured speakers:


Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Hi, everyone. Welcome to today’s session, Employee Total Wellbeing, featuring research and thought-validated commentary with our partner, Les Mills. Before we get started today, just letting everyone know we’re going to have a discussion at the end of the webinar. So any questions, or comments, go ahead and put them in the chat or in the Q+A control, which is at the very bottom towards the right middle of your panel on Zoom. Once everything’s available after we’re finished today, we’ll send out the recording. So if you miss anything, don’t worry, you can view it at any time or send us any questions.

We have two lovely speakers, Dr. Jinger Gottschall with Wahoo Fitness. She’s the director of applied sports science and an adjunct professor at CU Boulder in Colorado. And then we have Beth Spiegel with Espresa. She’s the executive of client success, and she’s a mental health wellbeing advocate. Thank you, Jinger. Thank you, Beth. We’ll let you take it from here, Jinger.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // Perfect. Today, we’re going to be talking about stress specific to the workplace, but first, let’s get into some of the daily contributions to stress. Work is one of the primary, followed by family relationships, various boundaries that you have for yourself as well as others, health, and finances. What is fascinating is we all have a different level of stress in each of these and are more sensitive to them in different ways, but there are some specific individuals and groups of people that experience higher levels of stress, and therefore some of these strategies and tips may be more helpful to them, such as healthcare professionals, social care professionals, minorities, individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community as well as caregivers. And those caregivers include people that are caring for older adults, children, and pets. Now, Beth will take us into more specifics about the workplace.

Beth Speigel, Espresa // Thanks, Jinger. So when we’re thinking about how this presents itself at work in the workplace with all these stressors in our lives, we think about how employees are experiencing these things and what the crossover is really between our personal and our work lives. And so the first topic is talking about overwork and the challenge of balancing competing priorities. And just to share an example with so many people still working from home, it can be much more challenging to separate their personal and work lives. And that overworked feeling can feel like pressure. And there are some simple things, a lot of what we’ll be talking about is building healthy habits. And so for folks that are working from home, that could be as simple as closing the door if you have the luxury of having an office, a dedicated space in your home.

Many of us have competing spaces, so we might have our laptops at a kitchen counter or in an area that has another use, typically in our home environment. And so building healthy habits to decompress after your work day to really make that shift into your personal zone and improve your mental wellbeing. Typically, that decompression happens at the end of the work day when you drive, or ride your bike home, or take the bus. And you have that time to make the shift from work to personal life. When you’re at home, you don’t always have the luxury of doing that, so building habits like taking a walk around the house or around the neighborhood, throwing something over your laptop, so you don’t visually see it or putting a painted rock on it so that you know that now is a personal time and you have a visual cue that you’re separated from work at this point.

So healthy habits can be built in a number of different ways, that’s just one example. When we talk about burnout, we’re really thinking about employees dedicated to the work that they’re doing, and they’re taking great pride in the work that they’re doing, and working really hard to accomplish their own goals and their team, and organizational goals. And when we don’t allow space to decompress, have breaks, and be able to separate ourselves from that, that’s where the burnout really occurs. And then that leads into, and I know, Jinger, you’ll be speaking to this a little bit more, mental and physical fatigue. And when we get to that state, we’re really in a place where you’re just doing as much as you can to get by because you just don’t have the fuel to find yourself at peak performance. And so, what we’re really looking at is a healthy state.

So, as we’re supporting our employees, what can we help do to get our folks to a healthy state? And really getting them to a place where they feel valued, they can seek more opportunities because their whole person is healthy. When we have healthy employees, you’ve probably all seen these stats before, it really encourages higher retention rates. You have folks that feel better, they show up stronger, and they accomplish more, which of course, leads to generating more revenue. And we know the cost of losing really good employees because they burn out. It can be really monetarily impactful when we lose good employees, so our focus is really on keeping them healthy.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // Now, there are three primary ways to minimize stress. And these are through your diet, your nutrition, your activity, as well as self-care. And what I find fascinating is each of these has a primary component that they are influencing. So for diet, it’s the regulation of emotions for activities. It’s actually mental health. And for self-care it is calming the nervous system.

So let’s begin with a diet specific to regulating emotions. What you put in your body actually influences positive feelings. So nutrient dense, reducing the amount of processed food, which is simple sugars, as well as any chemicals on raw foods actually helps you feel better. This also includes higher amounts of vegetables and minerals, and you want to be looking at having a ratio of all three macronutrients. So make sure that you are getting protein, fat, and carbohydrate in every meal. There are always lots of fads with respect to fats and carbohydrates, about what’s good and what’s not good, but high-quality density-rich carbohydrates that include fiber and lots of whole grains.

Fats are excellent to have in your diet. They help us absorb the vitamins and minerals that we need for proper functioning. Those come in the form of olive oil, nuts, and many types of meat, and making sure also that every meal has protein in it. I give people a range of anywhere from 10 to 15 grams of protein per meal that they eat. That can come from both types of meat as well as non-meat products. So if you’re a vegetarian, there are so many options of complex amino acids you can get, and even vegans these days. So whatever your preference in terms of food, there are options for you. And trying to improve these healthy choices and being consistent with them is really critical, so that’s emotional regulation.

The motivation to be physically active has absolutely nothing to do with your weight and body composition.

The second way to minimize stress is through activity. And what I love to impress upon people is the motivation to be physically active has absolutely nothing to do with your weight and body composition. The biggest benefit of being active and staying in a movement state is your mental health. That’s the biggest thing we can do for ourselves in terms of psychological wellbeing. And the best part about this is there are so many options. You can choose activities that meet your physical abilities and choose something that makes you smile, that brings you joy. And don’t give up because there are so many different ways of moving and feeling good about it, that there really is something for everybody.

And the third way to minimize stress is self-care and calming the nervous system. This has to do with your recovery, most importantly, your sleep patterns. You can also do this type of self-care at work by performing some really easy desk stretches that could be with the feet and ankle, at the wrist, or even just leaning down and giving your low back a little break. And thirdly, relaxation techniques are many and broad in terms of examples, such as candlelight, aromatherapy, time outside, meditation, and things that bring you joy or make you smile like flowers. So these are the three ways to minimize stress.

Consistency, in the end, is what will make some of the biggest changes.

And what I would like to impress upon you in terms of how to incorporate them are two things. The first one is no need to try to adapt or start these all at once. Choose one of these three techniques and focus on them at a time, maybe for a three-week period. Then build consistency, so therefore I would suggest focusing on one at a time, three-week periods. And then once you get to about three to six months and you feel like you’re in a nice habit, then you can start incorporating another. But consistency, in the end, is what will make some of the biggest changes.

So now let’s move into one aspect of self-care, which is sleep. Sleep strategies and sleep habits are the primary things that influence our overall recovery and the energy level that we have the next day. So in order to improve my sleep habits, I’ve done studies to look at what is the best method or strategy to do before going to bed. And interestingly, there are two options. It’s either 20 minutes of any sort of stretching before bed. This can be in your bed, out of the bed, standing, seated, lying down, however you prefer, but just a 20-minute period where maybe you have on some quiet music, there are no screens, and you’re simply just lengthening and relaxing the muscles, reducing that muscular tension. The second option is a simple three minutes of meditation, and that can actually be breathing exercises, there are many apps these days that include ways to really focus and be present with yourself.

Once we move from those strategies, let’s talk about the actual amount of time. Believe it or not, it’s seven to nine hours for adults. And interestingly, once you get into older ages of plus 65, that goes down to six to eight, but from around 18 to 65, seven to nine hours is the recommended amount of time. This does vary between individuals, and it absolutely varies depending upon the amount of activity and exertion that you get on a daily basis, but it’s a great number to have as a target and then see what works for you. Sometimes more sleep can actually be detrimental for folks, but this is a pretty secure range in terms of 95% of the population falling in here and then can get the most out of their next day in terms of positive emotions and feeling rested and recovered.

In addition to that seven to nine hours of sleep, a parallel method to incorporate into that pre-bedtime is five minutes of meditation or mindfulness. If you can’t get it in before you sleep, it’s totally fine to bring it into your routine during the day. And some of you may find that this five minutes of focused time is actually helpful in terms of regaining focus, perhaps after a meal or going into a long set of meetings, all helpful.

Next up, I’m going to present some data from a study that looked at these methods and the healthy decreases as well as healthy increases that these methods brought to individuals. So bringing a daily practice of 20 minutes of stretching before bed and/or three minutes of meditation before bed brought the following changes. Let me also note that this was only after three weeks of incorporating these strategies. There was a significant decrease in unpleasant feelings, sad and depressed emotions, as well as feeling worried and anxious. I would also like to note that at the end of these three weeks, individuals also felt comfortable talking to their medical practitioners and therapists about reductions in medication. Second, healthy increases. These individuals, after improving their pre-bed sleep habits with stretching or meditation, found significant increases in emotions of feeling confident and strong, energized, and motivated. And when they woke up, they rated the quality of their sleep as significantly higher.

What happened with positive increases, is participants had improved concentration, they reported faster learning, both in an educational as well as a workplace environment, they had more mental stamina being able to stay focused for longer periods of time. We saw that increase up to 40 to 60 percent with enhanced creativity.

So now, let’s take a look at these benefits beyond the physical. What happened, as you saw from the previous results, is that these participants had improved concentration, they reported faster learning, both in an educational as well as a workplace environment, and they had more mental stamina being able to stay focused for longer periods of time. For a typical adult, that’s 20 minutes. We saw that increase up to 40 to 60 percent with enhanced creativity. One detail I’d like to point out is that these results were even greater in a group environment where activities to improve your habits were done with others. That can be with a partner, with family members, or with a small group of friends. Helping us be accountable and enjoy the social aspect of making these changes is a huge difference. So now Beth will take it back to the workplace for us.

Beth Speigel, Espresa // Back to work. So it’s all about reinforcing those healthy behaviors. And when we think about corporate wellbeing, if we think about it top down, you can have organizational-wide initiatives that are encouraging those healthy behaviors. Levi Strauss recently announced that they were telling the world that they’re focusing on employee mental health. And they’ve built a guidebook called Worker Well-being Guidebook, and it’s really encouraging their employees to be healthy because they’ve done studies, and they understand that it impacts their tenure, their productivity, and ultimately revenue and organizational objectives. So it’s really important to take care of our employees.

And corporate organizations are building these types of behaviors in so that their employees get those refresh breaks. And then, one thing that’s many times forgotten is financial training and resources. So the financial component of our lives can be a very large stressor. And so many organizations are providing resources to encourage financial strength as well.

And then let’s talk about executive sponsorship and leadership. So you can have a company that sings from the mountain top, we’re doing all this great work around wellbeing, but what’s actually happening in our day-to-day? And what can be really impactful is this concept of executive sponsorship. And the way that shows up could be corporate visibility, it could be an executive that’s sponsoring a virtual walk or volunteering for something and encouraging everybody to join that person to volunteer. It can be team visibility, so starting your meetings off as a leader to say, “Gosh, I was in all these back-to-back meetings today. I just had a moment to stretch and practice deep breathing. While I jump into our agenda, why don’t you all take a minute, team members, to take 10 deep breaths or stand up at your desk and do some stretching?”

Organizational-wide initiatives that encourage healthy behaviors tell your people that you care about their emotional well-being. Recognizing the impacts of behavioral health on positive outcomes for companies is paramount to successful leaders. Encourage a compassionate workplace culture from the top down to truly take care of your people.

What are the habits that you are doing to improve your well-being and how can I support that?

And those same types of behaviors can happen as a leader in your one-on-one coaching. So make sure that you’re asking your employees, “What are the habits that you are doing to improve your wellbeing, and how can I support that?” Because it will be different for everyone. And then, of course, recognition. And that could be public recognition and a formal recognition kudos program, or it could just be shout-outs to your team and meetings. And then, there are the individuals who want to improve their healthy habits, like I was saying, that is identifying what they can do personally. And just like we were talking about with leadership, somebody as an individual can share with their team, “Oh my gosh, I just was able to,” if they’re able-bodied, “I was able to do some lunges back and forth and getting my coffee, just to get my heart rate going, and my mind get some clarity before I headed into my next meeting.”

So giving each other kudos for those behaviors is always important at the individual level as well. And then, as Dr. Jinger mentioned, this one daily practice can make a difference. I think that many folks think, “Oh, if I’m going to start my fitness program, I need to prepare for a marathon or some lofty goal, or I’m going to meditate an hour a day.” And let’s make sure we can practice one thing a day. As Jinger said, building healthy habits and getting that consistency is key. It could be joining a community group or an ERG that your organization offers, building that belonging and inclusion. It could be breathing, stretching, it could be listening to a webinar, or a TED talk. Anything that you can do to really take a minute and reset.

And I know we’re talking a lot about corporate and office environments, but in retail and hospitality settings, this can happen as well. At the beginning of a shift, they have a team huddle, they could be encouraging these behaviors in the same way by making sure that individuals on their team are doing some deep breathing or having a moment before or beginning at the end of their shift, so there are many ways that we can just incorporate this into our work environments.

And then, I’m a very visual person. And so this is another way that with the technology that’s available in our lives, we can make these things top of mind, visual reinforcement. I’ll go back to some of the examples that I shared earlier. You can see the first one here says, “Community garden: volunteer with our finance EVP.” So this is a person who is an environmentalist, she believes strongly in building this community garden and invites people to join her. And so that also creates connections within the organization that you may not have otherwise when you’re in an office setting. And then on the bottom, you can see a number of community and affiliation groups that just further encourage those healthy behaviors, belonging, community, and those group activities.

And then, as we bring it down further into the individual level, I was mentioning earlier with some of the programs where they have wellbeing incentives, and the company says, “Hey, I’d love to pay for that yoga mat to help you with your stretching or the meditation app.” There are some programs built like that. If you work from home, you can see on the screen as well as the commuting programs. These are ways to just really encourage, “We as an organization, support you as our employee. We care about you, we value the work that you’re doing, and we want to continue to encourage that.”

We care about you, we value the work that you’re doing, and we want to continue to encourage that

And then you can see some of the Les Mills really, really quality on-demand content that Dr. Jinger spoke to a little bit. And we could add nutrition slides on here, we could add all different kinds of healthy behavior content, but really encouraging individuals to take the time to do these things to improve their physical and mental state.

And so we’re going to be transitioning into the Q&A portion if y’all have questions, but I’d also like you to be thinking and sharing, if you’d like, in the chat on any ideas that come to mind that would work in your organization or positive examples that you’ve seen work that you’d like to share with the rest of us. It’s all about building culture and supporting employees. Sarah, I’m going to pass it on to you.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // That was really great. I love the reminder to just take a deep breath. It feels so silly to say, but it’s a good reminder. I feel like I need it every day. So we had a handful of questions come in. People have been really engaged, so pretty excited to get through these. The first question that we’ll get to is Brad. He asked a question towards the beginning. So he said, “We just learned our company is staying fully remote going forward. Is it possible to have high engagement in remote programs like the fitness or gardening clubs you’re mentioning?”

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // I can speak to the fitness clubs. Interestingly, since COVID, so we’re now two-plus years past those first shutdowns, and I still have my group of five people on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 virtually to train together for 30 minutes, strength training. And now, there are five different states represented. Sometimes we get up to 20 people, but those five of us that started have now been over the two-year mark. So I definitely think you can still be engaged and motivate each other, even virtually, in that environment. And I know this sounds a little bit crazy, but it’s not all about that 30 minutes of fitness, it’s also about the three minutes before or after that we’re just joking around a little bit or sharing a story. Even before today’s presentation, Beth shared a feel-good story. So keeping those moments of connection too, regardless of the actual purpose of the event, I do think brings that connection to people.

Beth Speigel, Espresa // Thank you. And there are so many tools available to us now, so we can connect virtually with these affiliate and community groups. Let’s say I volunteer at the community garden, and Sarah lives in a different state, and she does the same thing. And we have a social feed where we can go post our pictures and share, “The tomatoes just came up.” And we have this opportunity to engage virtually and still share those moments together. And many times, those will turn into side conversations around, “Oh, well, what are you going to do with the tomatoes? What recipes do you have?” And so I think there are, with all of the, like I said, the tools and the technology available to us today, we still have the opportunity to really have these moments and still have experiences outside of the computers or phones in front of us.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // And one last example is Wahoo Fitness is a global company, therefore we have primary offices on three different continents, but we’re spread out really between seven different offices. And two weeks ago, we had a trivia, and for some people, it was at night, for some people, it was in the morning, but we worked it out where it was an hour and a half, and we were bonding through ridiculous questions basically, but another way that you can be remote, but still feel close.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Our next question’s a little bit of a toggle from that topic. Hiroshi is asking a question about ongoing initiatives. So our ongoing initiatives are focused on diversity and inclusivity, which we love, Hiroshi, by the way. Do you have any insights on focusing on those higher stress level minority groups that you mentioned, Dr. Jinger, for creating healthy habits?

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // There is a lot of research going on in this space right now, and I think the top one is education, awareness, and giving people diverse experiences. And I really feel strongly in terms of getting diverse groups together and sharing, sharing life experiences from childhood, from stories that you’ve heard from your grandparents, from goals, from lessons that you want to pass down to your children, but seeing how there are differences, but how we are all still so the same is really critical. Then another interesting thing that has come out in recent literature about diversity is inclusion, which is actually educating people about the human body and physiology. And I know this sounds a little bit off at this point, but let me explain it a little bit more. When people understand how similar we are inside, they sometimes forget about all the differences they see immediately, superficially. So that has been another method to just show how we are all one and bring the groups together.

The goal is for employee diversity to match community diversity

Beth Speigel, Espresa // And from the corporate perspective, the goal is for employee diversity to match community diversity. So the more we can encourage that, and you see the employee resource groups connecting and encouraging recruiting so that you are reinforcing diversity and also connecting with folks with similar perspectives, so there are a lot of different channels and ways in which you can encourage that.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // And another way in the workplace is internships. I think getting diverse individuals involved early on at the high school and college level is also extremely helpful and kind of builds different habits and expectations.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Our next question comes from, and I’m very sorry if I say your name, wrong Reno, “As part of our mission and vision, we’re looking to engage with more other-abled individuals for our employees who are in wheelchairs, blind, or hearing impaired, do you have options here or engagement ideas for them?”

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // I think one of the primaries is breathing exercises and the meditation component that can be adapted for all sorts of abilities. And that can include both visually as well as hearing and physical impairments. It’s just a matter of how it’s communicated to them. So that I think is one bonding experience is a meditative and kind of calming exercise that brings into that stress reduction there. In addition to that is, taking it one step further into the physical would be stretching, which can also be done in various positions, so that various physical challenges can feel secure and safe at that time, as well as the hearing and visually impaired.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // So our next question, we have two questions, actually. They’re about Les Mills. So the first one is, you talked about global capacity, what does Les Mills offer for other languages in their classes?

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // Les Mills is currently working on getting captioning for various languages. And right now on the on-demand site, which may be a part of your programming, you can find the majority of programs in Spanish, and that’s actually the audio version in Spanish. Also for programs like Body Balance, which is the yoga Pilates fusion class that includes a lot of stretching, they are also trying to do more just on the visual cues rather than the audio so that it is easier to follow and slower moving, and slower transitions between exercises, so that if English isn’t your first language, you still feel comfortable throughout the session.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Oh, I like that.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // It’s a huge priority for them in terms of making it more inclusive for various languages.

Beth Speigel, Espresa // And I know that we also have, in the way that Espresa partners with Les Mills, the on-demand video content are also translated. I believe it’s seven languages, but I’d be happy to follow up with anyone.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // That’s fabulous.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Thank you. So the next Les Mills question is from Michael, “Can we integrate Les Mills, for example, into our point solutions? We want to reduce the stack, and we’re struggling with our employee adoption.”

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // Okay. So, Michael, in terms of adherence specific to Les Mills, as well as physical activity and/or these more meditative and mind-body programs, we have a program called the Smart Start, which is a six-week plan where you do start incorporating either the physical activity or the mind-body classes in very short segments, as short as five minutes at a time, three times a week. And then, it’s a slow progression of increasing the time in a six-week period up to 30 minutes, three times a week, which kind of leaves people with a feeling of wanting more and gaining confidence as they go through and being able to see the benefits from the sessions and want to continue. So as you probably know, in terms of habit building, too much, too soon is really detrimental, which is what we see on New Year’s when everybody’s going crazy at first. So really set it in small increments and build slowly. Please follow up on that question if I’m not directly getting to your inquiry.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Beth, maybe the question also, is there are two parts, maybe it’s also integration?

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // How to bring it in?

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Yeah. And employee offerings.

Beth Speigel, Espresa // Yeah. The Les Mills content is available in the Espresa platform, so it can be set up for easy access. And the way we have it structured is that you can select the different categories that you’re interested in, so much of what Dr. Jinger’s already touched on is around the physical behaviors or activities as well as the mindfulness breathing meditation, etc. And what’s great about it is that it is refreshed, so there’s new content quarterly. So as an employee, as I’m… Just like you just spoke to, Jinger, as I’m encouraged, and I’m building my strength or my breathing and meditation behaviors over time, I’m going to continue to have more content to look to as I’m encouraged to be doing more and expanding my experiences.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // So I’m going to our last question now, and I’ve loved hearing both of your perspectives, your research from an employee side, I’ve loved hearing your perspectives and just seeing how companies can build their culture around their people, but also you both talked a few times about accountability and inclusivity, so I really appreciated the comment that we had that came in that kind of tied it all together for me, so I saved it for last. We’d love to hear your final comments on this one from Imogen. Her question is, “We’re battling how to recover a workforce that is highly overworked and fatigued. Do you think it’s possible to reengage or re-inspire your people when they’re so depleted?”

Beth Speigel, Espresa // Of course, I mean, we’re human, right? We want to be inspired, we want to be re-engaged. And many times, the matter is identifying that that’s what’s happening. So if that’s the state that we’re in today, how do we start to pull the threads to uncover how to find solutions? So I think we can do that collectively. And I think that as we’re when I was talking about the leaders in this specifically, if you hear your leaders say, “I’m struggling with the level of work that we have, and I’m really trying to find solutions,” then that gives you the employee, the space to say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so happy to hear you say that. Let’s figure this out together.”

So I think that the leadership component is so critical to finding those solutions for those individual employees. And then it’s just a matter of what works for you as an individual. How do you repair yourself and get to a place where you’re motivated again? So I think a combination of the leadership support, the tools that you have access to, and really just identifying we are all in this together, and so let’s figure out how to get there together.

Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Wahoo // And I was actually going to say the exact same thing. If you are in a leadership role, I think it’s critical to show honesty and compassion to your folks, not be that person who it’s fine, it’s fine, and power through, but also to share how you are feeling. And to another honest part as an employee and a leader is to know that everybody is different and the recovery time, as well as the strategies and methods, are going to be different, so how flexible you can be as a leader in letting your individual employees figure out what that is for them and let them do that, and as well as for yourself. So it’s a little bit of a give yourself a check also.

Sarah Claxton, Espresa // Well, thank you, Jinger. Thank you, Beth. Thank you, everyone, for participating and for the great questions today. As a reminder, we’ll send the recording as a follow-up. This felt like it went by really quickly, but we’ve come to the end of our event today. So any questions, we’re happy to continue the conversation. Thank you again, have a great rest of your day.

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