Johnson & Johnson: 4 Total Wellness Resolutions for 2018 to Start Tackling Now

Now is a great time to take stock of 2017 and think about where you'd like to be this time next year.

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(Originally published on JnJ.com)

As the holiday season approaches, your resolutions for 2018 probably aren't top of mind just yet—but they should be.

"The end of the year is a great time to assess both how your life has gone over the past 12 months and where you want it to go long term," says Jennifer Turgiss, Ph.D., Vice President of Behavior Science & Advanced Analytics, Johnson & Johnson.

Some key questions to ask yourself: Do I have the energy to pursue all the things I want, including spending time on personal interests and with family? Do I feel like I'm moving forward in life, or are there specific places where I feel stuck in a rut?

"The key to high levels of well-being is to have meaning and purpose in life: enough energy to do the things that matter to you; close personal relationships and meaningful social ties; plenty of positive emotions, especially during trying times; and opportunities for personal growth," explains Turgiss.

And once you've identified areas where you think you might need improvement, you can implement a concrete plan to help you achieve them in 2018—turning vague resolutions into well-formed goals.

"Health behavior change only happens when an individual is engaged in their own health journey and empowered with the skills, knowledge and opportunity to do the behavior," says Turgiss.

In the spirit of starting 2018 in the healthiest way possible, we spoke to leading career, fitness and behavior change experts across Johnson & Johnson for tips on how to head into the new year primed for purpose—and total package wellness.

1) The Wellness Resolution: 3 Ways to Help Keep Your Mind Sharp

Get better sleep! There is increasing evidence that chronically poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.

"We're not exactly sure how, but recent research indicates that it may hamper the brain's ability to clear out pathogenic substances," says Vaibhav Narayan, Ph.D., MBA.

Always tired even if you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night? Try monitoring the type of sleep you get through a wearable device with heart-rate tracking. On average, light sleep should take up 50 to 60% or more of your night, with deep sleep accounting for 10 to 25%, and the REM stage making up the 20 to 25% that remains.

If you're not consistently getting enough deep or REM sleep, see your doctor: You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.

Be social. Book club, a fitness class, volunteering with the PTA … it doesn't matter what you do, so long as you are going out and meeting new people.

"Some studies suggest that people with less social engagement, less frequent social contact and more feelings of loneliness may possibly have an increased risk of developing dementia, although the evidence is not clear-cut," says Narayan.

Break a sweat. There is, on the other hand, evidence that physical activity can help stave off cognitive decline, Narayan says.

"Exercise improves blood flow to the brain," he explains. "It also lowers your risk for such chronic diseases as heart disease and obesity, which can impact brain health."

Need some ideas to help whip you back into shape? Read on ...

2) The Wellness Resolution: 3 Ways to Get Fit—for Real This Time

Find your motivation. "The first question I always ask clients is why they want to set new exercise goals," says Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (HPI). "If they give a boilerplate answer, like 'I want to lose weight,' I push them a little further. For example, I see being fit as a way of being a good healthy role model to my 4-year-old son. I want to be able to run a 5K with him when I'm 70 or even 80."

Point being, the more meaning there is behind your goal, the more incentive you have to achieve it. "If I can link running on the treadmill or performing bicep curls to being a better dad, I'm going to stick with it," explains Jordan.

Set mini fitness goals. "A common mistake people make with resolutions is to go all or nothing," says Jordan. "But soon, real life will get in the way. If you haven't been exercising consistently all year, focus on making sure you fit in a minimum of three workouts a week. Once it becomes as instinctual as brushing your teeth, you can ramp up."

And you don't need to spend hours working up a sweat each session either. In fact, Jordan designed an app that breaks full-body workouts down to just seven minutes a pop.

Plan ahead. Pack your gym bag before you go to bed each night and leave it by the door so you don't forget it. Schedule workouts into your calendar just like any other appointment. Set gym dates with friends so you'll be sure to show up.

Anything you can do in advance to plan for success will help you stick even harder to your workout goals.

3) The Wellness Resolution: 3 Ways to Find Your Happy (and Healthy) Place

Practice gratitude. Research has consistently uncovered that feeling grateful can improve both your physical and emotional well-being. One study done at the University of California Davis, for example, found that people who routinely count their blessings report better moods, healthier coping behaviors, fewer physical symptoms and overall more life happiness than those who don't.

"Gratitude helps us find more harmony with what we have," Turgiss explains. "It gives us a reality check."

Perform random acts of kindness. Whether it's checking in with an elderly neighbor or volunteering at a soup kitchen, the act of do-gooding can benefit you in the long run: An Oxford University study completed in April found that when nearly 700 people from 39 countries performed acts of kindness every day for seven days, they reported feeling happier and having more life satisfaction.

"When you practice kindness, you ultimately lift the well-being of both your social group and society at large, and when that happens, everyone benefits," says Turgiss.

Master something new. Learning is a great way to get yourself out of the rut you may be feeling after years in the same career and life routine, notes Turgiss. In fact, people who work hard at mastering a new skill report the most happiness long term, according to a San Francisco State University study.

4) The Wellness Resolution: 3 Ways to Give Your Career a Kick-start

Identify your passion. In order to move yourself—and your career—forward, you should do some serious self-searching about where you are now. What gets you out of bed every morning to go into work and put in the hours you do? Is it improving people's lives? Moving a new invention or technology forward?

"So many people make the mistake of focusing on where they want to be in 10 or 20 years, when pinpointing what they want to achieve in the short-term future is even more important," says Sjoerd Gehring, Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Johnson & Johnson. "If what drives you into the office each day is simply a paycheck, then you need to be exploring new job opportunities or perhaps even a different field entirely."

Start adding to your work toolbox. "It's easy to become complacent about all the skills that you already have, but every time you learn something outside your comfort zone, you become more relevant," stresses Gehring. It's advice he takes to heart: Last year, he taught himself a new coding language.

Seek out—and give—feedback. 'Tis the season to be candid. "This time of year, both employers and employees tend to sugarcoat any work issues, which doesn't help anyone," explains Gehring. "In fact, I find that the end of the year is the best time to have some sort of informal review, since so many people are already mentally reevaluating their priorities."

So ask your boss or colleagues to meet with you for an informal one-on-one to go over the past 12 months. "It will give you a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses," says Gehring, "as well as help you map out professional goals for 2018."

Learn about career opportunities at Johnson & Johnson

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On November 1st, the National Organization on Disability held our Corporate Leadership Council Fall Luncheon and Roundtable. Hosted at Sony's New York offices, the event centered on the topic of mental health in the workplace.

Members of our Board of Directors and executives from nearly 40 companies held a candid conversation, heard from business leaders, and participated in an insightful Q&A where successful strategies were discussed to accommodate and support employees with mental illness in the workplace.

"Mental illness is the single biggest cause of disability worldwide," said Craig Kramer, a panelist at the event and Chair of Johnson & Johnson's Global Campaign on Mental Health. "One out of four people will have a clinically diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives," he continued. Another 20 to 25% of the population will be caregivers to loved ones with a mental illness.

The costs are staggering. "In the coming decades, mental illness will account for more than half of the economic burden of all chronic diseases, more than cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases combined…. It's trillions of dollars," said Kramer.

From an employer's perspective, the need for a successful strategy to deal with mental illness in the workplace is clear. But what are the most effective ways to confront this challenge? Roundtable participants discussed a wide range of ideas and success stories aimed at de-stigmatizing mental health and incorporating the issue into wider conversations around talent, productivity, and inclusion.

6 KEY TAKEAWAYS ON MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE:

  1. Be empathetic. "The most important workplace practice [with respect to mental health] is empathy," said NOD President Carol Glazer. Empathy is critical for normalizing conversations about mental health, but also for maximizing productivity. "A feeling of psychological safety is important," said Lori Golden, a panelist and Abilities Strategy Leader for Ernst & Young; and this sense of safety requires the empathy of colleagues to flourish.
  2. Tell stories. "Nothing is more activating of empathy than for people to share their powerful stories," said Dr. Ronald Copeland, NOD Board member and Senior Vice President of National Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Policy and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Kaiser Permanente. Copeland's organization partners with the renowned nonprofit, Story Corps, to capture the stories of Kaiser Permanente employees, and also provides a platform on the company intranet for employees to communicate in a safe space. Both Craig Kramer and Lori Golden also shared examples of how their companies provide opportunities to share their stories and "start the conversation, break the silence," as Kramer put it.
  3. Model from the top. Carol Glazer received a standing ovation at the luncheon for her account of her own experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This type of executive-level modeling sends a powerful message that a company is committed to improving mental health for all employees. Lori Golden shared how EY had experienced great success with a program where top-level managers host office-specific events and share stories of mental illness or addiction that they are personally connected to – either about their colleagues or loved ones or, in a surprisingly high number of instances, about themselves. Senior leadership setting the example conveys that this is a forum in which employees can feel comfortable sharing.
  4. Communicate peer-to-peer. "We all know that there's greater trust of our own peers than there is of the organization," said Lori Golden. So to build trust, EY "took it to the grass roots," creating formal opportunities for employees to have conversations about mental health and asking other ERGs to co-sponsor these events. Craig Kramer also noted that Johnson & Johnson had simply folded mental health issues into their global disability ERGs, eventually building the world's second-largest mental health ERG by piggy-backing on existing infrastructure and leveraging existing connections.
  5. Be flexible. Accommodating [the fact that people live busy, complex lives] gets you better buy-in…and keeps production pretty high," suggested Dr. Copeland. A representative from one Council company concurred, explaining how their company has recently instituted a new policy of paid time off for caregivers on top of federally-funded leave. "Being in a culture in which we measure what you produce and not whether you show up in person all day, every day, and where if you can't be there, you negotiate how the deliverables will get done and in what time frame…is immensely helpful to people who themselves have mental illness issues or addiction or are caring for those who do and may need some flexibility," summarized Lori Golden.
  6. Build a trustworthy Employee Action Plan. Many employees do not access or even trust their organization's internal resources. According to Craig Kramer, the percentage of calls placed to most company Employee Action Plans (EAPs) regarding mental health is "in the low single digits," while "if you look at your drug spend, you'll find that around 50% is [related to] mental health." The people answering those calls must be trained in mental health issues, and employees also need to be assured that EAPs are truly confidential.

While revealing and accommodating mental illness remains a massive challenge in the workplace and beyond, a number of successful strategies are emerging for tackling this challenge – many of them pioneered by companies in NOD's Corporate Leadership Council.