Why wellbeing matters to me

Don’t you love those moments, where something just clicks and things fall into place in your mind? For me, this happens when my personal beliefs intersect with my professional life. And so it was with wellbeing.

As a sporty, competitive tomboy – the eldest of three girls from a small town in Illinois – there was plenty of both time and opportunity for me to be active mentally, physically and emotionally. The only other option was boredom! As I progressed and moved upwards in my career, I began to realise that being fit and healthy, and prioritising exercise, was essential for me to be able to perform at my personal best. These days, ask my family what I’m like if I haven’t been able to get out to exercise for a few days – they’ll be pushing me out the door and lacing up my running shoes for me!

Thinking back, it probably wasn’t until I was going through some coaching as part of my application for the Deloitte Australia CEO role almost three years ago that I had an experience which truly brought these two important sides of my life – fitness and high performance in my job – together.

Being clear on what drives me

My career coach suggested I do an exercise to become clearer on my core values. If you haven’t already done this, I strongly recommend it. You don’t necessarily need a coach, there are some useful tools online (try these ones). Through this self-reflection exercise, I discovered that one of my core values was vitality – a life-long commitment to health and wellness to enable me to do all the things I enjoy in life.

With this clarity on how important wellbeing was to my personal performance, I decided I would bring it to the firm as one of the foundations of my leadership. Embedding my personal passion for wellbeing in the workplace has become central to our culture at Deloitte, and it’s one of my main (and favourite!) priorities to drive the firm’s performance.

What I’ve learned about workplace wellbeing

I’ve tried lots of different approaches to find the best way to share my wellness commitment with our people at Deloitte. We’ve held wellness fairs in every office to showcase all the offerings that the firm has; hosted free exercise classes; provide fruit in all our offices, and most recently introduced a national Step Up challenge to get everyone more active in teams. I’m conscious to not avoid or defer the harder stuff either – we’ve revamped our employee assistance program and trained up our managers on how to provide support for mental wellbeing.

Cindy Hook - wellbeing

Being my own best salesperson for wellbeing

If I was to pick the top reason why wellness has really been embraced at Deloitte, I think it has come down to the fact that our people can see that I’m genuine in my belief about the importance of wellbeing, especially as a contributor to overall happiness in life and work. I try to practice what I preach, but I’m the first to admit that I don’t always get it right. But I do know what can work. For example:

  • I’ve asked for meetings to be scheduled after 9am, to allow people to get a chance to exercise or find balance in the mornings, as this is how I fit it in.
  • I have a particular place on our intranet where I encourage our people to share weekly stories of how they find and celebrate balance in their lives.
  • I try to model good behaviour to our partnership by making sure wellness is on the agenda of our most important (and often long) leadership meetings. Building a beach run into the schedule of some of our exec meetings can be a lot of fun!
  • I’ve just launched, and am enthusiastically participating in, the national Step Up challenge I mentioned earlier – a firm-wide push to encourage our people to get moving and incorporate fitness into their working day.

How we’re tracking

I think we’re definitely making progress.

We’re becoming known as an organisation that’s focused on the wellbeing of its people, which is attractive to our existing and future employees. I personally believe this played a part in the record 26,000 applications we received for graduate positions last year; a true milestone for our firm and close to double the number of applications received by other large professional services organisations. In fact we’re the number one employer of choice for graduates this year, which makes me really proud.

Most importantly, our people are really getting involved and coming up with their own ideas for things we can try, and that’s crucial to embedding wellness at Deloitte. I can set an example from the top, but I can’t impose wellness as a doctrine! I’m really aware that any wellness strategy can only work in partnership with our employees, and it’s something that we’ll always be refining, based on their feedback.

What’s next?

I’ve been lucky with my timing. My appointment as CEO and my personal belief in wellness have coincided with a major focus on wellbeing in the workplace, backed up by emerging research emerging which shows the correlation between wellbeing and productivity. It’s a hot topic among my executive colleagues, in the media and the working world generally, which is great.

My priority will be to ensure that it’s a topic that remains top of mind for executives and workers in Australia. To echo that much-abused line about health – it can’t be about ‘temporary fixes’. Getting serious about wellness requires fundamental changes to how we run our organisations. And it’s worth doing.

For more information on Deloitte’s wellness initiatives and the Deloitte Medibank Wellbeing@Work Index, click here.