If there’s a voice to today’s wellness industry, it belongs to Jen Arnold.
Leveraging her extensive background in well-being and her straight-talk style of interviewing, Jen’s Redesigning Wellness podcast introduces its growing audience to thought leaders, researchers, and innovators. Each episode is fueled by Jen’s curiosity and incisiveness, as she ushers into the dialog her guests’ hopes and dreams for well-being, while enthusiastically exploring challenges to the status quo.
The Lone Wellness Coordinator
Jen draws on broad experience after serving in various worksite wellness roles over 18 years, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina for the 8 years before starting her own business. She led wellness programs for BCBS employees and at times served in customer-facing roles working with employers across the state. Reflecting on early career roles, prior to BCBS, she muses, “I’ve been that lone wellness coordinator trying to get people to engage in programs.”
In her Raleigh-based business, Redesigning Wellness, Inc., Jen focuses on:
- Teaching resilience, leadership, and communication skills to her corporate clients’ employees
- Training wellness professionals in how to integrate their work with business functions, helping them establish themselves as organization leaders with the acumen to forge meaningful upper management support.
Connecting the Dots
Partnering with HR-related departments is a start. In her own practice, however, Jen is often called upon as a resource across the company, joining team meetings or visiting offices to strategize integration of well-being. Jen affirms: “A wellness program doesn’t matter if there are underlying workplace issues.” As an example, she recalls a client organization: “There was such a rift between 2 departments and 2 job roles that one person went home and drank an entire bottle of wine; another went to bed with her clothes on because she was so mentally drained.”
Jen explains, “You can’t say ‘be more physically active’ to people who are at each other’s throats.” That’s where her training and “helping the employer connect the dots” come in.
Jen offers employee wellness consulting in a more conventional context, too. For instance, she assumes a role of ad hoc program leader for the North Carolina Farm Bureau where she:
- Coordinates walks
- Manages multiweek well-being campaigns
- Organizes volunteer and charity events
- Performs new-hire outreach
- Implements financial wellness programs
- Conducts workshops on a variety of topics.
Even in this work she takes a holistic approach, building relationships with leaders and keeping workplace dynamics prominent: “You can talk about physical activity all day, but if people don’t feel safe getting up from their desk to walk around…” She trails off, contemplating the futility.
The influences on Jen — and the influence she casts — range far and wide, largely a result of her compelling interviews. Redesigning Wellness surpassed 100 episodes last year. “The average podcast lasts 7-14 episodes,” Jen notes, unassumingly adding… “I’ve hung around longer than most.”
The secret to the podcast’s sustainability lies partly in Jen’s anticipation of incremental rather than viral growth as well as her motivations for creating them: desire to grow and to expose listeners to new viewpoints. She asks herself, “What can I learn from someone with a completely different perspective? How can I get a new voice out there and let people hear things they usually have to go to a conference for?”
In selecting guests, Jen concentrates on people who:
- Are committed to delivering value to listeners
- Are willing to go off-script, beyond what they personally are trying to accomplish
- Make their message tangible, with tips and information practitioners can put into action.
She doesn’t invite guests to talk about weight loss (which she refers to as a “no-no,” emphasizing that she also steers her consulting clients away from weight loss programs). And she generally avoids guests who mostly want to promote their business.
A few of her favorite podcast episodes exemplify Jen’s vision:
- Get to What Matters, with Dr. Wendy Lynch
- Building Relationships and Trust, with Patty Purpur de Vries
- Why We Need a New Approach to Wellness, with Jill Dorris, Kristin Stapleton, and Margo Walsh Riddle
- Coping With Bad Bosses, with Mary Abbajay
- Reducing Burnout in Healthcare Workers, with Dr. Bryan Sexton
- Job Crafting and Finding the Meaning of Work, with Amy Wrzesniewski.
Vast exposure to thought leaders and practitioners provides Jen with a panoramic view of the wellness industry landscape — where it is and where it’s going. She’s optimistic… mostly. “There’s tremendous opportunity for wellness practitioners to get more integral to the business,” she observes. “If we partner with organizational development, leadership development, training, and across business units, we can expand the definition of well-being so it’s about healthy communication and workplace interactions.”
But progress doesn’t come without challenges, and — referring to recent studies that suggest old paradigm programs fail to achieve intended results like reduced healthcare costs — Jen passionately asserts that some wellness practitioners are in denial. “Why can’t we just look at the truth of the research?” she asks. “Maybe we need to consider new things. If we don’t, wellness will be stuck in an under-valued, under-resourced role.”
Chief Conduit of Information
When it comes to navigating new directions, Jen walks the talk. At WELCOA’s 2019 Summit, her keynote presentation underscores how to win over organization leaders instead of passively waiting for them to have an epiphany about the value of wellness. “There’s not 1 answer,” she replies, when asked about the secret sauce. “I teach the skills to help an organization define value. For example, that office where the employee drinks a bottle of wine one night… What does wellness have to do with that? Everything! Even if the wellness practitioner isn’t saying, ‘I can help with leadership training,’ maybe they can recommend a good resource to the leader responsible.”
Jen’s active pipeline of new projects includes a course on influence, slated for this fall. “It’s about conversations that open doors in organizations to elevate well-being in general,” she explains. “What questions do you ask? How do you find shared purpose to develop trust… to become the go-to person?”
With her podcasts, conference appearances, course development, and social media presence, Jen is one of the industry’s chief conduits of information and viewpoints — always growing, partnering, and sharing, just as she encourages others to do. Her advice to colleagues embodies Jen’s own professional path: “Learn from people all around you. You don’t have to go to a conference. Listen to other people’s podcasts; read a book; reach out to a lot of thought leaders and just say, ‘Do you have a few minutes to talk?’ There are tons of opportunities to learn; it’s just a matter of looking for them. Then, go for it.”
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Stay current on the professional development opportunities Jen offers by joining the well-being practitioner Facebook community she created. She describes the group as “a safe place where wellness professionals bring questions, discuss concerns, and think about how we collaborate to move the industry forward”: facebook.com/groups/rdwellnesscommunity/.
You can contact Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Merberg is an independent consultant with 20+ years in managing employee well-being programs. He specializes in helping employers increase engagement and health outcomes through innovative programs, communication, workplace environment, and organization development strategies. Bob’s well-being program evaluation results have been featured at wellness conferences and in various media outlets.