The Careerist: Healthier, On Your Terms

My company has launched a wellness program, which leaves me with mixed feelings. I appreciate that the company cares about my health and I love the yoga class at lunchtime on Wednesdays, but there are also two other yoga classes, plus Zumba on Tuesdays. I can’t do all this and get my job done. But, if I don’t go, I worry I won’t be seen as a team player.

Your company is probably providing lots of options so employees can pick and choose, not so you’ll feel pressured, so find out what the expectations really are before assuming you need to do every single downward-facing dog.

“Email has the propensity to take over. You start working on what you don’t need to be working on. That’s an email hijack.”

— Randy Dean Author, “Taming the Email Beast”

At UHA Health Insurance, in Honolulu, president and CEO Howard Lee says that, when his company launched a wellness program, they started with two hours a week of exercise as the goal. Originally it was more formal, with supervisor approvals and tracking, but now “It’s on an honor system; we don’t even have them log in. It’s just expected that they will do it.” Some employees hit the gym at night, some go in the morning, some take advantage of onsite classes. “Other times we’ll do a team challenge and do a quick five minutes of squats or lunges. Before every town meeting, we do stretches or things like that.”

It’s the CEO’s job, says Lee, to ensure employees truly feel they have permission to take advantage of any wellness programs offered. “Can you help them adopt to the new culture? If it’s not culturally acceptable, don’t do it. It’s not going to be sincere.” He also warns companies: “Doing it just to reduce medical insurance costs is not the right approach. You’re dealing with human beings, and they will figure it out real quick if you’re not doing it for the right reasons.”

Is the plan working at UHA? Linda Kalahiki, the company’s senior VP and CMO, thinks so. She got a standup desk and a ball chair, goes to the gym and, on a recent fitness profile, “My body age has decreased by a whole year.”

If you’re feeling guilty leaving your desk to Zumba the noon hour away, remember this: A study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management reports that people who exercised during their workday were 23 percent more productive on those days than on the days they didn’t.


I read that a quarter of a worker’s day is spent reading and answering email. Can this possibly be true?

That number got my attention, too! It came from McKinsey Global Institute and International Data, which found that email hogs about two hours and 14 minutes out of every eight-hour workday.

For some insight, I contacted Randy Dean, the Michigan-based author of “Taming the Email Beast” and an expert on optimizing Outlook and Gmail. “People are checking their email 15 times per day on average, so they’re looking at their inbox every few minutes,” he says. “But what’s crazy is they’re looking at each email three to seven times.” Wait, what? Seven times? “They are working on something that matters, they check their email, they open the message just far enough to determine they don’t have time to deal with it, and they do that again and again, and that is burning time. I say make a contract with yourself: If you are too busy to make a decision what to do with the email, you are too busy to look in the first place.”

Dean suggests several fixes to our national time suck. First, set a regimen where you only check your email every 30, 60 or 90 minutes, depending on the nature of your job. (You can set notifiers for certain people, so your system can ping you if Harriet Head Honcho is emailing.) When you check your email, take 20 minutes to deal with it, responding to messages, adding things to your task list and filing emails into folders. Dean is very opposed to just letting things fester in your in-box.

Now get back to work: It should be task, task, email. Otherwise, “Email has the propensity to take over. You start working on what you don’t need to be working on. That’s an email hijack. You need to balance the tasks with your need to get back to important people. What most working professionals are doing is the opposite. They are inbox focused instead of task focused.”

If you are the manager, Dean suggests a few ways you can help employees better manage their time with email. First, “endorse and embrace the philosophy that you should check your calendar and task list first thing in the day. Second, use a regimen for when you check your email, and encourage others to do the same. Model the behavior.” Lastly, think about your own expectations for how quickly employees need to respond to you. “If you’re a senior manager and you are sending an email and expecting a response within a minute, think about the precedent you just set.”


For my New Year’s resolution, I want to go more “green” at work. Any advice?

Have you looked at It has a hearty directory of business and community resources. Let’s say you’re a diner owner and you want to start using local ketchup instead of shipping it in. Click on the Made in Hawaii section, under Condiments, and, sure enough, there’s a local company that makes it. Or maybe you’re in Hilo and hoping to unload that dust-gathering heap of old computer monitors you’ve been meaning to deal with since 2014. Click on Recycling. The site also has details on co-working spaces, sustainable investing, links to government  agencies and information on hundreds of nonprofits.


I liked your November advice on business cards and actually ordered some, but now I’m wondering what to do with them. They are sitting in my drawer.

You need to take those cards with you whenever you leave the office, so you can give them to businesspeople and potential customers. But there are right and wrong ways to carry them. There are leather fold-out holders, which are comfortable in pants pockets, but can mush your cards. Others are pouch styles that attach to your key ring. If you’re willing to slip a hard-sided case into your purse, laptop case or messenger bag, that opens the field much wider. Depending on your personality, you can go quirky (a holder embossed, “I’m a CEO, Bitch” an ode to Mark Zuckerberg’s early business card) or classic (a monogram). But protect your cards inside a case, so they’ll be crisp for presentation, without rounded corners and lint. Some people keep their cards in their wallets, but you run the risk of digging around and accidentally flinging your Safeway card into someone’s face. Not smooth.


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Categories: Business & Industry, Careers, Health & Wellness, Lifestyle