A deep dive into health and vitality: Marjolein Janssen on Philips’ innovative approach to employee vitality and engagement.

Marjolein Janssen, Health and Well-being Lead at Philips Benelux, reflects on her 15+ years in health and vitality, emphasizing the evolution of well-being in the corporate world and the pivotal role of genuine human connections in fostering employee vitality.

Marjolein, you have a deep experience of over 15+ years in health and vitality and are now Health and Well-being Lead at Philips Benelux. Can you introduce yourself, Philips, and your role there?

My background is in Health Sciences, specialising in Occupational Health and Organisation. My interest and passion in sports, lifestyle, and health has been a part of me since childhood. Being involved in high-level sports has reinforced my passion and been a guiding force in my career.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time working in occupational health services. Initially, I was heavily involved in health management and advisory roles, helping companies design programs based on the outcomes of a Personal Health Assessment (PHA).

Later, I transitioned into education and worked for various colleges for eight years as a teacher, specialising in Health Sciences, behavioural change, and health education. These experiences laid the foundation for my current role at Philips as the Health and Well-being Program Lead, which is well aligning with my passion for promoting well-being in a corporate environment.

After well over a decade in the health and vitality field, what significant changes have you observed during this time?

In occupational health services, the focus was previously more on risk assessment and evaluation. It was more about ticking boxes to comply with certain standards. The urgency and necessity were different back then. We knew that an aging population was approaching and that we would soon face challenges with insufficient workforce. However, 15 years ago, it wasn’t as critical as it is now. There’s a significant surge in job postings related to well-being program managers, vitality coaches, and more emphasis on societal prevention concerning health. It has evolved into a broader societal issue, and a higher priority within companies. Absenteeism has never been this high before, so there’s a greater sense of urgency, with health and well-being related themes receiving more attention now.

What are your key accountabilities as Health and Well-being Lead?

I have the opportunity to shape programs. We’ve had an Employability and Vitality program for quite some time now. Everyone covered by the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) is entitled to participate, and we encourage them to take part in various workshops, training sessions, and the coaching we offer.

The program has been completely revamped this year, with new workshops and themes introduced, such as work-life balance and menopause. We focus more on specific themes related to vitality, alongside the foundational aspects like happiness, financial stability, and resilience to stress.

We’ve initiated a program called the “Vital Climate Roadmap,” comprising two workshops where teams devise their own action plan, identifying energy sources and stressors within the team. They figure out how to address these aspects themselves, facilitated by a trainer. It’s a significant development because it didn’t exist before. It demands a higher level of leadership. We introduced our own ‘Just ASK’ counsellors. These are trained colleagues who you can always reach out to, regardless the question or issue you have.

This new program adds great value to our well-being efforts. So, it’s not just about providing a counselling session, but also about supporting financial health. I believe these steps are significant in enhancing well-being within Philips.

How do you raise attention to initiatives and ensure their accessibility?

We communicate about it. Our ‘just ask’ councillors talk about it, not only to individuals but also to teams.

We conducted a pilot last year, organising a series of webinars about mental clarity. The focus was on understanding what stressful situations are, how to have the right conversations, and how to make appropriate referrals.

The program involves various levels, starting with initiatives for individuals. The management is also part of this approach. It entails understanding how to approach the topic, what questions to ask, and recognising certain signals. Furthermore, it emphasises what actions can be taken in response.

So you’re actually working at different levels?

Yes, indeed. Within this initiative, I’ve created a comprehensive guide specifically designed for managers. The guide encompasses the crucial steps to intervene before a situation escalates to the point of an employee needing to be absent. It aims to equip managers with the knowledge and tools needed to effectively manage these situations.

What top three sources of inspiration have shaped your perspective on well-being?

My education heavily emphasised a specific model. I had the privilege of working with notable figures such as Willem Van Rhenen and Wilmar Schaufeli, both of whom have made significant contributions to the field. Despite the evolving landscape and the emergence of new voices, I remain deeply attached to the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model pioneered by Arnold Bakker. It has had a lasting impact on my approach.

Secondly, I work extensively with evidence-based substantiation and documents. Hence, I always keep an eye on the developments from research agencies such as TNO. They also conduct the National Survey on Working Conditions every year. I follow these studies annually, which is useful for tracking trends and developments.

Also, I have joined the Wellbeing Community. This is a network group founded by ZilverenKruis, Deloitte, and TNO. Within this network, I meet other Health & Wellbeing managers. It’s extremely valuable to come together and collaborate.

What is the philosophy of Philips regarding well-being and vitality?

It begins with us being engaged in shaping our products. These products contribute to well-being within society. We aim to impact two and a half billion lives by 2030. This commitment helps integrate well-being into our purpose.

Additionally, we express the desire to be the best place to work, a place where people can grow, feel included, and where diversity is valued. It aligns with our focus on attending to our own people, the heroes within our organisation. This approach of communicating externally what we do internally on well-being and vitality works very effectively, I must say, and that’s a notable difference.

And what is your biggest frustration regarding well-being?

The priority for me in the entirety of my life and work, is health. I can’t comprehend when people don’t value their health. I just can’t understand why people make considerable unhealthy choices. This concern starts right at the family table, even with your children.

Sometimes, I feel like a sort of missionary, but this can also be a pitfall because what seems so obvious to you may lead to less understanding of others. So, I have to consciously ask myself ‘why’. Why is it that other people make different choices? Understanding the reasons behind it is crucial.

Do you have KPI’s on well-being?

We don’t have a KPI for well-being at the moment, but it is something we aim to actively monitor. We have an engagement survey which is completed two times a year, with engagement being considered a key indicator.

How are well-being and engagement linked for you?

Engagement is truly about being passionate, involved in your work, and experiencing a sense of purpose. Our engagement survey is also about how engaged you are with Philips and our objectives. We include a genuine inquiry about personal well-being within the survey. Furthermore, questions and statements like: ‘how energised do you feel at work?’, ‘how content are you with your colleagues?’ ‘do you have trusting relations at work?’, ‘I feel a sense of belonging’, ‘I can be myself at work’ and more of these questions and statements around well-being and work/life rhythm help to measure psychological safety and health & well-being.

How is well-being organised within Philips?

Well-being is a specialised team within HR. Additionally, I’m the only program manager dedicated to well-being within my team. In my team, there are, for instance, three case managers, and that’s where the link with the absenteeism policy primarily lies.

In terms of strategies and initiatives, what have you implemented that has been successful?

What has been successful is that we dared to make choices for very specific themes and this was very well received. Another successful choice we made was to go back to having live meetings, meaning getting together in an actual office. These are two things that have been successful.

How have you measured the outcomes and why were they deemed successful?

The feedback has been really positive, with scores ranging above 8.5 and averaging at 9.2. These are truly impressive scores. I’m hoping that the approach with vitual teams will also be a success. At least from what I’m seeing now, some people are already quite enthusiastic about it, so it should continue to grow.

My goal for the next year and a half is on enabling the manager to act proactively and engage with the employees earlier, recognising signs, and initiating conversations. We want to make the transformation from being mere content managers to people managers.

Which well-being related strategy or initiative didn’t work and why?

I haven’t seen apps become very successful yet. We once did a pilot around lifestyle. Of course, there were some successes. Yet in comparison to PSV’s plus lifestyle program, where people actually go to a physical location to exercise together, you see actual behavioural change. Although apps can be supportive, I don’t believe they are the primary ingredient for real behavioural change.

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