Prioritizing Total Wellness During Times of Adversity

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People Spotlight: Stephanie Blissett, People Operations, Modern Meadow

Meet Stephanie Blissett, People Operations at Modern Meadow.  Stephanie started with the company three years and now proudly, enthusiastically and successfully spearheads much of Modern Meadow’s culture and wellness work. She is the driving force behind the initiatives. From carefully planning logistics, evaluating vendors, and taking into account the different interests that exist on Modern Meadow’s teams, Stephanie brings the programs to life. 

We had the chance to speak with her about what she has been up to at Modern Meadow this past year. We hope this share inspires you! 

When the shelter in place orders were implemented in March, Modern Meadow was in the middle of their very first wellness challenge, “Water You Waiting For?”, a hydration-focused initiative with the goal of encouraging employees to evaluate their H20 intake and make small changes for the chance to win a prize. While some team members remained in the office setting, others were prompted to work from home and like all companies, Modern Meadow prioritized safety by creating shifts so that there weren’t too many people in the office at once. Soon, the struggle to connect the two shifts and those who were remote for wellness activities and team bonding became apparent, but this didn’t stop them from continuing with their wellness initiatives, it just required tweaking.

The wellness challenge could have gotten thrown off and lost in the shuffle, but Modern Meadow chose to continue to build onto their wellness program. Letting it fizzle out was not an option.  Especially in its infancy, adapting and transitioning the wellness program was key at this time. “I think that [the pandemic] pushed us to focus even more on wellness and engagement, specifically mental health and well-being”, states Stephanie. They finished out the Hydration Challenge, and followed it up with a Mind-Body initiative which was meant to emphasize both physical and mental-emotional wellness during a time when it felt most necessary- following the social unrest of the Spring/Summer. To encourage participation and social connection, employees had the option to compete in teams, which created friendly competition, provided accountability and hopefully helped to reduce feelings of isolation. In conjunction with the Mind-Body initiative, Modern Meadow offered live virtual meditation. Aside from running wellness challenges, offering opportunities like instructor-facilitated meditation is helpful in introducing employees to a healthy coping strategy and to bring people together under one common goal: living in the present moment. It also allowed for obtaining points towards the challenge and fun prizes.

In the fall, Modern Meadow offered a virtual embroidery event themed for Halloween where participants learned several beginner-friendly stitches. Crafting and expressing creativity is a proven stress relieving technique and Stephanie’s goal was to provide an out-of-the-box wellness opportunity for employees whose interests differ from what we generally consider to be wellness (ie typical physical activity, yoga/meditation and healthy eating). Right now, they are in the middle of a Virtual Turkey Trot. This was scheduled intentionally for this time of the year as folks tend to get sedentary in the colder months. Stephanie felt this would be a perfect time for more friendly competition and they have over a third of their employee population participating. 

Q. What categories have you emphasized in your wellness program design?

A: “I think we’ve done a great job of striking a balance between both mental and physical health. That was the intention, as we know that this year has brought us all a lot of angst, unrest, hurt, and of course, isolation. People Teams sometimes seem like a separate subset in our organizations, but this year I think it’s more apparent than ever that we’re all in this together and we wanted to create spaces for the teams to connect, feel challenged, learn some new coping skills, and prioritize taking care of themselves and each other.”

Q. What do you think/what have you found to be the best way to encourage participation in your wellness program?

A: “Besides curating awesome prizes that your teams would be excited to win; I think creating a friendly competitive space works really well at Modern Meadow. I insert weekly updates on our Slack Channel to keep the momentum high and do some instigating with love.” 

Q. What are some vendors you worked with to bring these initiatives to your employees?

A: “Being impacted this year, like most small start-ups with big goals and objectives we have been very fiscally creative. We’ve run most of our initiatives in-house, but we recently partnered with CraftJam for our Sugar Skull Embroidery class, and TeamBonding for a virtual escape the mob event. Some of our awesome prizes have been smart water bottles, Headspace Subscriptions, Fitbit Smart Watches, Series 6 Apple Watch, Alo Yoga Gift Cards, and much more! It’s all about getting to know your team and what makes them want to compete.”

Q. What are your hopes/plan for wellness in the future, whether remote or onsite?

A: “For the future, we plan to bring the same holistic approach emphasizing both mental, and physical well-being. If we can gather onsite in the near future, we have some great creative on-site activities planned; but if we can’t gather as soon as we’d like to, we have some educational workshops lined up with a focus on mental and physical health, food, crafts and more.”

Q. How have you been ensuring that YOU are “well” (practicing self-care, etc.) during these unprecedented times?

A: “It’s a trying time for us HR pros, too. I’ve been focusing on balance in my self-care approach. I tend to constantly want to feel productive 24/7, so my biggest lesson from burnout back in April/May was that it’s okay to be “unproductive” to secure my mental health. I’ve created a buddy system with my best friend to hold each other accountable for working out at least 3 times a week, and that was a game-changer! I’ve also gotten the hang of eating healthy home-cooked meals most days, but every now and then takeout does find its way into my apartment and that’s perfectly okay, too. Another way I’ve been prioritizing balance in my self-care routine is how I spend my downtime. Sometimes it’s reading and listening to an educational podcast and sometimes it’s being a couch potato and binge-watching tv. All of which are fine. Finally, I’ve recently started seeing a mental healthcare provider and it’s been great to have a dedicated place and person to talk to about all the things I’ve been juggling.” 

Stephanie’s last comment to us all is that spikes and dips in engagement are to be expected. Each one of us is doing our best to adapt and thrive to all the changes this year has brought. Zoom fatigue is real, burnout is a reality, and it’s okay to unplug sometimes, in fact, it’s necessary. 

About Modern Meadow:

Modern Meadow is a pioneer in bio-fabrication –”building with biology”, and they are on a mission to transform the material world by unlocking the power of nature to inspire design for a healthier planet. Modern Meadow is a diverse team of like-minded scientists, engineers, and designers who integrate a range of unique biotech and material science technologies to create new performance and sustainable materials. 

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