Some corners of corporate America have long had a culture that wears its long and grueling hours like a badge of honor.
Now a group of executives is trying to change that by opening up about how they each found balance in their own lives and by making wellness a priority at their companies.
“I’ve found in a culture like Wall Street, people are obsessed with how many hours people work,” said Barry Sommers, CEO of Wealth Management at J.P. Morgan Chase, during Fortune's second annual Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego on Tuesday. “Way too many people are getting out of there as fast as they can because they’re totally burnt out.”
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Sommers decided to take his health into his own hands a decade ago after someone he’d known personally and professionally for 30 years started doing transcendental meditation. “It transformed this person’s life,” he said. “I saw a different person.”
Sommers now has being doing transcendental meditation 20 minutes two times a day for a decade. And he prioritizes sleep, getting seven and half to eight hours every night. “I changed my schedule and lifestyle,” he said. “When I do a dinner, we’ll be at the restaurant at 5pm, not at 8pm.” He said his kids make fun of it, but he wakes up every morning “incredibly happy.” If there’s a problem at the office, his employees know to call the house and his wife will wake him up. But rarely is there anything so important that it can’t wait until the morning, he said.
“This goes completely against mainstream assumption that J.P. Morgan is the boiler room of burnout,” said Arianna Huffington, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, who moderated the panel.
Over at Levi Strauss, CEO and president Chip Bergh has focused on pushing exercise for his employees. “I always saw a connection between what I was doing for my own health and fitness and performance,” said Bergh, who has run triathlons and marathons.
Levi Strauss was in turnaround mode when Bergh joined after 28 years at P&G. It was his belief that “the whole human drives performance” so he implemented a program that focuses on every aspect of employee life. The company subsidizes gym memberships for its employees who work at headquarters, and now has about half of them signed up. “It’s one of the things that's helping to contribute to us driving healthcare costs down,” Bergh said. He tries to model good behavior by making it clear when he leaves the office at lunch to work out.
Deborah DiSanzo, general manager of IBM Watson Health, sets boundaries for herself and hopes her team follows suit. “I try to make a habit of not emailing on the weekend,” she said, adding that its parts of the company’s goal to create a “culture of health.”
DiSanzo's health and work like collided five months after she took on her role at IBM when she received a cancer diagnosis. She struggled to get a consistent storyline from multiple doctors—they all gave her different information about the size of the tumor and the type of surgery and treatment she should have. She turned to Watson, who had been trained by the oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, entered her data, and followed its recommendation. She’s now in remission.