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Bulletproof in Work and Life: Dave Asprey

Contributor: Arjan Singh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dave Asprey, a Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur who spent a couple of decades and $300,000 to hack his own biology. He’s lost 100 pounds without counting calories or excessive exercise, used techniques to upgrade his brain by more than 20 IQ points, and he has lowered his biological age by learning to sleep more efficiently in less time. This transformed him into a better entrepreneur, husband and father.  He’s the Founder and CEO of Bulletproof, a company focused on teaching people how to upgrade their performance in every aspect of their life.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You were a very successful person when I first met you, over a decade ago, when you were a student here at Wharton.  You decided, though, that you wanted to make some dramatic changes in your life. What was the spark? Why and then how did you make significant changes in your own life and body?

Dave Asprey: Dave AspreyYou actually get some of the credit for that spark. I took your Total Leadership class. I was already working on upping my brain and I recognized that I was obese.  I had already lost a lot of weight before I met you. I lost half the weight that I wanted to lose.  It was interesting to understand that I needed to get my brain working right in order to get the spiritual and emotional things that we are capable of when we are performing really well. And what happened when I was in your Total Leadership class is that you encouraged a type of quantification, a measurement.  I was focusing on my weight, how much was I eating, my IQ, my reaction time, and what I could do for those variables. But I never looked at investment return on the time and energy that I put into things. And it was your framework that said “if you’re spending a lot of energy in a particular area and you’re not getting results, maybe you shouldn’t do that.” And that made me start looking at how can I make this easier instead of just how can I get this done.  It is that sense of ease and ability to not just do it with struggle and striving and just working really hard but to do it with a little bit of effortlessness and joy. That has become a big part of me becoming successful as a human being and bio-hacker.

SF: How did you create that sense of ease or joy in the process of taking care of yourself?

DA: We have this model that I wrote about in my recent book The Bulletproof Diet. The easiest way to explain it is to think about a Labrador Retriever, a big sloppy dog, and if you look at a three behavior set a dog has, those are behaviors that we have.

One, if something comes in front of our vision then we’re either attracted or scared by it and want to run away. This is a good survival behavior. It’s kept us from getting eaten by tigers and ensures we find interesting stuff. But it might distract us when we want to stay on task.

And then we have this other survival behavior which is eat anything so we don’t starve. And it keeps us from starving, but it doesn’t work if it is getting in our way. That Labrador will eat something even if it makes it sick or even if it gets obese. And these are instincts that fuel us, too.

And the final thing has to do with reproduction of species. The dog sees a leg and it wants to mate with that leg.  These three human behaviors can cause an enormous amount of stress and struggle. And the one that I found was most pernicious was food. Because if you’re eating stuff that makes you constantly just a little bit hungry – or even worse, “hangry,” the combination of hunger and anger.

SF: Hangry? What does that mean in terms of how it affects work and life?

DA: When you get hungry that “Labrador” in your body starts to get growly and then you treat people unkindly. To get past that, using willpower, comes at a cost.

Your willpower is a finite resource and you don’t want to waste willpower on being hungry all the time. You don’t want to waste willpower on doing things that are really hard for you, especially if they are things that are easy for someone else. So for me I made a resolution that I was going to spend my energy on things that I was really good at, or uniquely good at. And I would take the things that either did not bring me joy,  things that were more difficult than they should be, and I would find someone who enjoyed them or was just better at them than I was and I would work with them.

I don’t try to address my weaknesses. I try to fill them in with partners.

SF: Can you give an example of that?

DA: Even though I did go to Wharton, finance to me is like Valium; it knocks me out. I don’t like accounting and I don’t like finance. So I hired a kick-ass Chief Financial Officer instead of pouring extra effort into that when I would’ve gotten sub-par results anyway. And it’s the same reasoning you teach in Total Leadership. If you’re putting effort into this and you’re getting very little return, then you need to change your technique put in less effort. It’s a relatively simple example; hire a good CFO.  But if I was weak at marketing and strong at finance, I would hire a Chief Marketing Officer.

SF: It’s really about knowing what your strengths are – what you’re good at and what you enjoy – and knowing where you should invest.

DA: Exactly. It is easy to do the things you’re good at, and like, and it’s fun.

SF: How did this apply to your diet? And how did that affect your career?

DA: I spent seven weeks of my life with electrodes glued to my head doing advanced neurofeedback in a program called 40 Years of Zen. It teaches you byusing a lie detector when your body is perceiving something that you believe or don’t believe. It’s an advanced form of meditation.

SF: Your focus on getting data that helps you learn is inspiring.

DA: During this time, it gave me a very keen awareness of the inner dialogue that we all have. It’s different for each of us, but we all have this inner voice in our heads. What I learned was that every time someone put a bagel, a cookie, or a piece of candy in front of me, there was an immediate response – almost like a knee jerk reaction – that said “Eat that.” And I would tell myself “No, don’t eat that.” It’s the same as when you train a dog. You tell the dog “Don’t eat that” and the dog says “No.”

If you eat in such a way that induces food cravings, then you will feel that those cravings are hunger.  But every time there is food, you will use your willpower that should be going into making yourself an awesome life, making yourself good at your work, or good at what ever that matters to you and you’ll apply it to telling yourself not too eat that hamburger or whatever it is. Since willpower is a finite resource, there is willpower fatigue, there is decision making fatigue – like muscle fatigue.

Why would I waste muscle on basically telling myself no to something?

The breakthrough was figuring out that there are things you can do by either avoiding causes of food cravings or by fueling the body properly so when someone sets that bagel or cookie in front of you, it doesn’t register and your body doesn’t tell you “Eat that” and you don’t have to tell it “No” because you are actually satisfied by your diet.

SF: What are the keys to a high performance lifestyle?

DA: Number one: meditate. There are so many ways to meditate. You can just do deep breaths, you can take a class on meditation, or you can do the neurofeedback way that I have done. Find a way to meditate and use technology to do it faster.

Number two: don’t sleep too much. More sleep is not better or worse. It’s just more sleep. People who live the longest sleep six and a half hours a night. That doesn’t mean you should sleep less. It means that people that are healthy need less sleep and that’s why they are living longer. Get healthier, you will need less sleep and you will free up extra time every day.

Number three: don’t over-exercise. People who listen to your show, people who are high performers are naturally driven to do things that are supposed to make them stronger, better, and faster. When I weighed 300 pounds, I exercised 90 minutes a day, six days a week for almost two years and I didn’t lose the weight. The reason was that over-exercise is just as bad as under-exercise. You can get four or five hours a week of productive time back by exercising more intelligently, by doing it intensely for short periods once or twice a week instead of doing it for long periods every day.

SF: Where would you advise listeners to start?

DA: There are two easy places. The first one is the Bulletproof Diet Book explains all of these bio-hacks, including this psychology of willpower and food and how that willpower bleeds over into your business performance and your life performance. That book is a condensed version of the quarter million words or so that I have written on the Bulletproof Blog.

That said, on the Bulletproof Blog homepage, there’s a get started link that gives you basic things to do. The whole point of Bulletproof is not to be perfect, not to do everything. It’s about choice.  If we can help you understand on a roadmap that choice A leads you to slightly better performance than does choice B, then just make choice A. And the difference in your overall performance can be profound.

SF: What’s in store and on the horizon?

DA: The Bulletproof Coffee Shop in Santa Monica, California is slated to open in May. We are hiring for that.  The rest of the Bulletproof team is virtual and we are hiring for that, as well. It is a good sized company and we have people all over the west coast who work from home, which is a new model there. In May, a documentary called Moldy will be released. This is about a very common source of what I call Kryptonite – things that make us weak that we don’t know about in our environment. And we are going to open more coffee shops and continue producing content, especially about things affecting 100 million people that they don’t know about.

To learn more about Dave Asprey, please check out Bulletproof and follow him on Twitter @bulletproofexec

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

ArjanArjan Singh (2014_02_10 08_00_04 UTC) Singh is an undergraduate junior at the Wharton School.

How to Invest in Your Employees’ Health — Dan Calista, CEO Vynamic

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dan Calista, founder and CEO of Vynamic, named #1 boutique consulting firm, as well as Best Small Firm and Best Places to Work. Vynamic is the Philadelphia-area’s largest management-consulting firm focused exclusively on the healthcare industry. Mr. Calista discussed how CEOs can help create a sustainable and hospitable working environment for employees through company values and vision.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: A lot of CEOs say a company is only as good as its people. It’s easy to espouse that value but to enact it is another matter. What are some of the key practices that you do to make that come alive?

Dan Calista: dan calistaLet’s get into some examples. One that’s been fun at Vynamic is what we call “Zmail”. The Z stands for catching some z’s – catch some sleep. It’s an email HR policy at Vynamic where we ask that everyone on the team does not spend any time on email during Zmail hours — 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Some people think that’s shocking – like how late 10 PM is and other people think what’s the big deal, shouldn’t we be sleeping then anyway? And the other big part of this policy is no emails over the weekend. Now if something urgent does comes up, we’ll take care of it by special exception and prior arrangement.

SF: So do people put a delay on so you get hundreds of emails flooding in at 6 a.m. Monday?

DC: It’s amazing. When you really put that filter on your work, you realize what is truly urgent, truly important and what isn’t.

SF: You become more conscious of your choices.

DC: Yes. So the evening’s winding down and you may want to get one or two emails out if something is important, but you start mentally thinking Ok, now I’m shifting my day. And on the weekends, it’s the same idea. This is not a work curfew. I believe in a flexible work arrangement that lets people manage their own schedules. You can get work done when you want to including the 10 PM to 6 AM time, but unless it’s essential and urgent to involve others our norm is that we don’t send emails during that time. Now, if you send something at 9:59 PM, that’s called a Z-bomb because now I cannot write back to you and I’m thinking about your note!

SF: So maybe you should be a little bit more relaxed about that boundary. Is it a slippery slope once you open it up?

DC: Eight hours of sleep is all I’m asking for. Zmail is a company policy and I have to make sure I’m doing it, but it’s also managed by the team.  So we don’t unplug servers, but our team enforces the norm. Someone might say, “Hey, I might have to email you this document. I might not get it done in time, but I know you need it in the morning. Do I have your permission to send it later?”

SF: So you have to negotiate that?

DC: Yes, you just have to ask.  Set boundaries. And reading a lot of your work, I found that to be part of the conversation as well.

SF: Having conversations about mutual expectations and respecting boundaries are essential ingredients to successful work/life integration and smooth team functioning. So what else are you doing that helps your employees to be whole people and bring their very best selves to your business?

DC: Well, the idea that we are whole people. We’re committed to the idea of being healthy in mind, body, and balance. So for example, one of the early investments that Vynamic made was to have someone on staff dedicated to training and continuous learning. Part of life is continuous learning especially in management consulting. A more recent example is that we have someone committed to what we call health and care, which is basically kind of in the wellbeing space. Given that we’re in the healthcare industry, our health and care staff member is there to help with the health and care of our team – whether that’s walking meetings, treadmill desks, healthy snacks, and more. One of our team members expressed interest in this area. She had been a management consultant who took the initiative to study and get certified as a coach and really learn the area. And then the opportunity came up, and we created a role for her. Now that’s her full time job.

SF: So how do you justify that investment in terms of its return?

DC: That’s the power of the values. They drive our decisions at Vynamic.

SF: So what I’m looking at here is a beautiful sheet of paper in different colors that describes the Vynamic values: living, leading, learning, growing, and thriving with the Vynamic vision of being the healthiest company in the world. What a simple, powerful idea. How does that guide your decision making every day?

DC: It’s about making decisions based on those values. Growing for our people and not at the expense of our people. Let’s talk about the vision statement – to be the healthiest company in the world. So how can this little Vynamic company grow to be the healthiest company in the world and what does that look like? It’s about internal conversations like What would the healthiest company in the world do? Yes, we would have somebody that would be full-time dedicated to working on health and wellness. We would have programs to develop our female management-consultants because this is an industry that doesn’t have enough females. At Vynamic, we have 51 females as management-consultants. 54% of the entire company are females. These are things that get layered on to the business as we grow. Companies have to make decisions based on a scarcity of resources. Because we know our values and what we stand for, our values drive our decision-making.

To learn more about Dan Calista and Vynamic, visit www.vynamic.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.


Technique vs. Human Touch: Tensions in the Evolution of Healthcare — John Kimberly

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. John Kimberly, Professor of Management, Entrepreneurial Management, and Health Care Management at The Wharton School. He is also a distinguished visiting scholar at INSEAD, Penn’s partner school in France. Professor Kimberly received his BA at Yale and his MS and PhD at Cornell. Friedman spoke with Kimberly about how changes in healthcare as a profession are affecting not just healthcare professionals, but all of us.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you first get into studying healthcare as an industry?

John Kimberly: John KimberlyThere’s an easy answer to that question Stew. I wrote my dissertation a little more than 30 years ago when I was a doctoral student at Cornell University. I was in a program in organizational studies, and serendipitously a faculty member with whom I was working closely got a big grant from the National Institute of Health to study the diffusion of innovations to hospitals. That was a project that I was fortunate enough to be involved in. I actually wrote my dissertation on data we collected from that study, and it turns out, at least in my case, that you become what you write. I started writing more about hospitals and innovation, and invitations to speak and consult and so on began to emerge from that. There was a bit of a tipping point there, where the kind of opportunities that were coming my way were largely in healthcare, and so I ultimately picked up that ball and ran with it.

SF: You’ve seen a lot of changes as the world of healthcare management has been radically transformed. Let’s start with a picture of the current state of things: What’s most distinctive and unique about healthcare today vs 30 years ago?

JK: The changes have been considerable and profound. Obamacare,  the Affordable Care Act,  is just the tip of the iceberg. I think what has changed has to do with the nature of contact and interaction between us patients and the healthcare professionals. It has to do with organizational arrangements that are changing rapidly. It has to do with the introduction of a vast number of clinical innovations. One of the most exciting things for me is how we’re finally beginning to move the needle on prevention. We´re beginning to focus on community-level health outcomes and the wellbeing of communities as opposed to the medical care of individual people.

SF: Can you define what you mean when you say prevention?

JK: If you look at this country’s healthcare system, you´ll find that the vast majority of expenses are on medical care; we call it ¨healthcare ¨ but what it really is is medical care. It’s interventions that are made by professionals in the medical care system to deal with the problems of people who have gotten sick. Think about a world in which there was investment in prevention at even one-quarter of the magnitude of the investment in medical care,  a world where the incentives were to keep people healthy, to keep people out of the hospital.  Think about the kind of investments it would take at a community level to make sure people are healthy. It’s beginning to happen.

SF: What’s been most significant about how the work of medical professionals, doctors in particular, has changed, and why is that important for us as consumers?

JK: I think the most profound change has been the shift from the solo practice, where physicians were individual entrepreneurs and managed their own practices, to a model where increasingly physicians are becoming employees of large healthcare systems. What they’ve traded off is the independence and autonomy that they enjoyed when they were individual entrepreneurs for a life which is dominated by productivity targets and other things which essentially impinge on their ability to make independent decisions on how they spend their time.

SF: Not to mention their own diagnosis and intervention choices, right?

JK: Those are obviously constrained by the system in which they work. There are guidelines for the kind of equipment they use and the kind of clinical context in which they work. What’s really important is the disruption of the historic physician-patient relationship.

Forty years ago, when you got ill and called your physician, at some point in the next five or six hours, there’d be a knock on the door. The physician would be there with his or her little bag and would ask some questions and would look you in the eye and would give you what you needed in order to get you better. A part of that healing process was the personal relationship between the physician and the patient. Now, that process is much more technically-based, and physicians, who are employed by these large systems, have production quotas to meet. The time they spend with their patients is not in eye-to-eye contact because the physician has to be looking at his/her keyboard to enter data into the health information system. So there’s something fundamental that’s changed about the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Now, some people will say, “Well, of course, this is the nature of things. There’s been technological progress, and physicians are now able to see more patients in less time, so the efficiency is enhanced substantially.” There’s certainly some truth to that. However, I also believe that in the course of moving down this path, we’ve lost something important. One of the interesting issues here (the answer to which we still don’t know) is the question of how much of the healing process is a function of technical interventions versus how much of it hinges on a relationship that you develop with someone who you trust and who you think has a personal interest in you. This is an interesting area of research, and by no means are the answers in on that score.

SF: Wow, so that is an important question. You’re saying that it’s a topic that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the research literature on healthcare outcomes?

JK: That’s exactly right. It´s understandable. Why? Because in the fascination for technological progress, the focus has really been on what’s the latest, greatest, shiniest, new technology that we can bring into the system that will have both financial impact and health outcome impact. I think what’s happened along the way is this other part of a doctor-patient relationship has gotten lost.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

To learn more about Professor John Kimberly and his research click here.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Radical Innovator in Healthcare — Stephen Klasko

Contributor: Akshat Shekhar

Work and Life is radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University.  Dr. Klasko has advocated for a more holistic approach to health care delivery, along with the smaller iterative changes that make such an approach possible.

The following are excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about “interactive action” and why that’s so important.

Stephen Klasko: Stephen KlaskoPart of what we’ve done in healthcare is focus on the past. Think about everything you can do as a consumer online.  The Friday after Thanksgiving you can be in your pajamas watching Game of Thrones and do all your holiday shopping.  But if you have a stomachache can you put “stomachache” on your iPhone and get an appointment with a doctor?

SF: WebMD—doesn’t it do that?

SK: No because with WebMD you cannot get an appointment with a doctor or really do “telehealth” like you would do anything else.  My goal is to look at what’s going to be obvious 10 years from now in healthcare and just start doing that today. A lot of that is changing the DNA of the system one physician at a time. The number one thing about the Affordable Care Act that hasn’t really been talked about is that we haven’t changed the physicians. Our physicians are living in the 80s and 90s, and yet we’re trying to build a 21st century healthcare system.

SF: Let’s stay on this concept of “interactive action,” and then talk in more detail about what you’re doing to change both the mindset and skillset of the medical community. How does “interactive action” come into play?

SK: We’ve gone to our docs and said, “I want you to visualize yourself as a patient, figure out what you would want if you were in their shoes, and then just start doing it.” I’ll give you a couple of examples. We started a model where our doctors, nurses, and population health professions are all working together in a simulation. We have things happen that would normally happen in a hospital, and we look specifically for their first communication. After, we talk to them about what they can do to change the way they interact with other folks in order to be more effective. There’s almost none of that in medical school. I never learned how to interact with a team member until I learned by doing when something went wrong.

SF: This simulated environment is for the seasoned professionals already on the job, right?

SK: Actually it’s for both. We created the Center for Transformation Innovation not only for the seasoned professionals, but also for our medical students. Everything about medical education is ‘look to the left of you, look to the right of you—only one of you will get in.’ It’s constant competition in medical education, but then we’re amazed when physicians don’t work together as high-powered teams. A lot of my research has been based on what makes physicians different from average people. Interactive action is about taking steps to go from having physicians being autonomous, competitive, and hierarchical creatures to having them become more interdependent and members of a team.

SF: Wow, that sounds radical, Steve. So what does it mean for a physician to become a member of a team?

SK: It means you have to teach doctors more “followership” as opposed to leadership. We thought it was a big revolution to teach doctors leadership, but some of us are pretty good leaders already. We like to give orders. Now it’s about how we become followers. Maybe the nurse knows more about something than you do, and you have to listen. It’s about listening skills, interaction skills, and ultimately making those practices an important part of what they do every day. We’ve shown that this model provides better care because medical teams are communicating better.  In an accountable care organization in Florida we showed improvements in the triple aims of patient satisfaction, cost, and quality, just by communicating and interacting in a different way. Rather than doctors giving orders, we encourage getting teams together and making decisions together.

SF: What resistance have you met in trying to push a different mindset and role for physicians in the medical community? What was the most important hurdle you overcame?

SK: I actually did a study with Richard Shell from Wharton about why doctors don’t understand collaboration and found that doctors blindly followed rules. When the MBAs didn’t get it, they said, “We failed.” When the doctors didn’t get it, they said, “I’m really sorry, but at least the other person didn’t win either.” The way we select and educate physicians now creates a cult around a competitive, autonomous, hierarchical, and non-creative bias.

SF: Non-creative?

SK: The issue is not that we’re not creative, but when we asked MBAs and entrepreneurs if creativity was something that helped them in their profession, they said yes. Doctors, not so much. When I went to Wharton, they said, “You are so lucky to be in a $2 trillion industry in transition. Things are going to be good and going to be changing.” Then I’d be back in our old lounge, looking at the same set of data, and doctors would say, “I wish things were still the way they were 20 years ago.”

SF: They were threatened by change.

SK: The MBAs felt change would help them come up with an answer, whereas we doctors felt we would be autonomous creatures losing control.  We found that to deprogram this cult that we doctors are entering into, we have to change the DNA of the system by selecting and educating physicians in a totally different way than we do in medical schools today.

SF: That’s a big agenda, Steve. Where do you start with the education and socialization of medical students?

SK: We still accept students based on science GPAs, MCATs, and organic chemistry grades.

SF: Well, I want my doctors to be smart.

SK: One thing is that we’ve been surprised that doctors aren’t more empathetic communicators. Is a doctor with a 3.9 in memorizing biology much better than a doctor with a 3.6 or 3.5? Or would you rather have a doctor with a 3.5, who memorizes 92% of the Krebs cycle instead of 100%, but also can communicate with you? We started a medical school admission model where we actually choose the students based on emotional intelligence. We’ve chosen 56 students a year based on empathy and social awareness. Once they reached certain academic minimums, we knew they were smart enough on science.

SF: So technical excellence is needed, but you also need to be able to communicate effectively and listen well. Once you make a certain cut, then you test on other factors?

SK: We look for self-awareness and empathy, much like Google and the airline industry do. They want to conduct behavioral and clinical interviews. We take these applicants to art museums, for example, and we ask, “What do you see?” Half the kids can only see what they see linearly.

SF: Concrete thinking.

SK: I’ve delivered over 2,200 babies, and I know it’s easy to deliver a healthy baby. But if you deliver a Downs Syndrome baby and the mother asks, “Doctor, what does that mean?” you can’t reply “It means that the chromosome…” Consider that doctor compared to another who says “Your vision of what a perfect baby means might have to be adjusted.”

SF: Now you’re helping me understand.

SK: It’s about seeing versus observing. To see is to see linearly, to see the DNA, but to observe is to recognize what signals the patient is giving you. We believe the folks we accept based on empathy and self-awareness will be better partners, better fathers or mothers, and better in their work-life integration.

SF: Why is that important to you, as the CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Health System?

SK: It’s important to me because I believe that in order for healthcare to fundamentally transform, it needs to be about the people that provide the care. If we have a more stable and caring workforce of physicians and nurses, patients will get better care, and we’ll be able to provide better access to them.

One of the things we do at Jefferson which I love is that we have a practice which includes standardized patients. We have the physician go through what they would actually go through in an examination, but then we have the patient critique them while videotaping the doctor throughout. Normally medical schools just check off whether or not you asked all the right questions, but we look at the communication skills, and we ask the patient how he or she did in that regard. If a doctor or faculty member says, for example, “That’s ridiculous, I wasn’t looking at my watch,” we can check at the video like when a golf instructor tells you you’re lifting your head in your swing.

SF: Does it break through to them once they see the data?

SK: Well, if they’ve been doing this for 20 years, they’ll say they think the video was doctored! For the medical students, they really get it: think about not doing that, and think about the fact that we unleash doctors on folks without any of that cultural bias training. Part of the training we’ve done is that we’ve coached these medical professionals and residents so that their overall professionalism skills will be up to where they need to be.

SF: The fact that physicians need to have lives that are enriched not just in the clinic, but also in what they’re doing in the home and community—why is that important to you and the future of medicine?

SK: That’s sort of my job, as a president of a university. I gave a talk on “Humans of Tomorrow” in the Hospitals of Tomorrow for US News and World Report, and I started out by telling my introducer, “You know what? I may never get invited back here after saying this, but I think you’re a big part of the problem in healthcare because what you judge us on is not based on what you personally would want in a doctor. You judge us on technical attributes, but not how our folks are doing after spending $200,000 at our university.” He looks at me and says, “You’re right—you’re right that you’ll never be invited back!” But since I charge these students $55,000 a year, I view an important part of my job as ensuring that five years from now, that doctor that came from Jefferson not only provides great care, but he or she also provides great caring. I also would like to know that they’re great mothers or fathers and partners, and I view that as my job too, not just teaching biology and cardiology and OB/GYN.

SF: How did you come to that understanding that an important part of your job is that people have lives beyond work that are enriching and meaningful?

SK: Frankly, a lot of it came from when I went to Wharton and law school and seeing that there are different ways of teaching. The way we select and educate physicians is not only maybe creating a cult, but it also might not be the right way to the future. I looked and saw that so many of my physician friends had gone through divorce and had not been happy in their profession. The Wall Street Journal says 70% of physicians feel unhappy 2 or 3 years out, and they’re also not happy about their futures. I think they’re unhappy because they’re autonomous, competitive, hierarchical, and they don’t think creativity.

Our goal is to create physicians that are excited, for example, about change, so that when something like the Affordable Care Act comes, they ask “How can I help?” as opposed to “How can I go back to where we were 20 years ago?”

If you go to a tennis coach for a year, you expect to be a better tennis player. At Jefferson, we’ve launched a pilot initiative to make our patients feel better a year from now. We’re bringing in more than just the typical physicians to help them do that. Medicine needs to go from these episodic sicknesses to continual and sustained wellness.

SF: That’s so exciting, Stephen. For people listening out there, can you share what you have learned about creating meaningful change in organizations that you’d like to pass on?

SK: If you look in my office, there are two quotes. One’s from Buckminster Fuller: “If you really want to change something, don’t try to change the existing reality. Create a new model that makes the old one obsolete.” A little further in my office is another philosopher, Mike Tyson, who says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I believe if I’m running a mom-and-pop shop or academic medical center and something needs to be changed, I need to start by creating an optimistic view for people around the future. We have a great morale here because we’re trying to envision and create the future today.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, a Wharton grad,  is the President of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health System.  To learn more about his work follow him on Twitter @SKlasko.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.”

About the Author

Akshat Shekhar akshat shekharis an undergraduate junior at Wharton and in the Engineering School.

How Work Affects Health — Robert Hedaya, MD

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Robert Hedaya, psychiatrist, founder of National Center of Whole Psychiatry. The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to look at your patients as whole people not just a picture of symptoms, but people trying to create harmony and integration in their lives and health?  What is it that shaped your thinking?

Robert Hedaya: Robert Hedaya. M.D.The short answer is that back in about 1983 or so when I first went into practice, I had a patient who was a 50-year-old woman.  She had one child and a marriage that wasn’t so good, and her child was going off to college.  She started having panic attacks, and I thought she was anxious about having to live with her husband or leaving her husband. I went through a series of standard treatments over the course of a year.  Nothing worked – not therapy, not various medications, not cognitive behavioral therapy. I went back to the drawing board.  I looked at her labs and saw that the size of her red blood cell count was a little bit larger than the upper limit of normal.  I did a little research and found out that it could be a B12 deficiency.  I gave her a B12 injection, and her panic attacks cleared up overnight.  I was blown away. And I thought, “Gee, this is important.  I wonder what else I’m missing.  What else wasn’t I taught, and what didn’t my teachers know?”  I eventually figured out that it is essential to remember that the head is connected to the body by the neck.  I learned all the different interactions between the body and the mind and ultimately how the mind is really influenced by every level of our environment.

SF: As you know, on this show we focus on work and the rest of life, including our minds and our bodies and our spiritual lives, as well as family and communities.  We’re looking at how the four domains of work, home, community, and self interact; how they affect each other in both positive and negative ways; and what can be done to maximize the former.  In the National Center for Whole Psychiatry, what is your primary mission, and how do you go about serving it?

RH: l I’ve shifted my focus recently, and I’ve decided to look closely at inflammation because inflammation really is the key factor for all of our chronic illnesses.  Inflammation is affected by psychiatric conditions.  Just take an example in the workplace:  If you have a boss who is abusive, if you’re having trouble with your colleagues, or if you’re frustrated and you’re having continual difficulties, these all cause changes in your immune system, which leads to changes in your gut.   Most of your immune system is around your gut, so then you get these immunological changes, which will bring out various illnesses over time.

SF: Inflammation – can you define what that is for our listeners?

RH: When you get a cut and you see redness and increased blood flow and heat, that’s a localized inflammation. We have more and more difficulty as we age in controlling inflammation, so we might have more aches, more pains, more joint problems.  We may have inflammation in our cardiovascular system, for example. And inflammation is at the root of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.  Inflammation is also at the root of dementia, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.

SF: What are some of the most important aspects of the work environment that can cause problems like the ones you’re studying now with inflammation in various body systems?

RH: A useful metaphor is to think of concentric rings. On the outermost ring might be something like the stability, innovation, or financial condition of the organization that you’re a part of.  Then you move to a ring that’s closer into you, and you might have management issues, which might be having an even closer and more direct effect on you.  Of course if these are good situations, your health improves and wellbeing improve.  If there is an opportunity provided by the organization and management to grow – challenges, learning, stimulation, supportive relationships with you, your colleagues, etc. – that also supports your health.  Then if you move even a little bit closer in, it might have to do with your immediate work environment, say the floor you’re on, the office you’re in.  Maybe the lighting is affecting you in a positive way or negative way.  Maybe there’s a moldy environment.  Then you can move more intimately towards yourself to look at the relationships that you’re involved in on the day-to-day and the hour-to-hour basis at work and examine how those are affecting you.  Ultimately if you come in even closer, it’s worth asking how your skill set fits with the kind of work you do.  Does it provide you the opportunities that you as a person need to feel fulfilled, to find meaning in your life, and to be challenged?

SF: Let’s dig a little further into that if we can.  From a whole psychiatry perspective, there’s just so much you could look at, in terms of identifying the sources of physical and mental strain.  How do you know where to start?  Especially if the source of the problem is at work, how do you find that in your intake and diagnostic?

RH: I spend a lot of time with people. I’ll usually spend four hours on intake.  I’ll do a medical history and a physical, and I’ll talk with family members.  That’s something that’s not accessible to everybody.  I wrote a book about ten years ago that’s still available called The Antidepressant Survival Program.  The content of the book gives an analysis of different aspects of a person’s life.  Going through that might help you identify areas of vulnerability.

SF: So the book takes you through a kind of diagnostic checklist to look at things that might be affecting your health?

RH: That’s right.  I think that’s one way of doing it.  Another way is to think about where you feel best at work, and where you feel worst.  What are the stresses at work, and what are the strengths?  What is it you wished you had more of?  When were you happiest in your work life?

SF: I wonder if you could share an example of someone who you’ve treated where there was a work element to both the diagnostic and the treatment that helped.

RH: I have a good story about a woman who was in her fifties working for the government.   She started to become ill, and we went through the whole checklist of situations in her life, but nothing had really changed.  It turned out that an important factor was that she had recently advanced in her career and moved to a different building.  Many government buildings are old, and she moved into a building that was full of mold – it was a sick building.

SF: Sick building?

RH: Yes, it’s called “sick building syndrome.”  There was a lot of mold and toxins in the air.   It turns out many of the people that she was working with would become ill.  There was just a lot of subtle illness.  So when we got her to work at home, she just really cleared up.

SF: Amazing.  Bob, is there one piece of advice you’d like to leave our listeners with in terms of how to think intelligently about their mental and physical health and how their work affects it?

RH: I think the key comes down to finding meaning in your work; that is the most important thing.

You can find meaning in work by the nature of your work, by the nature of the relationships you have, by helping people around you, and by being of service to the people around you. Hedaya’s work underscores the importance of evaluating our lives holistically.  Given that mental, social, and physical problems may all be interrelated, finding a resolution to an issue we face may require a multi-dimensional analysis.  As Hedaya suggests, we can ask ourselves, when we have personally found our work and life most rewarding, and what were the circumstances surrounding that satisfaction?  Have you experienced instances where your physical and mental well-being affected one another in a positive and synergistic way?  Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below.

To learn more about Dr. Hedaya, the Founder of the National Center of Whole Psychiatry and his work, read his book, or visit the National Center of Whole Psychiatry on Facebook.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Andrea YehAndrea Yeh is an undergraduate junior majoring in Operation and Information Management and in International Relations.

Thriving at Work — Gretchen Spreitzer

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Gretchen Spreitzer, Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan about her research and teaching on thriving at work, part of the Positive Organizational Psychology scholarship.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to studying thriving at work, engaging with the work, and being productive at work?

Gretchen Spreitzer: gretchen spreitzerSeveral colleagues and I were talking about how much we loved our work and how meaningful it was, but also that it’s the type of job that is never ending; there’s always something to be done. We wondered how we could avoid burnout, but still be on the cutting edge. What we’ve found is that people thrive in their work when they feel energized, have vitality, feel alive at work, and feel as though their learning, growing, getting better.

SF: So what’s the impediment to this? Why doesn’t everyone feel energized and alive at work?

GS: People tend to learn from difficult situations; a crisis jolts people out of their complacency.  And it propels people to do better. We took the opposite tact. We wondered What about when there’s no crisis? How can we be pro-active?  How can people pro-actively manage rather than wait for a crisis?  How can we learn to turn on a light bulb to help people get more out of work and life?

SF: So what’s the key?  How can people take control and pro-actively find ways to thrive at home and work?

GS: We designed a study that asked people to report incidents when they are thriving at work and report when they feel they’re thriving outside of work. We found that those two correlated. When I’m thriving at work I’m doing things that create energy, not deplete energy. When they finished their day and went on to other activities, they had energy.

SF: It’s what social psychologists call “positive spillover” from one life domain to another. Feelings from one domain spillover to other domains; it’s not an either/or, it’s not a zero sum game.  It’s possible to have both, indeed it may be likely.

GS: We call it a “virtuous cycle.” It produce more resources rather than using up resources.

SF: Have you found that people in business are open to this idea that they can feel vitality at home and at work, or are they skeptical?

GS: Many people say they want that, but that they have too many other pressures and constraints that prevent them from making changes.

SF:  They feel trapped, they feel as though  they can’t make changes, that they can’t control their circumstances.  What can they do?

GS: With Jane Dutton I’ve written How To Be A Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big ImpactWe encourage people to figure out what small steps they can take to kick start a change in the right direction.

SF: This is similar to the Total Leadership approach I started at Ford Motor Company in the late 1990s.  We asked people to experiment with things that were under their control to create demonstrable and measurable change at work, at home, in the community and for their private self; what I call four way wins. And in doing this weekly radio show I hear the same thing each week from CEOs, practitioners, researchers. So why don’t more people do this?

GS:  We are kindred spirits. My point of view is that we need to look for the psychological pre-conditions that allow people to feel empowered, not the external factors. Self-empowerment includes four things: a sense of meaning or purpose in their job — a personal connection, a sense of competence, self-determination or autonomy, and impact. Being self-empowered is not about whether they are in an empowering situation.  An individual can feel self-empowered by finding ways to have meaning and purpose, for example helping customers or having strong connections at work.

SF: It’s relatively easy for us professors.  We have comparative freedom and resources. What about others?

GS:  Everyone can do this.  Our Center for Positive Organizations has developed a Job Crafting Tool.  It helps you figure out what are the parts of your job where you can still do the core work, but where you can make subtle changes, for instance in how, how frequently, or with whom you do different tasks. For example, how can a cook craft a job so it’s more meaningful, more energizing? What small changes around the edges can be made while still doing the core work? Maybe you can design a presentation on the plate so it’s more creative. The tool takes you through the process to find levers to make small changes even if you have little autonomy.

SF: What’s your advice for leaders in organizations, for managers, for small business owners?  How can they help to create an environment that supports and supports self-empowerment?

GS: If you are a leader you can be proactive, take the initiative, be transparent, minimize incivility in order to enhance high quality connections, provide performance feedback, and play to your own strengths.  If you are striving to be the best you, you are likely to thrive at work and elsewhere.

Gretchen Spreitzer is the Keith E. and Valerie J. Alessi Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  Her research focuses on employee empowerment and leadership development, particularly within a context of organizational change and decline.  Her most recent research examines how organizations can enable thriving.  This is part of a new movement in the field of organizational behavior, known as Positive Organizational Scholarship (www.bus.umich.edu/positive).   To learn more, go to http://howtobeapositiveleader.com/.


Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Successful Companies Support Working Families — Dave Lissy, Bright Horizons Family Solutions

Contributor:  Meaghan Casey

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dave Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a leading provider of employer-sponsored family care services including child care; back-up care for dependents of all ages; educational advisory services; tuition assistance program management; and work/life consulting.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Your Company, Bright Horizons, just released a study, the Bright Horizon Modern Family Index, which revealed very important – and rather disturbing findings – about the state of working families in America. Would you share with us the headlines?

Dave Lissy: Dave LissyOver the years we’ve been committed to shining a light on issues facing working families, and from time to time we do studies like this. The goal with the Modern Family Index was to test where’s people’s attitudes are – in 2014 – about how employees think about these work and life issues. The survey produced some really interesting information.

Some results were startling, for example even in 2014 working parents still fear many things related to trying to balance work and life. They fear, in the worse case, that their family responsibilities could get in the way of them getting promoted, achieving their career goals, or even continuing their employment. Even in 2014, we found that some of these attitudes of fear still exist.

On the other side, the study showed us the difference it can make for employees who are fortunate to work in supportive workplaces with employers that really get this. And most importantly, the study showed us the difference it can make for employees who work for supportive bosses. What our data shows us is that company policies are extremely important and that the tone from the top is really important but it’s really the attitude of one’s direct supervisor that makes a difference. The age-old adage that people tend to quit their boss and not their company relates a lot to this issues facing   working families and how supportive one’s direct supervisor is or is not.

SF: Let me just briefly recount some of the data. 48% of working parents fear loosing their jobs because of family obligations. 39% fear that they might be denied a raise because of family obligations. 26% fear being demoted and 19% fear being excluded from important meetings because of their family responsibilities. Those are scary numbers.

DL: Yes, those are scary numbers. It shows that even in today’s world – with all the progress we’ve made – that this fear still exists and there’s still a lot of work to do on the dialogue between employers and employees.

SF: And that’s part of the work you are doing. I believe that 80% of 100 best companies to work for, at least according to Working Mother’s annual study, are clients of yours. Is that accurate?

DL: Yes, 80% of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies to Work For are clients of Bright Horizons as are many others that are recognized on lists such as Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for in America are our clients as well. The most interesting piece to me is that when you look at some of these lists, there has been work done to research the financial successes of these organizations that have been recognized for supportive workplaces. And they tend to outperform the S&P and other benchmarks over time.

We’re proud to have relationships with many leading employers, almost 1,000 leading employers in every industry.  But I am also very proud that the work that we do has translated into financial benefits for many of our clients.

Dave Lissy is the Chief Executive Officer of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a company which works with nearly 1,000 of today’s leading employers, including more than 130 of the FORTUNE 500, to provide benefits that yield improved productivity, job satisfaction and engagement, and overall well-being for their employees. To learn more about his work, go to their website: http://solutionsatwork.brighthorizons.com/ and follow them on twitter: @BrightHorizons.

If you would like to access the findings from the interesting and important Modern Family Index Study we discussed on the show, please visit:http://www.multivu.com/mnr/7227551-bright-horizons-modern-family-employees-struggling-responsibilities.

Join Work and Life next on August 5th at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Monique Valcour.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Meaghan CaseyMeaghan Casey is an MBA candidate WG’15.


Helping Employees Whose Dependents Have Special Needs: Debra Schafer on Work and Life

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Debra Schafer about what corporations can do to help their employees who need care for disabled dependents especially children with special needs or hidden differences.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What inspired you get into this field?

Debra Schafer: Debra SchaferIt began with my son.  He developed some educational challenges.  I was an HR (Human Resources) executive at the time and I found that I needed more flex options than those that were available in order to attend to my son’s needs.  I had to make a choice.  And no parent should have to make a choice between their professional career and their child.

SF: Indeed, that’s what President Obama said last week at the White House Summit on Working Families – no parent should have to make that choice.  So, what did you do?

DS: I began reading federal and state special education law and then coaching parents in private practice.  It was clear from HR background I saw a gap and a need in terms of what can be provided to employees who have children with hidden difficulties.  And it’s often 12+ years between first diagnosis at age 2 and High School graduation.

SF: So what are the issues facing parents at work?

DS: There are chronic issues and crisis issues.  Chronic issues are, for instance, regularly scheduled, perhaps three times per week, appointments.  And crisis issues come up suddenly and you have to run. The challenge is to help organizations understand that their employees are raising the next generation of employees. And to help them to see, for example, that calls about the child will not stop and that parents should not have to choose bet being a good parent and good employee.

SF: So what do you advise the employer to do?

DS: Organizations and employers can help by normalizing these issues.  For example, lactation rooms were not spoken of previously, but now we hear about them.  Similarly, employers can start with a seminar or workshop with an expert such as a therapist.  The employees who attend look around the room and realize they’re not alone.  What I often see is that they reach out to fellow-workers saying, “I didn’t know you had a child who…”  Support networks are formed.

SF:  What’s in it for the employer?  Why should they being providing these supports?

DS:  Eight to 14% of the workforce is dealing with a child with special needs. Eleven percent of school age children are diagnosed ADHD, 19% of HS boys.  These are chronic issues and employees need to be able to speak to your employer in ways that the employer can understand.  Too many parents of children with hidden differences are leaving the workforce or turning down assignments.  If the employer wants to recruit and retain talent and if they want their employees to be productive, then they’ll need to understand that their employees are dealing with chronic problems and also with crises that take their time and attention.

SF: It is a distraction and a drain on productivity as I wrote a piece called The Hidden Business Cost of Mental Illness. So how can employees learn to talk about these hidden differences with their employers?  How can we address the stigma?

DS: Employee Resource Groups are useful.  But most employees don’t join because don’t want to disclose.  I always say, “If u have the crown, wear it with pride.” Having groups, seminars in the work place leads, as I said, to “I didn’t know you had a child with…” and then to naturally occurring support from co-workers. It normalizes these issues.

SF: So, the workshop on the job creates an environment where it’s safe to talk about it

DS: Yes, with education about the epidemiology – how many people are dealing with these difficulties – and statistics and stories.


Debra Schafer is the Founder and CEO of Education Navigation which she started after more than 20 years of management experience in human resources, work/life integration, and marketing communications and 15 years of special education consulting, coaching, and advocacy experience. Learn more about what companies can do to recruit and retain their employees who are parents of children with hidden difficulties and how to ensure that they are productive at work at her web site www.Education-Navigation.com and follow Debra on Twitter @EdNavigation.

Join Work and Life on Tuesday July 22 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Herminia Ibarra and Sam Polk.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


Aging and Work: Nursing Professor Sarah Kagan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Sarah Kagan about the impact of aging on our work lives.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Stew Friedman: Why is aging an important issue for employers and employees?

Sarah Kagan: Sarah KaganWe’re seeing a big demographic shift.  We’re becoming much older as a society and all sorts of things cascade from that.  Your example of midlife women having to make choices about career and family responsibilities.

SF: And leaving the workforce because they feel compelled to take care of aging parents, disrupting their career progress and future earnings, as noted in The New York Times article at the top of the hour, For Women in Midlife, Career Gains Slip Away.


SK: You can see that as an economic cascade. It influences them financially but it also changes the workforce. We lose really valuable workers from a sector like education. How do we mentor and support younger teachers if everybody in that generation is busy taking care of mom, grandma, grandpa? All of a sudden we have a dearth of experience that has social implications, financial implications, families suffer financially and our economy suffers as well.

Around the world most elder care is direct care provided by women and the “instrumental caregiving” – organizing things, financing things is being done by the men in the family.  For the most part wives and daughters and daughters-in-law are doing a lot of direct caregiving which means that they have high absenteeism.  The work can’t be done remotely.  Unless you have a great deal of money you’re the one taking your father-in-law to the doctor.

SF: Wait. What about the man?  If it’s his father, why isn’t he taking him to the doctor? Why the daughter-in-law?

SK: Well, we still have a gender divide there.

SF: The study referred to in the article finds the burden is disproportionally borne by women.

SK: This means that stress is borne disproportionately by women, too.  If you’re caring for an aging parent with dementia, for example, it’s a big family stressor.  And if you’re facing that every morning it’s going to take a toll on you – the primary direct caregiver.

SF: What suggestions and advice do you provide for your students and others and what advice do you have for our listeners who might be in a similar situation?

SK: The first thing a recommend is to step back, even if only for one hour, take a breather and think about what really needs to get done and when, what’s a top priority, what’s a lower priority.  Then think about who needs to do it and what resources are available to relieve some of that load. And it helps to write out a plan and assess.

SF: But how do you do that when you’re in the throes of the problem?

SK: Sometime you need help to take a step back.

SF: But doesn’t everyone need that?

SK:  We’re social animals. We need to crush that myth of independence, and say, “hey, who can I reach out to?”  A friend, a neighbor, somebody in a similar situation who can help you step back and take a survey of the situation.

SF: So what more can this “sandwich” generation of women, especially, do to get help so that they can remain engaged in their work lives?

SK: After assessing, the next step is to think about other resources. And we have a tendency to think they have to do it alone. I recommend that people look for their local Area Agency on Aging.  And other people want to help.  Perhaps set up a meal schedule so you’re not doing all the cooking. Maybe the kid down the block who’s thinking about college would like some kind of service experience, resume builder, and something that brings generations together.  Put an 18 year old with an 80 year old and both of them are going to learn good things.

SF: So you’re thinking of the health benefits for teenagers and seniors for them to be working together.

SK: Real relationships not mediated by phones, computers, other technology and distractions and pressures.  Instead, slow it down.

SF:  What about FOMO?  Kids have a Fear Of Missing Out.

SK: I think we have to push back on that. FOMO should be replace by Slow-Mo.  Slow down and recognize that thinking about and caring about someone else, means we’re all stronger, we’re all better off.  The Druker Center for Health System Innovation at The Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) is doing some amazing work with “time banking.”  It turns out that social interaction is more important than physical activity for keeping your mind sharp.  They’ve created a “time bank” where people donate time to help with specific activities (driving someone to a doctor’s appoint,  garden clean up, piano teaching, driving to worship, getting to a friend) and others can use that time.  So it becomes a social exchange.

SF: It’s part of the new sharing economy.

Kagan is a MacArthur Fellow and the Lucy Walker Honorary Term Professor of Gerontological Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing who writes a column, Myths of Aging, and teaches a popular MOOC on Coursera, Growing Old Around the Globe. Hear more from her on Twitter @SarahHKagan and @OldGlobeMooc and read her Myths of Aging column at http://www.calkins.com/digital.html


Join Work and Life next Tuesday, July 22 at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Herminia Ibarra and Sam Polk.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


Give People Freedom and They Will Amaze You: Prasad Setty

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Prasad Setty, Vice President of People Analytics and Compensation at Google – Fortune Magazine’s number-one company to work for – about how Google uses rigorous data to make hiring, promotion, and development decisions that keep Googlers the happiest they can be – and working for Google for as long as possible.

The following are edited excerpts from their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What exactly is “people analytics,” as a field?

Prasad Setty:Prasad Setty Broadly, our mandate is to make sure that all the people decisions we make at Google are based on good data and information. An organization our size makes thousands of people decisions every year – who we should hire, who we should promote, how we should pay people. In a lot of cases, it seems like those decisions are based on emotions, instinct, or perhaps politics; we want to try and make them more rigorous. At Google we are all about innovation and we believe that innovation comes from the smart, talented Googlers we hire. Therefore, we think that people decisions are no less important than any other business or product decisions we make so we want to base those decisions on data.

SF: Do your colleagues on the executive team at Google agree with this view?

PS: They actually do. Right from the beginning, that’s been something I’ve been really happy about. Even before I joined Google, there has always been a perception that we need the best talent, and we need to keep them happy.

SF: What have been some of the really important things you’ve learned from your scientific inquiry in people analytics research that you’ve converted into practice at Google?

PS: I’ll give you one example that’s worked out really well for us. It’s an effort we internally call Project Oxygen, and it’s about people management. We felt there was a perception, especially among our software engineers, who pride themselves on having very creative, independent careers, that people managers are bureaucrats who stand in your way. Very early on, before I joined, Google ran an experiment where they removed all the middle layers of management, so all 500 engineers working at the time reported to the head of Engineering. It was a short-lived experiment because the head of Engineering got very busy. But the sentiment about bureaucracy persisted.

A few years later, our team started to look at the question of whether people managers matter at an organization like Google. Using a lot of data, including surveys of people who worked for managers about their managers’ performance, we found there were differences. There were some managers who were able to make their teams more productive and reduce attrition, and other managers who weren’t. We wanted to know whether this was a matter of random chance, or whether these apparently great managers were actually doing something consistent, specific, and thoughtful. So we ran a double-blind study to see if we could figure out what differentiated effective managers from ineffective ones. From that study, we were able to codify eight behaviors we saw great managers doing and poor managers not doing – those are the Oxygen attributes.

The attributes fall into two broad categories. Half of them are about whether the manager helps the team drive business results – Do they set goals? Do they share information? Do they make sure their employees get the resources required to complete tasks? The other half is about how well they treat each person as an individual – Do they act as a good coach? Do they help with career development? My team developed an upward feedback survey which is being sent to every Googler twice a year to enable them to review their managers on these eight attributes, and each manager then receives a consolidated report on what they do well and where they can improve. The next step is what made this really interesting for our organization. People Development, Google’s internal training and development group, took these behaviors and built custom programs for managers to improve on each attribute.

SF: So the feedback is connected to behavioral interventions and training that can help?

PS: That’s exactly right. We track whether managers sign up for the classes, and six months later, we’re able to see if the classes have had any impact. We’re constantly getting feedback, trying to make our development programs better, and trying to help our managers improve, and we’re really happy with the results. On average, Google managers’ scores have increased 5-10 points over the last several years. But more importantly, the scores of the bottom ten percent of managers have gone up an average of 20 points.

SF: What is it about Google that it is fundamentally different from other companies with respect to how work and life fit together for your people?

PS: We want people who are amazingly capable and talented, and we want to keep them happy – we want them to be healthy and have long, sustainable careers here. In our annual employee surveys, we regularly measure this notion of well-being. How satisfied are Googlers, and what are the things that might affect their overall well-being? How can we improve those things? We find there are many dimensions to well-being – employees’ ability to handle stress and their workloads, flexibility in arrangements around where and when they work – and we look at all of those areas. We also look at how people managers support the efforts of employees, and that feedback is very important to managers. When we started making reports available to individual managers, we gave them the option to share their scores with their teams. Many managers came back to us and said, “What I’m missing is a button that will allow me to share it with everyone at Google.”

SF: That’s certainly consistent with Google’s philosophy of sharing information, right?

PS: That’s exactly right – we try to live that internally as well. Transparency is one of our core cultural values, and generally, we think that if we give people freedom, they will amaze us. That means we need to give them lots of information so they can make good decisions.

SF: What’s on the horizon for you as you think about the next big project for people analytics at Google? What are you working on that could be applied to other organizations?

PS: We are working on a 100-year survey we call gDNA – Google DNA – which will track several thousand Googlers over the course of their entire careers to understand how careers evolve and what role work plays. We hope it will help us uncover deeper connections between what work and life means. Broadly, we want to track people’s life happiness and what work contributes to that life happiness as they progress in their careers.

SF: Do you have any theories as to what will be the key drivers of life happiness?

PS: At this point, we are looking at certain personality traits for some of the nature-versus-nurture differentiations. Then, we want to look at how careers evolve – some people have very high career trajectories – is that something that’s conducive to more life happiness? Other people slow down at some stage in their life and have other priorities that make work secondary – does that kind of optimization result in greater overall life happiness when they look back decades later? I hope that as an organization, we are able to adapt and make Google conducive for employees to best lead their lives. That’s the commitment we’d like to make to Googlers – we want Google to be the kind of place where you come in, have impact that shapes the world and hopefully live longer because you worked here. We think that would be the best employee value proposition we could ever offer.

Prasad Setty describes himself as first and foremost a numbers guy; he started his career in management consulting and discovered his interest in connecting data and people topics at Capital One before joining Google in 2007. Google’s vanguard approaches to people management are profiled often, including studies of Project Oxygen and a recent blog by Laszlo Block, Google’s SVP of People Operations, on the implications of gDNA.

Join Work and Life on Tuesday, June 3 at 7:00 PM EDT on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Shannon Schuyler, on the payoff for socially responsible action, and with Liza Mundy, of whom we ask these questions – Who are the breadwinners? Who are the caregivers?  And why does it matter?  Visit Work and Life for our full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson received her MBA from The Wharton School in 2014.