Your health isn't just good for you, it's good for your work too

Culture · 23 mai 2023

On May 1, coinciding with Canadian Mental Health week, TELUS launched an organization-wide Spring Well-being Challenge to encourage team members across the organization to get moving, eat more mindfully and experience the positive effects of physical activity. While the Spring Well-being Challenge is set to end at the end of May, at TELUS we believe that personal health plays a fundamental role in maximizing job performance and encourage our team members to continuously prioritize their well-being. In the spirit of that, I wanted to share some insights related to how your personal health can impact your job performance and a few suggestions that may help you become the healthiest version of yourself both at home and in the workplace.

The impact of personal health and job performance

We all know of the classic business mentality - the more you are willing to sacrifice other aspects of your life (like your personal health and wellness) the more successful your career will be. While dedication and effort are certainly necessary for high quality work, this general mindset is largely inaccurate. A study done by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that employees who engage in regular physical activity received higher job performance ratings and were more likely to receive promotions than those who didn’t. Additionally, research has shown that employees who practice mindfulness have higher levels of job satisfaction and are more committed to their jobs than those who did not. You might be thinking, “Wait Jon, I know person X who doesn’t take care of their personal health at all, and they are massively successful in their career” and you are right. Not everyone who is great at their job necessarily prioritizes their health. However, you are much more likely to have better job performance, or at the very least, be able to sustain a high level of performance in the long-run if you maintain good health, which is extremely important given that many people want to have a career that will last for decades.

A team member and her brother pose after completing a half marathon

Becoming a healthier you

There’s a good chance that some of you didn't need to be further sold on the importance of personal health and maybe some of you even are already actively trying to improve your health. Recognizing the full benefits of personal health and how it impacts across all facets of life is only half the battle; successfully making sustainable changes to your lifestyle to improve your health and wellness is another major challenge. Despite having more research related to health and wellness available to us now than ever before, there has been a significant increase in health issues connected to unhealthy lifestyle factors (e.g. type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancers etc.) since 1990 and mental illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy $51 billion per year. Therefore, I’d like to share a few suggestions that might be helpful for some of you reading this. However, before I share these suggestions, I want to be upfront about a few things:

  1. I am not a licensed healthcare professional. While my perspectives are largely informed by research done by experts in the space, I am simply someone who is passionate about health and wellness, so please do not treat this as advice from a licensed healthcare professional.

  2. Health & wellness is unique to everyone. While my suggestions are intended to be helpful to a broad range of people, I understand that everyone has their own unique biology, are in different stages of life, have different jobs, different interests and participate in different activities, which means it is up to you to determine whether or not these suggestions are relevant to you.

  3. These suggestions are not exhaustive. Countless behaviors and factors influence our health and wellness, making it impossible to cover everything in a single blog post. Therefore, I’ve focused on the suggestions that I believe will be the most helpful to the people reading this.

TELUS Digital team members play soccer outdoors

1. Move everyday doing aerobic exercise you enjoy (or at least don’t hate)

Maintaining a good level of physical activity everyday is one of the most well-known ways to improve your personal health across several aspects of life. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends targeting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for adults, which breaks down to just over 20 minutes a day of physical activity. Generally speaking, the easiest way to get your daily physical activity is through aerobic exercise, or what many people call cardio. However, many folks interpret this as meaning you should do dedicated cardio workouts, such as going for a run or hopping the elliptical machine, even if they hate those activities. If you enjoy these types of workouts, then fantastic, keep it up! There is absolutely no problem with getting your daily physical activity this way. However, if you don’t enjoy these types of workouts, there are many alternative forms of aerobic exercise that can be equally as effective in helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle. For example, while I used to go for runs regularly several years ago, my aerobic exercise now primarily comes from walking my dog everyday and playing recreational sports a couple times a week. It is now much easier for me to stay consistently physically active because I actually enjoy the physical activities I do, which has led to clear improvements to my physical and mental health. However, this is just what works for me, and there are countless other forms of aerobic exercise that you can do instead such as hiking, cycling, swimming, dancing, and even gardening. It is ultimately up to you to choose the type of aerobics exercise that you are most likely to do consistently.

A team member dances with a hula hoop

2. Try resistance training workouts twice a week 

In addition to being consistently physically active through aerobic exercise, I’d highly recommend incorporating resistance training into your lifestyle as well, as it offers some unique health benefits. The most popular type of resistance training is lifting weights, but resistance training also includes resistance band and calisthenic (bodyweight) exercises as well. Resistance training in my opinion has a very high “bang for your buck” given that it is relatively accessible to everyone (you can do it with minimal or no equipment) and you can reap numerous health benefits from it even with a relatively low time commitment. Now there are a couple common concerns about resistance training that I want to address:

Despite the numerous health benefits that resistance training provides, it is estimated that less than one quarter of adults above the age of 18 participate in resistance training for two or more days a week. If you’re new to resistance training, a great place to start would be aiming to complete two 30 - 60 minute long full body resistance training workouts each week. However, if two workouts a week is infeasible, doing as little as one resistance training workout per week has also shown to have significant health benefits. As with aerobic exercise, which specific type of resistance training you choose to do is less important than choosing the type of resistance training that you are most likely to be consistent with. For example, my resistance training almost exclusively consisted of lifting weights at the gym prior to the pandemic. However, due to the restrictions that limited visiting gyms during the pandemic, I decided to explore different types of resistance training. I used the wellness benefits provided to me as part of my employee benefits from TELUS to purchase a pull up bar and a set of resistance bands from Amazon. I was absolutely astounded with the quality of workouts I was able to do in the convenience of my own home. While I have since gone back to the gym, I still do include resistance band and calisthenic exercises in my workout programs. I find these types of resistance training especially useful for times when I have a particularly busy schedule or am traveling due to the convenience they provide.

3. Have minimally processed foods and beverages make up the majority of your diet

It’s impossible to talk about “being healthy” without addressing the nutrition component as well.  Poor diet patterns, including frequent consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages, has shown to be a key contributor towards a number of negative health outcomes including chronic disease and mental health disorders. Establishing healthy eating habits has become an increasingly difficult challenge for many Canadians due to the spread of misinformation related to nutrition and new “fad diets” being introduced everyday. I personally had struggled for years hopping from diet to diet, never being able to stick to one for any extended amount of time. Every diet I tried felt quite restrictive, so it took a great deal of mental stress to follow, and these diets never improved how I felt physically or mentally, so I would inevitably fall off. While these diets often led to some initial weight loss for me, my body composition didn’t improve as I lost just as much muscle as fat, and as soon as I stopped dieting, I would quickly regain all of the weight I had originally lost. Therefore, similar to my approach with physical activity, my suggestions are focused on establishing intuitive and sustainable ways to adopt healthier eating habits for the long-term, as opposed to recommending a specific temporary diet to follow.

TELUS Digital team members play soccer outdoors

One of the simplest ways to improve your eating habits is to ensure that minimally processed foods and beverages (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, minimally processed cuts of meats, unsweetened dairy products etc.) make up the majority of your diet. Minimally processed foods and beverages are less calorie dense and more satiating than

processed foods and beverages (e.g. potato chips, canned soups, deli meats, fruit juices and soft drinks etc.) making it significantly harder to over consume them. Additionally, increased consumption of minimally processed foods and beverages has been shown to increase energy levels, improve cognitive function, enhance emotional well-being, reduce cravings, reduce inflammation and improve physical performance. There is not necessarily a magic percentage of how much of your diet should consist of minimally processed foods, so a good place to start could be as simple as a finding a few common dishes you eat today that consist primarily of processed foods, and try replacing it with minimally processed foods (e.g. replacing a sugary cereal for a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit for breakfast). 

Let’s make a commitment to “being healthy”

If there is anything I want you to take away from this blog post, it’s that prioritizing your personal health will improve all facets of your life, including your career. “Being healthy” is not about striving to look a certain way, it's about finding a lifestyle that enables you to be the most energized, happy, and productive version of yourself in everything you do. While I provided some suggestions that I hope can help you in your journey to improve your health, ultimately it's up to you to determine what lifestyle helps you “be healthy”. Making sustainable changes to prioritize personal health can be challenging, but it is absolutely worth the effort. So let's make a commitment to invest in our well-being, so everyone can thrive both in their personal and professional lives. 

Several team members pose after a soccer game
A smiling man with dark hair
Jonathan Dunn
Senior Program Manager
When not leading digital talent programs, you might find Jon playing pick-up basketball at a local community centre or walking his pup, Tony at the park.