If you’re a regular on Linked In, I’m sure you have heard of or know Bob Merberg. Bob and I connected via Linked In and I’ve enjoyed his posts and point of view. For more than 20 years, he’s been helping people get healthier – primarily by promoting innovation and rigor in employee wellness.

As a leading advocate for new methods to support employee well-being through healthy work and psychosocial environments, Bob’s been featured numerous times in HR Executive magazine and other media outlets such as MarketWatch and Wellbeing Practitioner.

This was a bit of a long interview because I wanted to pick his brain about beliefs, especially after having such rich experience in corporate wellness doing the work. He truly understands the challenges.

You may already know this but when I recorded this interview, Bob had just put in his notice at Wellness Manager to go out on his own. So, we start out with that news, move on to the challenges he faced in corporate wellness, we get into what he doesn’t believe in anymore and of course, what he does.

The Interview

Bob starts telling us about why he left his current role to go out on his own. He’s now available for hire and tells us a bit about the work he’s doing.

Since Bob has had such rich experience in worksite wellness, he tells us about complexities within his role, particularly about the challenges within dining services. He had some successes with nudging up the prices on unhealthy foods but ultimately needed to sustain the financial success of the cafe.

Bob’s talks about his flip flops and why it’s important to change your mind. He walks us through why he’s changed his mind on the following:

  • Health Risk Appraisals
  • Incentives
  • Biometric Screenings

We talk CEO support and why Bob feels it’s crucial for the success of a wellness program.

There’s no path to transformation without CEO support. The whole organization needs to be involved to truly get to real transformational change.

Bob’s not riding the culture train and here’s why. Culture is important but he’s not aware of a company where culture has been changed purposely. Employees hate culture change because it’s associated with stress and turnover of some good employees. Employees rolls their eyes and brace themselves for the worst when they hear culture change.

Bob is the first guest to cuss on my podcast but I have to say it’s worth it because it’s about incentives. He tells us one of his proudest accomplishments regarding incentives and What happens when you offer incentives, then you take them away.

So, what does he believe in? CDC’s Total Worker Health: embraces the view of the real components of employee well-being, such as wages, work schedules (chronic overtime associated with health issues), job design, etc.

Wellness professionals need to understand the demand control model for employee health. There are unhealthy jobs. Bob walks through the employee fallout of the Wells Fargo scandal where one employee was drinking hand sanitizer to relieve their stress. They had robust benefits and a comprehensive wellness program but many had a brutal job.

Employee well-being needs to start with the conditions of work/your job. In the end it’s NOT about behaviors. We can’t ignore job conditions.

Bob tells us about Gig Goodies. It was inspired by a project at Paychex. A lot of unhealthy food was passed around the office. He introduces the term “food alters” to me which are places where these unhealthy foods are placed. Bob gathered recipes from the employees and bound them into a beautiful bound book. Employees loved it and they ran out of the first 2,000 in 24 hours. Their dining services replicated some of the recipes. It was a way to delight their employees.

Contact Info: 

Bob’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobmerberg/

Twitter: @bmerberg

 

Links Mentioned:

Bob Merberg has, for more than 20 years, been helping people get healthier – primarily by promoting innovation and rigor in employee wellness. As Manager of Employee Wellbeing and Dining Services for a Fortune 1000 company, the program Bob oversees has won countless awards for excellence and innovation.

As a leading advocate for new methods to support employee well-being through healthy work and psychosocial environments, Bob’s been featured numerous times in HR Executive magazine and other media outlets such as MarketWatch and Wellbeing Practitioner.

Bob’s upcoming venture is Gig Goodies – check it out at GigGoodies.com — which will provide products and services for employers and employees who seek to create supportive workplace food environments.