Corporate Culture: Encouraging Mind and Body Health

I have now been out of the corporate world for 5 years, and I think back on how many ways that may have been a more enjoyable experience for me. I would have loved a team-playing atmosphere, wellness initiatives and peer building opportunities in the workplace. When I met with Mara Gourdine a ten-year veteran of John Paul Mitchell Systems, I loved her approach to corporate culture and HAD to interview her for the NMFIT blog

wellness in the workplace

Mara has had her hand in many departments during her time with the company. I think this is so important, in order to understand where each employee is coming from. These small qualifications make a world of difference! I didn't always have that when I worked full-time and because of that, it really messed with my worklife experience mentally.  When Mara was promoted to Corporate Culture Ambassador, she infused health, wellness, and corporate culture programs within her workplace, John Paul Mitchell Systems, and is on-boarding new employees. How cool is that? In addition, she serves as a spokesperson for the environmentally friendly, cruelty-free company at public functions, speaking to its 36-year legacy of caring for the planet and giving back to those in need.

Continue reading my one-on-one interview with Mara to learn more about her and the JPMS company that has now become her second home. 

NMFIT: What are some of the culture programs/ key elements that you lead at John Paul Mitchell Systems?  

Mara Gourdine (MG): We first begin with an onboarding program for each individual new team member.  It is important for each new team member to feel and understand the culture they have elected to contribute to.  I personally tour them through both of our locations here in the Los Angeles area.  (Century City & Santa Clarita)  The Santa Clarita location houses offices, the World Distribution Center and the Product Innovation Center (where we formulate and test our product only on humans).  Each new team member has introduced their new teammates where they are given the opportunity to learn names and hear how each person proudly contributes to the team and what their favorite part about working at JPMS is.  (most often the response is “the people”).  We have many people who have been with us 25+ years.  So for a new team member to meet senior team members on day one and see them still smiling and excited about their contribution after all of these years… it makes an impression!

The other remarkable thing that happens during the introduction of Sr. team members is hearing the stories of professional growth within the company.  Many people started out answering the phones and now are VPs and department heads.  JPMS grows with the individual.  We focus on each person’s strength while supporting them to shine and grow where they will feel most engaged, happy and add value to the company.  We share with each new teammate who we are as a collective company culture, how we treat one another and also share the rich cultural legacy of JPMS.  It is important to understand our past to appreciate our present to best be able to move forward together for our future.

After a year of employment at JPMS, each team member attends an offsite, two-day retreat called CORE that is co-facilitated by myself and fellow team member,  Jennifer Edson, Sr. Director Sales Systems.  She and I wrote the leadership program together- Jennifer has been with JPMS for 26 years.  I have been with the company for 10. 


What is CORE:

CORE is an ongoing JPMS employee leadership program to helping to maintain a high-performance culture. 

CORE stands for:

Collaborative: Working together, using diverse perspectives – inclusivity and diversity is our strength!

On-going: A truly innovative continual nurturing and development of our people and processes

Relational: Everything we do together -- all our encounters, outputs, services, products and programs – are dependent on working together

Engagement: People support what they help to create. We involve people in dreaming and designing our efforts and solutions.

*At the core of a high performing culture lives the individual along with a diverse mix of JPMS team members. How we interact on a day-to-day basis contributes to the energetic vitality, resiliency, and growth of our company culture.  Our time together at CORE is focused primarily on tools for relating to engaged, positive interaction.

NMFIT: How do you include health and wellness into the workplace?

MG: John Paul brought Agapi Stassinopoulos to us in the Century City office as his special guest.  It was our first time as an office all meditating together.  In total, there were 90 of us collected in the conference room and all production completely stopped in Century City as John Paul impressed the importance of stillness, clarity, and observation of breath.  It meant the world to all of us to have him place such an emphasis and high level of importance on our mental health and overall well-being.  Whenever Agapi is in town, she comes by and offers meditation and our teammates flock to be in her presence.  We also are given a  free healthy lunch every day- it is brought in daily and we have our selection of healthy options to select from.  The company also pays 50% of our gym memberships and we have an incredible health, dental and medical benefits plan.  John Paul is always encouraging everyone to focus on a healthy work-life balance and to be sure we enjoy living our every day in loving and to the fullest.

NMFIT: How has your team responded to some of the wellness programs offered to them?

MG: The team's overall mental outlook has improved their relationship with their work.  Instead of looking at their workplace as a one-sided relationship where they are machines to produce, they feel and know wholeheartedly our workplace is a place of reciprocation.  We all get back what we give and are nurtured, appreciated and supported.   We all thrive on these programs and practice receiving and feeling cared for.  Groups have popped up in search of more meditation growth and increased yoga practice outside of the office.  People have commented on the sincere shift they have felt in the art of stillness and breath work. Many people were unaware of the benefits of yoga and especially meditation until they participated and felt the energetic shift for themselves.  Once relaxation and clarity were recognized our team members were in gratitude and only in search of wanting more! 

NMFIT: Do you have a transformation story that sticks out in your mind? (Perhaps an employee has become are regular gym goer, sets intentions or regularly meditates) 

MG: It’ not so much a transformation story but a story I learned from a team member who has been with the company for 17 years- his name is Tony and he works in the warehouse, he is one of two people responsible for checking each shipment before it goes somewhere in the world. In CORE we spend time learning about one another’s personal lives.  We learned that Tony was a Monk for over 20 years prior to coming to join us at JPMS.  I don’t know how I’m ever even surprised anymore, I said to myself, “of course John Paul has a monk who sends his shipments of goods out to the world in love and light!”  After CORE Tony realized he did not have to keep his faith and practice separate from his work.  He now knows he can talk about his faith and even help to lead meditation and help his team members find stillness and clarity.  That’s my favorite part about CORE is all the findings of one each other’s personal backgrounds and interests that help to bind and bring us together.   Our tool brand Manager Marci has found meditation and it has completely transformed her life.  She is now in avid practice and has found balance and restoration helping her to lead each day in a happier, self-loving and even more energetic place and space.

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