Tele-Town Hall Recap: Employee Well-Being with Cindy Bjorkquist

Cindy Bjorkquist, director of well-being for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, engaged with participants of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Tele-Town Hall Series to share strategies on helping employees maintain health and well-being during the COVID-19 crisis.

Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer at the Detroit Regional Chamber, began the discussion by asking Cindy why well-being is an area of concern during this time for both employers and employees.

“It’s an anxiety filled experience and people are scared right now,” explained Cindy. “They’re a little isolated and experiencing fear of the unknown future. When we talk to our members at Blue Cross, they told us they were struggling with many things, including working from home in this new environment, supporting first responders, controlling anxiety, stress eating, and maintaining physical fitness.”

These struggles are tied to emotional well-being which has large influence on physical health in the long run. Focusing on protecting your well-being during this time is important for both individuals and employers. “Employers have the added pressure not only caring for their own well-being, but the well-being of their team members who are relying on them for support and guidance,” explained Cindy.

Strategies for maintaining health and well-being during the COVID-19 crisis:

Stay focused on the positive things in your life – If you have slipped into a negative space amid the COVID-19 situation, science shows that you can rewire your brain back into a positive state by choosing to focus on the positive things in your life.

    • Ask yourself, “what positive thing happened today?” or “what am I grateful for?”
    • Make a list of three things you are grateful for every morning when you wake up or every night before you go to bed.

Extend gratitude to others to help yourself – It feels good to help those in need. If you have a passion that can be utilized to help others during this time, capitalize on that. “I have a relative who turned their sewing shop into a donation shop. The community leaves fabric and materials on their porch that can be used to sew masks for healthcare workers,” Cindy shared. Other examples include:

    • Starting a neighborhood collection of snacks to donate to local healthcare workers.
    • Telling delivery workers, mail carriers, and grocery staff how much you appreciate their service.

Employers, you play a critical role – The more you can model positive well-being behavior for your team, the better it will impact their attitudes and behaviors as well. “Remind them that their health is the most important variable at this time,” explained Cindy. “Some team members just want to hear that you support them.”

    • Schedule camera-on meetings each week. Communicating face-to-face is when we experience the highest level of bonding.
    • Host a virtual walking meeting with a coworker.
    • End a meeting 15 minutes early and instruct the team to disengage from work by going outside or stretching.
    • Be flexible and understanding. If an employee is having a hard time and needs to take an extended lunch hour or log off early for the day, allow them to do so.
    • Practice compassion. Truly listen to your team’s words and actions and don’t jump to any conclusions if you feel work isn’t being done as usual. They may be struggling during this time.

Refuel yourself – “When our mind and bodies get drained, our well-being will suffer,” explained Cindy. Prioritize the activity that refuels you, the thing that keeps you energized, resilient, calm, and at peace. Try to incorporate this into your daily routine. Examples include:

    • Physical activity, yoga
    • Meditation
    • Cooking, baking
    • Gardening
    • Drawing, painting

Hygge – A happiness strategy used in Scandinavian countries for over 200 years, Hygge involves focusing on your atmosphere and experience rather than the physical things in your life. Use this mindset to “transform your home into a place you want to be, not a place you have to be by focusing on the comfort and safety it is providing to you and your family,” said Cindy.

Ikigai – This practice focuses on having a daily purpose. Ikigai involves making three lists: 1.) the things you value, 2.) the things you like to do, and 3.) the things you’re good at. The cross-section between the lists is your daily purpose. Employers, if you can help employees realize their career purpose, this will lead to greater happiness, productivity, and overall well-being.

Lagom – This Swedish term translates to “just the right amount” and encourages balance between work and play. “We can all use this advice right now to take breaks and focus on the success of our community,” said Cindy.

We’re in this together – When it comes to social well-being, each of us plays an important role. Studies show, social isolation increases risk of death by 30%, so the challenge today is to figure out how to stay emotionally and socially connected without being together physically. “Connecting virtually to family members and employees is vastly important to everybody’s success during this time,” said Cindy.

These science-based activities are tools we can practice daily to improve personal health and well-being, and if we model these for our teams, this is going to be a much less stressful time for everybody.

To listen to the recording or read the full transcript, click here.

The Detroit Regional Chamber launched a COVID-19 Business Resource Center. View ongoing updates and resources at