Global wellness challenge promotes physical and mental wellbeing

PHOTO: The Groat family reconnects with nature at an Australian National Park

By Emma Ahmed

A year of upheaval disrupted the daily routines of ConocoPhillips’ workforce, whether it’s working remotely, modifying workout schedules, or changing eating habits. Knowing that their health and wellness routines were impacted, the company decided to move ahead with the annual global wellness challenge, renamed SPIRIT of Wellness.

Modifications ensured participants could adhere to social distancing guidelines and the challenge was improved to cover mental as well as physical health.

Across the globe, 2,331 employees, contractors and retirees formed 126 teams and committed to the six-week challenge – Aug. 3 to Sept. 13. Entries were added for eating right, including drinking eight glasses of water per day, cooking at least three meals a week, trying a new healthy recipe and more. Other new entries promoted activities that reduce stress – going out of your way to be kind to someone, improving sleeping habits, completing breathing exercises and more.

In past years, business units and functional groups competed for the Wellness World Cup, but given the unique 2020 environment, the company suspended the competitive aspect to promote a one ConocoPhillips approach.

Participants shared stories on a dedicated Yammer site of improved physical and mental health; new hobbies discovered, and old ones revisited; and several delicious, healthy recipes.

Here are just a few of the 2020 challenge success stories.

Colombia Team

The Colombia business unit approached the challenge as an opportunity to focus on both wellness and team collaboration. Through virtual meetings, Bogota office employees formed one team and shared healthy recipes, workouts, relaxation and meditation exercises.

Screen shot of Colombia Team's virtual meeting
The Colombia team conducts a virtual meeting during the SPIRIT of Wellness campaign.

“I started a new journey,” said Hector Garcia, PMA and environmental coordinator. “I started to walk more and lost weight. Focusing on health and wellness helped reduce the anxiety caused by COVID. My family has been a great support, and I plan to continue on this journey thanks to SPIRIT of Wellness.”

Alejandra Gomez, office occupational health and safety coordinator, said, “It was an opportunity to grow as a team despite the barriers imposed by COVID. We learned how to work together virtually toward one goal, improving our health and wellness, which we achieved!”

Tia in outdoor market wearing sunglasses and facemask; her painting and platter of sushi
(from left) Tia prepares to head out on one of her daily walks; one of Tia’s colorful paintings; and a display of Tia’s homemade Sushi.
Agus Setiawati (Tia), senior administrative assistant, Indonesia

Tia is a working mom who juggles a lot of responsibilities. After several months of working from home, she began to suffer from cabin fever.

“I researched the syndrome and it sounded exactly like what I was experiencing. I started looking at the resources on the SPIRIT of Wellness site and decided to embrace the challenge, adding morning walks to my routine, and getting back to an old hobby, painting.”

In the past few months, Tia has walked more than 125 miles (200 km), met people she now greets on her daily walks, used cooking as a way to bond with her sons, and rediscovered her love of painting. As a bonus, she lost some weight.

“SPIRIT of Wellness inspired me to take control, and I have regained my positive outlook. I feel like a new me, and my days are full of color,” said Tia.

Sani Dadan, senior field rotating equipment engineer, Indonesia

Sani and several coworkers formed OnCom Bandung, a weekend cycling group. They entered SPIRIT of Wellness as a team to motivate each other. “It can be hard to maintain activities without a goal, so our team set personal and group challenges to keep us motivated,” said Sani.

Sani in foreground next to bicycle with a backdrop of green terraces and mountains in distance
Sani pauses during one of his epic cycling rides with OnCom Bandung above a terraced field.

Over the six-week challenge, Sani cycled about 870 miles (1,400 km) and climbed more than 44,000 feet (13,400 meters) in elevation. “It was great to know I am capable of completing tasks that felt impossible before. Not only did it improve my health, but it helped me manage through the pandemic by providing an outlet for stress and a way to get out of the house.”

Sani also embraced new elements of the challenge by focusing on healthy eating and starting a new hobby, hydroponic planting. He turned his backyard into a hydroponic garden, growing plants and fresh vegetables to include in his healthy meals. Sani continues to cycle, maintain his garden, and focus on healthy eating.

Leafy plants growing in containers; package of soft spring rolls
Sani’s hydroponic garden produces greens he includes in his healthy meals.
Carmen Groat, Human Resources business partner, Australia
Two people sitting on grounds in wooded area watching vibrant sunset  Carmen enjoys a sunrise with her daughter.

Carmen focused on “Stress Less” one of the new components of SPIRIT of Wellness. She also brought her family along on her journey.

“The priority was to slow down and reconnect,” said Carmen, a mother of two. During our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to fall into routines and get so busy you miss many of the small moments. Carmen and her family decided to get away for a few days of camping at a local National Park, where they were isolated from other people and disconnected from phones and computers.

“Experiencing breathtaking sunsets, watching kangaroos in the bush, and star gazing while we spent time together as a family by the fire was a wonderful way to reconnect. It’s amazing how spending quality time with the people you love has a dramatic and immediate impact on lowering your stress levels.”

Carmen also helped organize several “Move” sessions for Australian BU employees, including yoga at the park and Crossfit sessions. She coordinated weekly mental health virtual meetings, engaging employees in discussions of the six key factors to mental health: sleep, diet, exercise, thought, stress and relationships.

Jackie riding her bicycle
Cycling is one of the physical activities self-proclaimed cardio junkie Jackie engages in during the challenge.
Jackie Bunce, advisor, Analytics Communication and OCM, Houston

Jackie is a self-proclaimed cardio junkie, so SPIRIT of Wellness was right up her alley. Having participated in prior years, she was familiar with the physical component, but was excited to embrace the new nutrition and mental health aspects of the challenge as well.

Jackie posing outdoors with arms crossed, smiling
Jackie in Arizona

“It wasn’t hard to log time and miles with regular running, swimming and cycling,” said Bunce. “But as I got into the challenge I realized focusing on my entire wellbeing, including stress management and health eating, was just as important.”

Along the way, and because of the challenge, Jackie started using some relaxation techniques and even downloaded a meditation app to help. She also learned a few new healthy recipes her whole family has enjoyed. Jackie’s husband and daughter joined her on the challenge – not by logging time or miles, but by increasing their awareness about the importance of healthy eating and stress management to their overall health.

Mark Sherwill, Asia crude marketing manager, Singapore

Mark started the year weighing about 230 pounds (105 kilos). In early February his wife, Paola, invited him on a surprise date night, and instead of going to a restaurant or the movies, she took him to a dietary seminar. “Not quite the evening I expected, but a necessary wake-up call to start paying more attention to my health,” said Mark. “In late February, I removed refined carbs and sugars from my diet, and replaced them with more fruits and vegetables. As someone with a sweet tooth this was not an easy change, but my family was incredibly supportive.”

Mark with wife outdoors, smiling; Mark with healthy dish giving thumbs upThanks to his wife Paola's unique date night invitation, Mark now embraces a healthy diet.

Mark was astonished at how quickly he shed weight, about 30 pounds (14 kilos) in 8 weeks. By mid-July he had hit 187 pounds (85 kilos) and committed to a personal challenge for the start of the SPIRIT of Wellness campaign – run 6.8 miles (11 kilometers) every day for 42 days.

Mark set his path over Mount Faber, a hill in Singapore, and chronicled his journey taking a photo at the half-way point every day. “Some days were invigorating, and I was incredibly motivated, while other days I felt fatigued and all my muscles and joints ached. I decided about halfway through the challenge that I would attempt to run a marathon (42 kilometers) on the 42nd day of the challenge. I had attempted a marathon in 2019 and had to walk the last 9 miles (15 kilometers), so that helped motivate me to maintain my daily runs and build my resilience.”

In the last week of the challenge, Mark developed a cold and thought he’d have to give up on his goal. “I woke up energized and ready to go on the day though. I’d come too far to quit now. I was determined to complete the marathon and was able to do so in just under four and a half hours. Two hours faster than my attempt the prior year.”

“SPIRIT of Wellness motivated me to take on this challenge, and while I’ve scaled back from my daily running regime, I continue to run around 24 miles (40 kilometers) each week and enjoy the diversity of adding circuit training, yoga and cycling. The journey continues.”

Graphic: Team Retired and Inspired
Promoting health and wellness for retirees in Houston

This year, with the ConocoPhillips Houston Wellness Center closed due to COVID-19, the wellness team was determined to engage retirees in the global challenge. They sent weekly emails to retiree participants with mental health tips and resources, healthy recipes, and invitations to join virtual live exercise classes. Retirees and their spouses created healthy routines that supported their physical goals, nutrition, and mental wellbeing.