How An Employee-Led Affinity Group Supports Their Employees’ Physical and Mental Health

Sponsored by Appian

Appian employees.

Photo courtesy of Appian.

 Jamie Blechman and Isa Herold
Jamie Blechman and Isa Herold
June 23, 2024 at 11:19AM UTC
This article was originally published on the Appian blog and authored by Jamie Blechman and Isa Herold, AppianWellness Liaisons.
Your health is always top priority, and that doesn’t stop when you get to work. 
At Appian, we want to ensure that health comes first, and that prioritizing your wellness is celebrated through events, programs, and how we work on an ongoing basis.
That’s the focus of our AppianWellness employee-led Affinity Group. Its mission is to enhance organizational and personal health. It’s dedicated to providing all employees with access to physical and mental resources for the betterment of their whole-life wellness.
Founder and Chair of AppianWellness Jamie Blechman, and Board member Isa Herold shared why the group is important to them, and how it’s created a healthy community across the company.  
Meet Jamie Blechman.
  • Benefits Lead, HR Total Rewards
  • Chair, AppianWellness

How AppianWellness became one of our largest Affinity Groups. 

My background is in exercise science and kinesiology so focusing on wellness and health is something I am very passionate about. You’ll find me out on a run over lunch or the person reminding others to take those breaks throughout the work day.
When I started at Appian in HR managing benefit programs, part of my role was building the wellness side of benefits. We launched AppianWellness in 2018 and I really enjoyed leading the group as we grew to involve members across teams and our global offices. 
We set up ongoing events that support physical and mental health and create a community where people can talk about it. Here are a few: 
  • Wellness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month where we bring in speakers, host social events, and organize classes like outdoor yoga, puppy therapy, and more 
  • Meditation group meets twice a week
  • Manager training for mental health awareness 
  • “Desk-ercise” sessions in our London office and virtual where people learn everyday exercises to do throughout the day to help with back pain and stress 
  • Digital detox sessions where we talked about healthy habits around tech
  • Mental health workshops from our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) provider 

We held yoga classes outside of our HQ office during Mental Health Awareness Month!

I am a firm believer that mental health and self-care are top priorities. Many of our events are focused on mental health, especially the last couple years. We want to alleviate burnout and make sure we’re providing a safe space for coworkers to share about mental health and get access to support they need. 
Two new additions for all employees we’ve added to our benefit offerings this year are: Ginger, an app that offers mental health support through coaching via text and video-based therapy and psychiatry, and Headspace, a meditation app. Here’s more on 5 Mental Health Resources We Provide to Support Our Employees.

Connecting almost half the company for a fitness challenge. 

In 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, we were talking in the AppianWellness chat about how so many of us felt isolated and lacked motivation. So we started a month-long fitness challenge where people could join a team, do any kind of activity, and track it in an app, all while raising donations for charity. 
It helped with camaraderie and feeling connected with coworkers all around the globe. Because it was virtual for everyone, our coworkers in Australia and Europe had the same experience as we did in the US, and it was so fun to see everyone’s progress and feel connected. 
We treated it as an experiment but were surprised to have almost 500 people participate, about 40 percent of Appian at that time! Since then, we’ve done four fitness challenges. 
That was also the start of us incorporating virtual aspects of every AppianWellness event to include co-workers at other offices. If we have a speaker at our HQ office, we always try to record it and same for in-person events at our other office locations. 
We’re always thinking outside the box about what else we can do for Appian employees around the world and it’s awesome to see the ripple effect of that impact. When someone reaches out after an event to say how they appreciated it, or how it shifted their mindset around their own wellness journey, that’s really fulfilling. Now AppianWellness is one of our largest Affinity Groups with over 400 members worldwide!
Meet Isa Herold.
  • Quality Engineer II 
  • Inclusion Chair, AppianWellness

Focus on physical and mental health sparks great conversations. 

I would consider myself a pretty active person — I have played soccer my whole life, and in recent years have gotten into running, yoga and hiking. That’s why I was initially drawn to join AppianWellness, but learning about the groups focus on mental, emotional and even financial healthis what stuck with me and made me want to get more involved. 
I started at Appian during the pandemic and found it hard to meet people remotely. I  wanted to get involved in something outside of my day job at Appian, and decided to apply when positions opened for 2022. Now as a Liaison on the Board, I get to communicate with members, plan events and help people feel engaged and included.  
I’ve learned how wellness means so many different things to people, and we all have different reasons for getting involved. We had one member who joined AppianWellness and said “I just want to preface, I don’t work out, but I’m very interested in mental health!” Although the initial perception of a Wellness group might be that it focuses on physical well-being, I would say that AppianWellness members have an equal, if not greater emphasis on mental and emotional health.
Our AppianWellness chat room is very active. Every Monday in our chatroom channel, I send out a message about upcoming events with a link to our calendar. Throughout the week, members often ask questions about upcoming events or challenges, or for recommendations on everything from smart watches to mental health tips. We give shout-outs to people who have recently accomplished something like running a marathon, keeping up with an exercise habit, or going to a meditation retreat. 
AppianWellness gives people a community where they feel included and a space they can share with people with similar interests, where they can keep each other accountable and learn new things every day. 

My top 3 favorite AppianWellness events.

  1. Mental health awareness month
In the month of May we partnered with AppianAbility, an Affinity group that supports those with physical disabilities or neuro diversities to host a mental health panel. We organized nature walks and yoga classes at HQ, and I organized an Appian Bike to Work Day along with AppianGreen, where people could track their bike rides online. Our mission to support employee mental health overlaps with so many other Affinity Groups so it’s great to work closely with them for this month’s activities! 
     2. Puppy de-stress event 
Who doesn’t love puppies? For this exciting event we partnered with Wolf Trap Animal Rescue, a local DC organization for a puppy de-stress session and had a great turnout. It was a chance for people to take a mental break from their work day and get outside. We had a few people reach out to us directly after to say they came back to work feeling so much better! 

Two pups at our puppy de-stress event partnered with Wolf Trap Animal Rescue!

     3. Meatless Mondays for Vegetarian Month 
We’re organizing this initiative now that I’m especially excited for! For Vegetarian Month in October we’ll be sharing recipes for creative dishes to try that are meatless and encouraging people to share their favorites.
Events are open to all employees and what I’ve loved about AppianWellness is that your involvement is whatever you want it to be. You can go to events and be part of our chat group, or go full throttle and join the board. You’ll be guaranteed to meet new people at Appian you wouldn’t otherwise have met, and join a community of people cheering you on in your health and wellness activities.

Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Appian. Find a job there today!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always