How We Worked Well-Being Into Our Company Culture

Sponsored by PwC

Cecilia Tse, Director at PwC. Photo courtesy of PwC.

Cecilia Tse, Director at PwC. Photo courtesy of PwC.

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June 22, 2024 at 7:53PM UTC

For Anne Donovan and Cecilia Tse, well-being goes beyond drinking water and eating salad. And when they realized most people treat well-being like a hobby instead of an important aspect of everyday life, they decided to make a change for the better. 

These two women were instrumental in launching PwC’s journey to greater well-being through, Be well, work well, a bold cultural change that encourages and supports employees to institute healthy well-being habits across all four dimensions of energy - physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. And they’re passionate about the positive change it continues to have on everyday life at PwC

Donovan and Tse spoke with Fairygodboss about Be well, work well, how they got involved, and how it’s empowering them to be their best selves. Then, they shared some advice on finding balance. 

Tell me a bit about your current role.  What are your priorities?  

Anne: I am the U.S. People Innovation Leader at PwC. I’m responsible for strategy and innovation around culture change at the firm. Our people are our business. That's what we have, we don’t make any products. We have our people and we develop our people because that's the most important thing we have. I’m lucky to advise the firm in this way. I’m thrilled with my job. 

Anne Donovan, U.S. People Innovation Leader at PwC. Photo Courtesy of PwC. 
Anne Donovan, U.S. People Innovation Leader at PwC. Photo Courtesy of PwC. 

Cecilia: I have a personal passion for wellness and part of my everyday role involves supporting Be well, work well, our firmwide cultural transformation effort focused on energizing our people. In short, my priority is making everyday well-being real for our people.

How has your career with PwC evolved? Where did you start on your journey and where are you now?

Anne: I started my career in the audit practice. I was an accounting major in college, and I started right out of college with the firm. I spent about 5 years in auditing. I’ve spent the rest of my time, about 30 years, in human capital. It’s really my passion. Being able to foster and encourage our people and our culture, and being able to advise the firm on that front, makes me the luckiest person. 

Cecilia: I started my career with PwC Australia as an intern in the Assurance practice in Sydney, Australia.  I accepted the opportunity for a long-term secondment to PwC U.S., in its New York City audit practice. A few years later I was ready for a different challenge and moved fulltime into PwC U.S.’ deals consulting practice. It was there that I was promoted to Director. In my current role, I am the project leader for Be well, work well and am privileged to help lead that effort. It is truly my dream job.

What does Be well, work well mean at PwC?

Anne: It's really a complete and whole look at a person being healthy — health of mind and body. It’s also a way to approach work in a healthier and more mindful way. We really chose the title very mindfully — no pun intended — to remind people that the initiative wasn't only about drinking water and running. It’s really about approaching work, the thing we do probably more than we do anything else, in a healthier way. 

How have you been involved with PwC’s well-being programs?

Anne: I've been privileged enough to lead this effort for the firm. I’m seeing the scaling of this and it’s just been phenomenal how quickly it’s taken hold. I know that our people are excited about it and want more and we're going to be happy to continue the efforts. 

Cecilia: Prior to taking this role, I would lead my teams through what I now know as “energizers,” whether it be scheduling team yoga classes or making fresh lunches at client offices. Everyone already knows they should be sleeping more, moving more, managing distractions better and being more present in interactions. I’m focused on helping people understand why we can’t continually let these things fall to the wayside, particularly with the pace and volume of information and complexity that we are faced with today, and how we enable people to make the change and try to prioritize well-being, especially during periods of intense pressure. 

How does PwC aid employees in following these well-being principles?  

Anne:  We are going for a culture change as opposed to a programmatic change, and we have implemented a range of efforts. 

For example, we have a Habit Bank that gives people really practical things they can do on a day-to-day basis to help them in their everyday lives to make changes. We're giving our people permission and encouraging them to do things differently at work to change the way they work. And we're rewarding people for behaving differently.  

At PwC we work in teams, and we believe things change on the ground if there are good role models at the top.   We asked our teams to create well-being plans to help chart out their changes. This past year — and we're going to do it again next year — 5,000 teams, and tens of thousands of individuals, were involved with making a well-being plan. What that meant was they committed to each other what well-being habits they wanted to adopt, and then they held each other accountable every day.   We're building well-being into the way that we act everyday in order to shift our culture.

Attaining work-life balance can be challenging.  What people, resources and tools do you rely on to get it all done?

Cecilia: My favorite well-being tool is my calendar. I include everything in it — both professional and personal — and that includes time to think creatively, ‘me’ time, tactical time, and more. It reminds me to be accountable to myself and helps manage unnecessary fire drills. 

While working full-time, I also earned my yoga teaching and integrative nutrition certifications, which have equipped me with a very solid foundation behind the everyday choices I make. 

Cecilia Tse, Director at PwC. Photo courtesy of PwC.
Cecilia Tse, Director at PwC. Photo courtesy of PwC.

What does “balance” mean to you, and in what ways do you feel like you’ve achieved it?

Cecilia: Balance to me means being aware of what energizes you and prioritizing it. I feel like I have achieved it because through Be well, work well I have experienced that I deliver my best work when I am empowered to also keep up with habits that energize me. I can confidently block time on my calendar to allow for creative thinking. I can update my instant message status to say I’m on a ‘focused sprint’ (focusing on one task and ignoring pings/emails for a short period of time). I can proudly share that I am walking my dog while on a conference call. I can initiate and lead an impromptu breathing exercise during a meeting. The list goes on. 

Overall, my colleagues have become more empathetic to respecting each other’s well-being habits and it really has helped to cultivate a level of trust and care within teams that leaves us not only happier, but truly feeling more productive and engaged.

How have mentorship opportunities helped you in maintaining your well-being agenda? And have you helped mentor others? 

Anne: I have a passion for mentoring working mothers. I’m a working parent— I have 22-year-old twins — and probably one of my key pieces of advice is that you're going to survive, but it’s hard. 

I have had some very important people that I can point to throughout my career who have mentored me and helped push me forward.  They pushed me out of my comfort zone. And certainly, they guided me while pushing me. They really saw my talent where I might not have seen it and then pushed me to develop it. 

I can remember being afraid very distinctly, but I can look back now and I’m so, so grateful to those people. I have definitely gone back to thank them from the other side when I’ve realized how much I benefited from their kindness. 

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to other women who want to excel professionally and personally?

Anne: Stand up for yourself. Use your voice strongly. Expect a seat at the table. And don’t try to fix everything. 

Cecilia: Pursue what brings you joy.


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