How Deloitte’s Jen Fisher Became Its First Chief Well-Being Officer

'As long as there are humans in the workplace, there's going to be a need'

“You don’t tell somebody with cancer to power through, push on or get some sleep over the weekend,” said Fisher.
Courtesy of Deloitte

How did Jen Fisher become the first chief well-being officer at accounting and consulting giant Deloitte? “Out of necessity.”

Fisher joined Deloitte in June 2001 and ascended the ranks, serving as chief of staff to the chief operating officer (and eventual CEO) before working with chief marketing officer Diana O’Brien. But it came with a cost.

“I was pretty burnt out,” she said. “I had gone pretty hard, sacrificed a lot and hadn’t put my own well-being and boundaries into place.”

She added that people in her life expressed concerns (including O’Brien), but she feared that admitting something was wrong somehow meant failure and not being “the perfect employee, spouse, sister. … It took me way too long to reach out and ask for help.”

Fisher has always been passionate about learning how to ensure that people are healthy and content, studying it as a minor at the University of Miami. “Going through my own personal journey turned me onto the fact that this was important for our people, business-critical and the right thing to do,” she added. “It’s really important for us to have a workforce that’s healthy, that’s well, that’s showing up every day for our clients, themselves and their families.”

“You don’t tell somebody with cancer to power through, push on or get some sleep over the weekend,” said Fisher. But when someone is dealing with burnout or mental health concerns, those are often the suggestions they hear, Fisher said.

Her near-term focus is on a mental health at work initiative Deloitte started in May, and the intersection of technology and well-being is a big part—including the development of Deloitte-specific well-being applications.

And longer term? “As long as there are humans in the workplace, there’s going to be a need,” she said. “The future of work is going to become increasingly more complicated with the use of artificial intelligence and robotics.”

While having a chief well-being officer isn’t yet a norm in corporate America, Fisher hopes that one day, it will be. “There are days when I still pinch myself and have an awful lot of gratitude that I’m able to do this work and see the impact it has on our people,” she said.

Big Mistake

Fisher said she took “way too long to reach out and ask for help” when she experienced burnout. Several people tried to pull her aside, seeing that she was behaving differently. “Hindsight is 20/20,” she explained. “I would have asked for help a lot sooner.”

Lesson Learned

“Admitting that there was something wrong or that I needed help [didn’t mean] that I couldn’t handle it,” Fisher said. “We’re all human, and at some point throughout our careers and life journeys, we all need a little bit of help.”

How She Got the Gig

Fisher put together a business case and got permission from chief talent officer Michael Preston. Fisher was the first person named to a formal wellness position, but she said Deloitte has “a long history of having great resources and benefits for our people.”

Pro Tip

“Don’t limit yourself by roles that currently exist,” she said. “If you see a need, put together a business case.”

This story first appeared in the June 3, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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