Global wellness: Lauren Whitt, Ph.D. ’06

Lauren Whitt had been awake since 3 a.m. PST taking Google Hangout video calls with her global colleagues in London and Sydney. Wearing jeans, a T-shirt and sporting hair still wet from her morning routine, the easy-going Google wellness manager settled in at the California-based headquarters, ready to chat. This unconventional and interactive environment is nothing out of the ordinary for Whitt.

In fact, she prefers it.

“At Google we have a fun culture, so our campuses feel a lot like college campuses. We encourage people to do their work in comfortable and collaborative spaces,” Whitt said.

Whitt’s position at Google is vital — it’s her responsibility to ensure a happy and healthy work environment for every employee. As the wellness manager, her global team promotes and supports the wellbeing of Googlers worldwide. They even set a Guinness World Record for most money raised in 24 hours with their “Get One, Give One” flu vaccination campaign where every flu shot given on campus was matched with a charitable donation to vaccinate people in developing countries.

“Employees spend so much time in the workplace, so if we can create a culture promoting healthy decisions, then we’re ahead of the game,” she said.

One way they achieve this environment is by using behavioral science principles to prompt Googlers to make healthy snack choices.  Google provides free meals and snacks on campus, supporting the principle that collaboration and creativity often occur around food. It’s rare for a Googler to be more than 150 feet from a micro-kitchen or cafe. Sugary drinks are hidden behind frosted glass or on the lowest shelf, while the water bottles are displayed at eye level; healthy snacks are presented in clear bins while unhealthy snacks are hidden behind opaque bins. “Small daily changes promote a healthy office culture and employee base,” Whitt said.

Whitt’s education, including her Ph.D. in parks, recreation and tourism management from Clemson, led her to ask the question, “How do we help people be their best selves in their daily environments?” Though her research initially focused on academic advising and resiliency skill development for college athletes, she found her experience could be applied to inspiring personal action in the workplace.

Whitt’s holistic wellness approach encourages employees to be continually present to achieve their peak performance. “We encourage Googlers to be in the moment,” said Whitt. “If you’re at work, then be present and focused at work; if it’s at home, then invest yourself in your family and friends.”

— Courtney Meola ’17

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