A Scholarly Approach to Well-Being

May 31, 2022
Adam Reiber

Adam Reiber joined Morgan Lewis earlier this year as the director of employee well-being. In this global position, he works with the firm’s Employee Engagement and Talent teams to expand and enhance ML Well. Drawing on his degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and leadership training in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University, Adam approaches the firm’s innovative well-being program with a scholarly perspective, remaining true to the science to deliver world-class well-being support to our Morgan Lewis community. He shares a bit more about that approach and his background.

You’ve had a bit of a nontraditional career path. How did your life and work experience set you up for this role?

I retired from the US Army in 2017. During my 20-year career, I did everything from jump out of perfectly good airplanes, to serve in multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan where my life (and the lives of others around me) was frequently at risk, to participate in tactical insertions at night and even underwater. During my career in service, I’ve attended 19 funerals of fallen Soldiers. Dealing with loss on this scale led me on a path to better understanding human excellence. I began to research positive psychology and immediately found my life’s purpose: “so that others may thrive.” My mission here at Morgan Lewis is to make a positive impact and help optimize thriving for all.

Wellness at work has become somewhat of a buzzword. Do you think it’s a fad?

Unfortunately, it may be a fad for some companies, including those that may not approach well-being holistically or try to impose a one-size-fits-all approach to the well-being of their employees.

At Morgan Lewis, we believe that lasting well-being is multi-dimensional and that, while our work can be challenging, it is also rewarding and can be made more manageable through the application of positive psychology tools and practices. Our program takes a realistic, flexible, and pragmatic approach. We are using straightforward but powerful tools and practices to support well-being in the workplace, such as regularly expressing gratitude to our colleagues or emphasizing the role that we each play in community well-being. We have introduced empirically proven concepts, such understanding one’s own well-being as along a spectrum, rather than as fixed. Above all, we prioritize strategies that are sustainable going forward.

How does an employee well-being program like ML Well benefit both the employee and the employer?

ML Well takes a multi-dimensional approach to well-being. The five domains of ML Well include Intellectual, Physical, Emotional, Occupational, and Community. We help optimize well-being across these domains to better position our employees to thrive in life, both at and outside of work. By leveraging the dimensions of ML Well, we optimize thriving for our employees that leads to exceptional client service. It’s just another way we strive for exceptional client service, both to our colleagues and our clients.

What does a successful well-being program look like?

Positive psychology, or the scientific study of well-being, was born out of the need to understand the positive aspects of life. It’s not just about happiness but rather living a good life. We spend most of our adult lives working. In fact, a 1% increase in unemployment drastically affects collective well-being even more than a 1% increase in inflation. We experience every element of well-being at work: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. When we focus cross-dimensionally, as we do with ML Well, we can achieve optimal human functioning. A successful well-being program is one that allows all of us to live well and do good and enhances the feeling of contributing to something greater than ourselves.

What is the best well-being advice or tip that you’ve received?

When Christopher Peterson, one of the original founding members of modern-day positive psychology, was asked in an interview what positive psychology was all about, he replied with “Other People.”

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s essential. By prioritizing your well-being, you show up at your best for other people—your community. Those people may be friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, or clients who you are in a better position to serve because of your state of well-being. If you take the time to prioritize yourself, you can take care of others.