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Well-Being Institute poised to support stressed, working adults

‘This isn’t a wellness program; it’s more than that. It’s about relationships and mental health.’

Jonae Pistoresi is the director of the Merced College Business Resource Center.
Jonae Pistoresi is the director of the Merced College Business Resource Center.


Jonae Pistoresi found herself swimming in research that kept shouting at her, “There’s more here!”

Pistoresi was keeping up with best practices on employee development, which is her purview as a business professor at the Merced College Business Resource Center.

But she kept reading the same conclusions: There is no company glory or gain in the 80-hour work week if it costs employees physical or emotional health.

“The evidence is overwhelming that employees who have high well-being offer better customer service, make fewer mistakes, have fewer accidents, miss fewer days, and are just better for an organization’s bottom line,” she said.

Pistoresi, the force behind professional development programs like Customer Service Academy and the Emerging Leaders Institute at the BRC, saw in the research a chance for the center to grow.

The Well-Being Institute is the result.

“This isn’t a wellness program; it’s more than that,” she explained. “It’s about relationships and mental health.“

The Institute opens this month for anyone who wants to improve how comfortable and healthy employees feel with their work.



Because we’re still battling COVID-19, the curriculum will be delivered remotely to start. Designed to train people to handle work and life stress, yes, the Institute will launch during a stressful time in history

“When I started this journey, I had no idea we would find ourselves in this difficult place,” Pistoresi said. “I had no idea we all would so urgently need to invest in our well-being.”

Pistoresi was fine-tuning the Emerging Leaders Institute when she was inspired to dig deeper.

She took a year-long sabbatical, completing three courses at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and an extremely popular one on happiness at Yale University.

She read dozens of books on everything from workplace dynamics to gratitude and mental health, and interviewed experts all over the spectrum.

She had set out to build a curriculum for another leadership class, but quickly saw the bones for a workplace well-being program.

“My passion is for Merced College to be seen as an important resource for employers,” Pistoresi said. “We always want to be on the cutting edge. And, just over the last decade, we’ve learned how happiness at work affects the bottom line.”



Pistoresi originally thought she would run a pilot program, then fine-tune and market it before a full release.

“But I think there will be a huge demand for it right now,” she said.

Think about it: Since March, the pandemic has cost Americans jobs, homes and lives. How do we pick up the pieces? Pistoresi hopes the Well-Being Institute will guide employers and employees through that work.

For example, organizational leaders could benefit from the first class, which looks at the foundations of workplace well-being.

How will healthcare workers, after months of unrelenting physical and emotional stress on the front lines, bounce back? Perhaps they’d value learning how to build resilience, which is the goal of the second class.

Farm workers and farmers have been taxing their bodies to keep the food supply moving. The rest of us, while locked indoors, are not getting enough sun or exercise. The third class offers ways to strengthen bodies and minds with exercise and nutrition.

Also, millions of people who’ve lost jobs in recent months might want to zero in on and maximize their strengths while they look for work. That’s the goal of the fourth class.

The fifth class will connect the concepts of well-being, happiness and productivity in the workplace.



Ironically, Pistoresi had to confront her own pandemic struggles while creating the Well-Being Institute.

As we reported this article, Pistoresi had just spent 10 weeks, seven days per week and eight hours per day, studying for a certificate in online instruction. She’s still adapting 30 courses for distance learning.

“One of our well-being classes is about recognizing and nurturing strengths,” she said. “Mine is working with and energizing people. But the technology is new to me. I’ve had moments of, ‘How am I going to do that on a computer?!?’ It bummed me out.”

Yet Pistoresi knew how to sort it out.

“I knew I had to be mindful about what I was grateful for in the midst of this craziness,” she said.



UC Davis professor Robert Emmons, the leading voice on the science of gratitude, ran a famous study where he had people keep daily journals on either (1) things they were grateful for, (2) the day’s events or (3) the day’s hassles.

Those who tracked gratitude were 25 percent happier.

“Who wouldn’t want to be 25 percent happier?” Pistoresi said.

Her point is well-taken and the impetus for the Well-Being Institute.

She said, “I think by applying these skills we can give people hope.”



The new Well-Being Institute is now open for September enrollment through the Merced College Business Resource Center for the Fall 2020 cycle. The first of five online courses start Sept. 14. Each online course runs for two weeks. The final offering in the program concludes on Dec. 14. Topics to be covered are (1) the foundations of well-being in the workplace, (2) building resilience, (3) fueling a body for success, (4) developing and maximizing strengths and (5) connecting the concepts of well-being, happiness and productivity. Students may take any seminar by itself, or complete all five classes to receive a certificate of accomplishment from Merced College.

Register online with the following link:

Need help: Call (209) 381-6176.

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