A little heart work never hurt anyone

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Unless you know he’s a full-time partner with Mentzer, Vuillemin and Mygrant Ltd. in Akron, you’d never peg Larry Vuillemin as an attorney. In local business circles, he’s better known as the “counselor at law” who brought human issues, such as emotional intelligence, love and spirituality, into the workplace.

In 1990, with the Rev. Norman Douglas, Vuillemin co-founded Heart to Heart Communications — a nonprofit organization that serves as a catalyst to strengthen the connections among a person’s inner spirit, ethical values and daily work. Since its inception as a grass-roots movement, Heart to Heart has become a nonreligious “Worklife Institute” that creates and facilitates custom-made workshops for corporate clients.

Workshop topics range from “Emotional Intelligence and Inner Excellence at Work” to “Working Through Change and Renewing Spirit at Work.” Clients companies include FirstEnergy Corp., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Akron General Medical Center and other high-profile corporations.

The executives at these companies are part of a growing corporate counterculture seeking to mesh spirituality and work. But it’s not just about inviting spirituality into the workplace to boost productivity or soothe the employees’ psyches. The focus is on issues that reverberate beyond the bottom line, from how to reach out to others in a loving way to how to find meaning in the collective quest to achieve the company’s mission.

Currently, Heart to Heart is creating a “Resilience Program” for FirstEnergy’s employees. Holly Bognar, Ph.D., Heart to Heart’s executive director, says the program focuses on how to balance mind, body and spirit in the workplace.

“With those three dimensions — mind, body and spirit — acknowledged, integrated and balanced, we’re not only more productive at work, but it also enhances all other aspects of our lives,” Bognar says.

Guy Pipitone, FirstEnergy’s senior vice president of commodity operations, says that for people to do well at their work, all those elements must be present.

“That’s because work is so much a part of what we do,” Pipitone says. “So, we’re benefiting our shareholders and customers by providing our employees with these opportunities to be fulfilled in all aspects of their lives.”

As Vuillemin puts it, there can be no greater productive result than to come together to discuss these issues, realizing that people can’t shut off that human side just because they’re at work.

“Personally, I’d rather be able to talk about things like spirituality and love in the presence of those I care about at work,” says Vuillemin, “even if it does seem strange to hear that from a trial lawyer.” How to reach: Heart to Heart Communications Worklife Institute, (330) 434-3278 or www.h2hc.org

Balancing the load

Mary Kay Wagner, human resources manager for Cohen & Co., says corporate wellness is one of the Akron accounting firm’s top priorities.

“Empowering our staff with the knowledge and resources to take better care of themselves benefits them and our firm,” says Wagner, “so we’ve incorporated wellness programs into our work environment to do that.”

Recently, Cohen & Co. contracted with Solon-based WellCorp Inc. to deliver a wellness program focusing on stress management and relaxation. The session also debuted a “Desktop Wellness Program” that gives employees access to a Web site devoted to corporate health issues. Among other features, the site highlights local health fairs, blood pressure screenings and other health-related activities.

“Our firm understands that we have responsibilities at home as well at work, and balancing that takes effort on their part as well as ours,” says Karrie Null, Cohen & Co. administrative assistant. “Once that balance occurs, everyone wins.” How to reach: Cohen & Co., (330) 374-1040; WellCorp Inc., (440) 914-9355