At first glance, Houdad Javidnia, Christopher Serafin and Brian Meier may not appear to have a lot in common. Yet, this year, all three were able to take advantage of unique benefits offered to them as employees of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in the U.S.—programs designed to help build a healthier and happier workforce.
When Javidnia, a digital strategist in Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.’s New York City office, became a first-time dad last July, he was able to take eight weeks of paid time off as part of the company’s expanded parental leave policy in the U.S.
Serafin, a Philadelphia-based procurement manager with Janssen Research & Development, LLC, was able to take advantage of three weeks of paid leave after coming home from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, thanks to Johnson & Johnson’s expanded veterans and military leave policy.
And Meier, an engineer for the VISTAKON® Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., in Jacksonville, Fla., lost an impressive 40 pounds—and overhauled his nutrition and fitness habits—after taking a new lifestyle class offered through the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute®.
These employees illustrate Johnson & Johnson’s long-standing commitment to helping boost the health and wellness of employees—and their families.
“Johnson & Johnson aims to weave healthy habits into the operating culture of our organization—and create more ways to engage employees when it comes to taking care of their health,” says Fik Isaac, M.D., MPH, Vice President of Global Health Services.
To show us just how the company is delivering on that promise, we asked Javidnia, Serafin and Meier to share their moving stories.
"My Paternity Leave Helped Us Become an Even Stronger Family”
Houdad Javidnia: It’s not often that you’re able to witness your life changing before your eyes, but that’s what happened when my daughter, Arianna, was born last year.
It was the most amazing moment in my life hearing her cry for the first time and knowing that my wife, Akiba, and I had a healthy baby. Arianna had made us a unit, and I instantly knew that I was going to do everything in my power to help her reach her highest potential—to have the best life possible.
When Akiba was pregnant last April, Johnson & Johnson announced that it was expanding its parental leave policy in the U.S.: In addition to the 17 paid weeks off that new moms could take, all new parents—maternal, paternal and adoptive—now had the opportunity to take eight weeks of paid leave during the first year of a new child’s birth or adoption.
So when that e-mail announcement hit my inbox, I immediately forwarded it to my wife—and we both knew it would impact us in a big, wonderful way.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Akiba was able to take three months’ paid leave and two months’ unpaid through her job. And thanks to the company’s flexible benefits, I was also able to take one month paid leave a month after Arianna was born, and then another month when my wife went back to work.
In the first weeks after our daughter was born, life was all about adjusting. The fact that I was able to be at home for so much of this adjustment period really tied us together as a family unit—not only helping my wife and I bond with Arianna but also with each other.
I’ve learned that raising a baby is filled with a lot of little, precious moments. And I’m so happy I was able to be there for many of the first ones—from middle-of-the-night diaper changes to the moment I learned how to soothe Arianna by propping her over my left shoulder.
Although Arianna doesn’t yet understand the value of my being home with her during her first few months, I’m glad she will hear about it as she grows up. She will know the stories of how both her mother and father were there for her.
I always knew I’d give every opportunity available to my baby, but that drive is even stronger now, thanks to my bond with Arianna—a bond that was undoubtedly strengthened because of the time I was able to spend with her.
RELATED: Hear more about Javidnia’s story—and meet his daughter—in this video.
“My Extended Military Leave Helped Me Reconnect With My Family”
Christopher Serafin: In June of 2014, I was recalled to active duty as an operations officer for the defense logistics agency in Afghanistan. Although I always knew this was a possibility—I’m in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and I’d served my country in active duty before—nothing can quite prepare you for getting deployed.
One day I was sitting at my desk at Janssen, and the next I was getting ready for combat.
In addition to being briefed on everything I’d face in Afghanistan, I also had to figure out who was going to cut the grass while I was away, fix something when it was broken around the house, and help with hockey game carpools.
It’s incredibly daunting to know that you’re going to miss out on these simple parts of family life when you’re gone for nearly a year.
Of course there was also work to wrap up—and the big job of mentally preparing for what was to come. About a month later I was on the ground in 120-degree heat at a forward-operating base in Afghanistan, where I was in charge of 350 military, civilian and joint contractors.
It’s kind of like drinking from a fire hose—you have to get up to speed quickly because people’s lives are at stake.
My first week back at the office, Alex Gorsky scheduled a meeting with me in his office to ask how I was doing. I still feel so grateful thinking about that kindness.
For the next nine months, I was constantly “on.” The threat of an attack was always imminent, so I rarely had a restful night of sleep.
But although this was hard for me, it was even harder on my family.
I’ll never forget video messaging with them on Thanksgiving. In the middle of our conversation, we started taking incoming fire and I had to go abruptly. I stayed in a bunker for the next couple of hours, and my wife and kids had no idea if I was OK or not.
When I returned home in March of 2015, I was so grateful to be back—but the transition was a tough one. My assignment had been the most challenging I’d ever faced. Plus, I missed so much, including my twentieth wedding anniversary and my daughter’s sixteenth birthday.
It’s a lot harder to acclimate to life back home than one might imagine. When your family is used to operating without you, it takes some time to rebuild those relationships.
Not only was the company understanding of this, but it was also incredibly accommodating by enabling me to take three weeks’ paid leave to decompress and reconnect with my family. It’s a benefit that’s offered through the company’s extended veterans and military leave policy.
People talk about the Johnson & Johnson companies as a family. Well, I have to say that it feels true to me.
My first week back at the office, the Chairman and CEO, Alex Gorsky, who also happens to be a fellow veteran, scheduled a meeting with me in his office. Here was the busiest man within the corporation making time to welcome me home and ask how I was doing.
I still feel so grateful thinking about that kindness—and how I work at a company that truly honors people who serve their country.
"I Signed Up for a Company Health Program—and Lost 40 Pounds”
Brian Meier: Every morning, by 5:00 A.M., you’ll find me at the company’s onsite gym, where I spend the next 90 or so minutes on the treadmill—however long it takes to burn 1,000 calories.
A year ago, however, there’s no way you’d have found me there. I was fully convinced that I didn’t have time to exercise.
But everything changed in September 2015, when I read an article about how our CEO jumps on his exercise bike at 5:30 A.M. every day. I thought: If he can do that and run all of Johnson & Johnson, I can certainly start sneaking a workout in first thing too.
I’d also just had an annual checkup and learned that my blood glucose levels had been climbing year after year. The word diabetes was even tossed out.
It was the combination of these factors—plus the fact that I was weighing in at 235 pounds—that prompted me to sign up for a new lifestyle class that helps employees adopt healthier habits by looking at things like nutrition, exercise physiology and even performance psychology.
I took the one-day class on September 30, 2015, and thought it was amazing. I worked with instructors from the Human Performance Institute ® to hatch a doable game plan that started with limiting my caloric intake to 1,800 calories a day by eating often and light—and filling up on veggies.
I also set a goal to walk off 1,000 calories every morning by starting my day at the company gym. The beauty of this was that it wouldn’t take away from time at home with my wife, Maria, and our four kids (Shamara, Victoria, Patrick and Isaac), or my time at the office.
Within a matter of weeks, the weight started to melt off and my knees weren’t as sore as they had been. These days I’m hitting my 1,000-calorie burn goal in 75 minutes, instead of 90. I have more energy, and I feel more focused and productive at work.
In three months I was down from 235 pounds to 195. It felt incredible to hit that milestone.
My weight loss even inspired Maria to start working out more and eating healthier. She’s now also down 40 pounds—and training for her first half marathon!
My biggest piece of advice for everyone: Get up and get moving. If you told me a year ago that my future morning routine would involve a 4:30 wake-up call and more than an hour on a treadmill, I’d have laughed and gone back to eating junk food and playing video games.
Yes, the amazing resources I have access to at Johnson & Johnson served as an incredible jump start to my weight loss and get-healthy journey—but I truly believe anyone can do what I’ve done.