There are two Microsteps I use every day that have helped me tremendously to prioritize connection and movement. One is having dedicated time to be on mobile devices. They can dominate your day if you let them, so my wife and I try to put them in another room, disconnect, and be present in the moment. The second is to stretch when I get up in the morning. Flexibility is so important to overall health. And for me the overall point is to do something healthy for myself when I get up, before I jump into the chaos of my day.

Taking time to disconnect has become a very positive choice for my wife and I. Do you ever look up from the phone and realize an hour has passed? It will take all the time you give it. Phones are hyper stimulating and the brain needs downtime. Making device-free time the default will help you gain back lost time and avoid the burnout effects of endless scrolling.

I started to prioritize my well-being because I realized over the past 20 months that I was getting more and more tight, more serious, and less fun. Without in-person interactions to help re-energize and reset me, work just became one problem after another. As I recognized this, I opened up to the team and shared with them how I felt. I think as a leader, being transparent with our challenges is key to helping our teams be open with theirs. 

We are also trying to have a bit of fun at the start of meetings, rather than being “all business.” We started off one meeting with a breathing exercise, which was a bit funny for the team, but much appreciated. We’ll keep doing fun things at the beginning of meetings, including wellness exercises, to help keep ourselves connected beyond work. 

During the past 20 months, I’ve realized the positive impact connecting with others has on well-being. I tend to go heads down and focus, which is great for getting things done, but if you don’t come up for air every now and then and connect with people, it can become a grind and happiness erodes. I’ve read lots of articles recently talking about how being connected with others has a positive impact on health, and I’m definitely putting this into practice in my own life.

I want to promote a culture of wellness  at Firmenich, such that the concept continues to grow until we have a movement — that it becomes part of how we think about work, that the work is important but we have to take time for ourselves to be fit and well. The now popular phrase of “putting your oxygen mask on first” is a good one. If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will do it for you.

If you’re trying to reduce your stress, let me share a bit of advice I’ve been thinking about lately: The only thing you can control about your day is how you respond to it. Don’t let problems consume you and bring you down. Problems are bound to happen. Instead, do your best to keep calm and happy, even during challenging times. My joy trigger is my 2-year-old son, Max. It’s as if he’s unlocked a piece of myself which I’ve been trying to access for years. He’s really changed the way I see life for the better. He’s pure love and joy. #gratefuldada Find something in your life that brings you joy, and tap into it when you feel low. It’ll work wonders.


  • John Varonka

    VP, QHSE, Americas


    My name is Mr. John Varonka, VP, QHSE, Americas. QHSE is exciting work as we touch all facets of the business and get to collaborate with so many people to drive sustainable business growth. I have been with Firmenich for over 15 years in roles ranging from Customer Care, Planning, and Operations management, including three years in Shanghai as an Operations Director and the past seven years in QHSE. I love that Firmenich “gets it.” It’s a company with a soul that truly cares about its team members' well-being, continued development, and having a positive impact. Every day I get to work with talented people all over the world, and I’ve made many friends here. I consider myself blessed to be a part of this team. My passion is to help people achieve their potential, so any day I get to do that is a great one.