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“Off the Clock” is a blog series that explores the interests and causes to which ECS employees devote themselves outside of work.









In It for the Joy

In this installment, we interview Sheila Farthing, marketing operations manager at ECS and vice-chair of the Wellness Employee Resource Group (ERG). She has a passion for health and fitness and advocates for emotional, mental, and spiritual health as critical components of wellness. She is also the co-founder of a nonprofit engaged in infrastructure and agricultural projects and child nutrition in the bush areas around Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Sheila Farthing

Marketing Operations Manager
Vice-Chair, Wellness Employee Resource Group

Q: What got you started pursuing a health-conscious lifestyle?

I’ve always been an active person. I played sports in high school, intramural sports in college, and have played on several softball teams since I was in my 20s. My family has a history of health issues and I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid those, so I started running in my 30s. For me, running is great mental therapy — and it’s free!

Q: You’re the vice-chair of the ECS Wellness ERG. Most people think of wellness as extending beyond just exercise and fitness to encompass a person’s whole being (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual). How do you live that out, and how does the Wellness ERG help ECS employees live that out?

The ECS Wellness ERG focuses on five wellness pillars: emotional, physical, spiritual, social, and family. It also provides a safe space for employees to learn and talk about issues that are often avoided in a traditional corporate or public setting, like mental health issues. As a side note, for those employees interested in joining the Wellness ERG, you can go to the ECS Connect ERG page and click join. We would love to have you!

When it comes to living out wellness, I believe emotional, spiritual, and social health are all intertwined. I try to have daily quiet time where I talk with God, read scripture, and focus on how I will be a positive light during the day and show love to my family, friends, co-workers, and others.

I think acts of service are critical to emotional and spiritual wellness. I visited Zimbabwe many years ago on a church trip and was so deeply affected by the poverty and despair in the areas we visited that I felt called to do something. I went back for a couple of years, and in 2011, my friend and I started a nonprofit working in the bush areas around Victoria Falls. We’ve built or refurbished 16 school blocks (buildings that hold 2-4 classrooms), built a clinic, started a food program that now feeds 10,000 children in the bush one meal a day, started an agriculture program that sets up gardens at schools in the bush, and drilled several wells for schools and villages. Working to help those in need plays a huge role in my emotional and spiritual wellness, which ultimately results in a happier, healthier me.

Q: You recently completed the Big Sur International Marathon. Is there any overlap between the mentality you develop when training for a marathon and the mentality needed to bring your best self to work every day?

I trained for six months for the marathon. Lots of time running during the week and really long runs on Saturdays. I struggled with a couple of pretty bad muscle strains that knocked my training off schedule and made me almost lose hope, but I kept plugging along. I think it’s a lot like trying to be your best at work. Sometimes you kill it, other times you’re frustrated because it just isn’t working. In those moments, all you can do is pick yourself back up and persevere.

My big takeaway from Big Sur is that I can do hard things. Often, I’m afraid to try hard things because I don’t want to be a failure. There were a lot of failures for me during my training, but each one taught me something and made me better. So, I’ll keep trying hard things because I think it makes me better.

Exercise and fitness training require you to not only be disciplined and organized, but to be able to recognize when it’s time to shift priorities. Training can be grueling and there are times when it’s not fun, which, for me, is a sign that it’s time to shift, turn off the watch, unplug the headphones, and just run for the joy of it. You need the same kind of skill in the workplace. Know when it’s time to shift. If you’re working hard but no longer having fun, it may be time to reevaluate.

Q: Everyone is extremely busy these days. Often, it seems to be a major obstacle for those who would like to live healthier but haven’t found a way to incorporate that into their daily routine in a way that sticks. Any advice or insight into how you make it work?

When I have trouble getting my training runs in during the week, I put them on my schedule as a task. If I can’t get it in before or after work, I make sure that I get out at lunch. Even if I can’t get my entire run in, I try to get out for a walk around the block with my dog. I think anything you do, no matter how small, is better than nothing.

Q: In addition to everything we’ve talked about thus far, you also serve as the ECS philanthropy coordinator managing ECS Cares and ECS Engage. How does the company’s involvement with various charitable causes and volunteering impact your work fulfillment and satisfaction?

With the roles that I have taken on during my time at ECS, it makes a huge impact obviously. When ECS says that philanthropy and volunteering are central to the company’s culture, those aren’t just words – they really mean it. Between ECS Cares, which sponsors volunteer activities and fundraises throughout the year, and ECS Engage, which allows full-time employees to apply for grants supporting a charity organization of their choice, there are so many ways to get involved. And that, again, ties back to acts of service and helping build not just a culture of giving back, but a community of ECSers who have more opportunities to nourish their emotional and spiritual wellness.

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“Off the Clock” is a blog series that explores the interests and causes to which ECS employees devote themselves outside of work.

Learn more about how philanthropy, volunteering, and giving back are central to ECS’ culture.

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