Meet Matt Fritts, Well-Being Specialist with Hoos Well

How to Flourish in Your Personal and Work Lives

The UVA Hoos Well team works to improve the lives of faculty, staff, team members, and their families by supporting them to remain well and empowering those with health risks or chronic conditions to improve their health.

We caught up with Matt Fritts, Well-Being Specialist, to learn more about his role in contributing to UVA's wellness. Here's what we learned.

Please tell us about yourself and your work with the Hoos Well team.

Matt Fritts, Well-Being SpecialistFor the past 3 years I've had the privilege and honor to work with Hoos Well, your award-winning employee well-being program. As a UVA alumnus, Echols scholar, and former Lawn resident, I feel great pride and gratitude for the opportunity to give back to my Alma Mater by helping foster a culture of well-being at UVA and contributing to the health and happiness of the UVA employee community.

In addition to working with the amazing Hoos Well team, I host a "Piano Forte" radio program, Thursdays at 7 pm on WTJU 91.1 FM, UVA's community radio station. And I've been teaching yoga for over 25 years, including 2 weekly classes with UVA IM-Rec Sports that are free to all UVA employees and spouses.

Is there one project you have been working on that you’re most proud of that directly benefited the UVA community?

I'm most proud of the Mindful Leadership Training programs that I've developed in collaboration with the UVA Mindfulness Center, UVA HR's Learning and Development team, and eMindful. Equipping and engaging UVA leaders to model and prioritize psychological self-care is essential for empowering employees to take care of their mental health and for achieving the cultural shift toward well-being that Hoos Well seeks to foster.  

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The most challenging part of my job has been designing and running a current research study that is comparing the effectiveness of two of Hoos Well's virtual mental skills training programs (the eM Life online mindfulness platform and Healthy Minds @Work) in improving individual and organizational well-being. Although I previously worked at NIH for 4 years, this complex study has really challenged my clinical research skills! Sincere thanks to the 750+ UVA employees and spouses who have enrolled in this study, which may benefit UVA and the larger scientific community by helping to determine the elements and format of virtual psychological skills training programs that are most likely to support individual and organizational well-being.

I've learned to pause and refocus/think about the situation before responding/ reacting. I feel more positive about life overall. I am more aware of what can make me better as an individual, partner, and member of society. I feel more relaxed when unexpected things come up. I have noticed that I laugh more easily now than I did previously. Healthy Minds @Work Participants

Matt Fritts during hike in woodsWhat is the most rewarding part?

I really enjoy the opportunity to make a direct and immediate impact on UVA employees' lives by giving presentations and workshops that combine my expertise in psychological health promotion with my 25 years of experience as a yoga teacher and meditation practitioner. 

How has the COVID outbreak impacted your and your team’s work this year?

When COVID arrived, Hoos Well created a portfolio of virtual resources to support employees' physical, emotional, and financial well-being during the extraordinary challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our emotional well-being domain, we transitioned the monthly emotional well-being seminars that Hoos Well offers in collaboration with FEAP to a virtual format, which resulted in a 600% increase in participation. In 2021, 1,870 employees & spouses participated in our emotional well-being webinars, and the recordings of these webinars have garnered thousands of views. Participants in these webinars rate the average quality of their content as 4.7 (out of 5) and many have reported that the webinars are extremely helpful and transformative.

  • “This was really, really great! As someone who struggles with anxiety and has been in therapy for years working on it, this was a great reminder of the basics and just very helpful. I think this is going to help TONS of people, thank you, Dr. [Ken] Horne!”
  • “I really like Anna [DeLong], she has been really excellent at reminding me to be compassionate to myself and others and I use a lot of techniques that I have learned from her in my own work towards a more peaceful and whole life.”
  • “I signed up for this webinar for the Hoos Well reward—but was very glad I attended! It was excellent. I liked that it was only 1 hour and offered a variety of 'bite-sized' actions we can integrate into our daily lives, but with the information we’d need if we want to investigate any of them further. Thank you!”
Small changes lead to huge improvements in clarity and emotional balance. Even 1% of your day – 14 minutes – will make a noticeable difference in your overall well-being. Mary Frances Southerland, Chief Administrative Officer, UVA Health

The Hoos Well team also quickly pivoted to offering virtual well-being programs, including:

  1. Launching a virtual Mindfulness Challenge in which >2,400 employees and spouses participated; perceived stress scores decreased by an average of 20%;
  2. Launching eM Life, UVA’s online mindfulness platform. There are >1,700 UVA users of eM Life, and nearly 80% of these use eM Life twice a week or more. Completers of the "1% Challenge" in eM Life (which involves dedicating 1% of your day -- 14 minutes-- to mindfulness) report a 20% reduction in perceived stress. 
  3. Rolling out of the Healthy Minds @Work program & app in 2021. Hundreds of UVA participants have spent just 5-10 minutes/day learning & practicing mental skills during the 30-day Healthy Minds @Work meditation challenge, and their overall well-being increased by 15% and burnout decreased by 16%.
  4. Creating a two-phased Mindful Leadership Training program, offered in partnership with eMindful and the UVA Mindfulness Center. More than 150 UVA managers and leaders registered for the first cohorts of these programs.

What are some takeaways you would love your UVA colleagues to know about your work?

Just by allocating 10 minutes/day to mindfulness or other practices, you can make a lot of difference in your own well-being, and it’s easy to integrate 10 minutes/day into one’s busy daily life.

For 2022, Hoos Well is excited to announce new resources to help you meet your physical, emotional, financial, and social well-being goals. Many of these updates are based on your feedback and responses we’ve received through Hoos Well surveys and continuous improvement activities. We’ve heard you, and appreciated your help in shaping Hoos Well offerings.

Starting January 19, 2022, employees and spouses enrolled in the UVA Health Plan or UPG Anthem Health Plan are eligible to earn up to $500 in rewards for completing the healthy activities created by Hoos Well and its partners.

Hoos Well has a comprehensive and data-driven strategy that is steeped in research and aligned with industry best practices for employee well-being programs among institutions of higher education. The Hoos Well strategic plan is comprised of 5 strategic goals and a multi-faceted operating plan that are updated annually to reflect the diverse and changing needs of the UVA workforce.

We want our UVA community – ALL of you – to be flourishing in your personal and work lives and feel great satisfaction in your life. Self-care used to be marginalized but is now the gold standard for achieving greatness and success at home and at work. Let us help you get there!