Dr James Kelley, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Business Administration - (CBE), United Arab Emirates University.When Dr James Kelley says that he doesn’t sleep very often, he may be joking – but, as his life beyond academia shows, there’s more than an element of truth in it, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Not only is he a dad to four children aged between two and nine, he is an avid fitness fan who, having grown up playing water polo and swimming while winning a sporting scholarship to college, and is now a triathlon enthusiast. Being married to a triathlon coach helps, of course.
And when Dr Kelley is not in the office and absorbed in his research, he can also be found continuing the quest to perfect his golf game. So, considering the active lifestyle he leads, it’s little surprise that his work at UAEU is heavily focused on enhancing health and wellbeing - specifically, in the workplace.
Having worked in four countries, all of which have had – and, in the case of the UAE, are having – an influence on the global and multicultural approach he brings to teaching. Originally from the city of Portland, Oregon, in the US, Dr Kelley taught English in Japan and gained a Masters in Business Research and a Ph.D in International Marketing at the University of Western Australia, before returning to his homeland to take up his first faculty position.
Along the way, he produced a series of academic papers that delved into the way consumers interact with global brands, and the role that online brand communities play in engaging the public. But, as Dr Kelley explains, his chief goal for his work was for it to “make a difference, and have a greater impact in academia and on society as a whole”.
That inspired his decision, in 2015, to write a personal strategic plan, based on a definitive theme: to help employers create the conditions for a healthy and happy workforce, using marketing and technology.
Learning from experts in the field of business represented the first phase of putting this plan into practice, as Dr Kelley launched the ‘Brave Endurance Wellness’ Podcast through iTunes, interviewing 70 leading corporate figures and business executives about their own experiences and journeys, and their thoughts on the issue of health and wellness.
The results are intended to form phase two of the plan – a book on the subject – while the podcast, which has a download audience in 35 countries, is continuing under the name ‘Executives After Hours: Real Conversations With Leaders’. “What is great about the podcast is that it’s globally downloaded, whether it’s in the UK, Australia, the US, or France,” he says.
Now the third phase of the plan he began working on less than two years ago is in operation. It centers on taking a global approach to research and perspective, with Dr Kelley’s experience of living in different countries galvanizing him to learn about other cultures and gain knowledge and insight from different nations which each face their own particular health and wellness issues. And it was this that led him to UAEU.
He has secured a startup grant that is allowing him to explore how technology shapes employees’ workplace behavior, through the use of ‘beacon technology’ – a means of sending a text message to a person when they are about to enter a certain areas, and giving them a ‘healthy behaviour nudge’ – such as encouraging them to use the stairs rather than the elevator, or stop to drink a glass of water and stay properly hydrated.
"Its about using technology in the workplace to make sure employees are healthier and happier.”
Dr Kelley is also a founding member of the GCC Well-Being Association, the first body of its kind in the region. Its mission is to provide senior leaders with a forum that can help them in addressing workplace health and wellness.