- Allwork.Space caught up with Stephanie Lovell, Head of Marketing at Hirect, and Leslie Tarnacki, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at WorkForce Software, which both have robust wellbeing strategies in place.
- Regular employee pulse surveys (EPS) can be effective as they give team members the anonymity and privacy to provide honest, candid feedback to the executive team.
- Listening to the wants and needs of staff and implementing beneficial perks to support their mental and physical health as they continue to navigate working from home/hybrid work can also be beneficial.
Both experts work in organisations with robust wellbeing strategies in place, and know a thing or two about how challenging achieving a work-life balance can be.
Read on to learn about the ways in which employers can approach workplace wellbeing, how the pandemic has impacted wellness, how to disconnect from work – and more!
Top “quotable” quotes from the interview:
- “As we’re a remote-first company, each employee is provided a monthly stipend to support home office improvements or upgrades.” – Stephanie Lovell
- “Over communication ensures no one is getting lost or falling behind in the new remote and hybrid world that we’re in.” – Leslie Tarnacki
- Today, 80% of the global workforce and 100% of shift workers are deskless. It is important for companies to implement workplace management tools that allow deskless workers to provide feedback in real time, directly to their managers.” – Leslie Tarnacki
- We know some people are most productive, most creative in traditional off hours, so it’s paramount we support employee autonomy with a flexible work schedule.” – Stephanie Lovell
- “…any organization isn’t going to advocate for you, nor is it their responsibility. We must be our own advocates and set appropriate expectations to disconnect.” – Stephanie Lovell
- “It is so important for both employers and employees to understand that stepping away can increase productivity in the long run.” – Leslie Tarnacki
- “While our careers are stimulating, fascinating, and highly necessary, they shouldn’t come at the cost of your personal health or family connections.” – Stephanie Lovell
- The bottom line is, no one has it all figured out. Remember we don’t know others’ stories just as they don’t usually know ours so being respectful, kind and trustworthy go a very long way.” – Leslie Tarnacki
Allwork.Space: Firstly, what informs your organisation’s wellbeing strategy?
Stephanie Lovell: Certainly, research we’ve done into competitors and related companies has impacted our own strategy, but it’s largely shaped by regular employee pulse surveys (EPS).
We find these to be very beneficial and effective as they give team members the anonymity and privacy to provide honest, candid feedback to the executive team on areas we’re doing well in, and others where we may need to focus more resources and attention.
Leslie Tarnacki: WorkForce Software’s CEO likes to live by a “listen first, talk second” mentality that refers to how leadership approaches the workforce – and this mentality informs our wellbeing strategy.
We listened to the wants and needs of our staff and implemented beneficial perks to support their mental and physical health as they continue to navigate working from home and hybrid work.
These perks include unlimited vacation, flex time to take care of families, a story-time program for families, charity partnerships that benefit families, and fitness reimbursements for equipment and gym memberships.
Before making decisions as an organization, it’s integral to listen to your employees’ feedback and adjust practices and strategies where necessary.
A business is ultimately no bigger than the sum of its parts, so ensuring your employees are satisfied and feel supported is key to successfully developing the best wellbeing practices and supporting a positive employee experience.
Allwork.Space: What does your wellness strategy look like in action?
Stephanie Lovell: Our wellness strategy is based on a few different components, and is something we’re constantly reevaluating based on the feedback we receive from employees, both informally and formally through EPS. Hirect’s wellness program includes:
- Unlimited PTO: Employees can take time off whenever, where ever, without having to worry about managing an arbitrary bank of days. It offers greater flexibility to balance family commitments, illness, and planned vacations.
- Mental health days: Aligning with our unlimited PTO, we encourage all employees to have transparent conversations with their supervisors about workload and burnout. If someone is starting to feel overwhelmed, or just needs to recharge the batteries, we encourage them to take a day or two to unplug and unwind.
- Technology stipends: As we’re a remote-first company, each employee is provided a monthly stipend to support home office improvements or upgrades. This can be for technology, but also improvements to the functionality of their workspace, such as ergonomic desks or seating.
- Virtual non-work functions: Bi-weekly breakfasts (on us), cocktail hours, holiday celebrations – we try to find regular opportunities for us to socialize and bond as a team. Anything but work.
Leslie Tarnacki: At WorkForce Software, we take a number of steps to support our employees’ mental and physical health. As I mentioned earlier, one of our perks is fitness reimbursements for equipment and gym memberships.
Flexibility has been a key priority for our team in supporting our staff’s wellness. In the new world of work, allowing for a flexible schedule is essential – especially for people simultaneously juggling work, childcare, and/or supporting other family members.
We realize that the traditional 9 – 5 no longer exists due to the flexibility of remote work and that employees can be very productive no matter their location.
Offering the benefit of flexibility has helped employees manage their stress levels and builds a culture of trust between managers and employees when it comes to completing and managing tasks or projects.
We also encourage casual over professional attire when appropriate. Our management team often shows up to our Zoom meetings in hats or hoodies right after their workouts. We are a casual company, so for internal meetings, that works for us.
We encourage our employees to give energy to their lives outside of work, and if dressing casually helps them balance work and their health or other responsibilities at home, then it’s ok with us. This trend will continue as remote and hybrid job culture extends into the foreseeable future, and WorkForce Software welcomes it.
Finally, we also have an “Ask the CEO” email inbox where employees can anonymously reach out and inquire about different workplace concerns. This really helps to promote transparency and openness in our place of work, and also allows senior executives to see firsthand what employees at all levels have concerns and questions about.
Allwork.Space: How has your wellbeing strategy evolved since the pandemic hit?
Stephanie Lovell: Interestingly enough, our U.S. presence was really born in the shadow of COVID (2021), so our wellness strategy has been molded in part by the pandemic.
We’ve had to be mindful and cognizant of the current health climate, trends, and restrictions that come with that and create a more robust strategy than we likely would’ve pre-pandemic.
Leslie Tarnacki: Over the past two years, WorkForce Software’s leadership team has encouraged staff at all levels to over communicate with one another so managers know what is being prioritized, who is responsible for which tasks, and whether any team members feel disconnected because of distance from their colleagues or the office.
This over communication ensures no one is getting lost or falling behind in the new remote and hybrid world that we’re in. Another evolution due to COVID is prioritizing offering the best possible work-life balance.
Allwork.Space: What are the biggest barriers to workplace wellness right now?
Stephanie Lovell: I say this with caution, but probably working from home. For many of us, working from home is a godsend, it provides an incredible degree of flexibility, autonomy, and balance that we hope continues throughout our careers.
But we also have to recognize for others, it can blur the lines between home and work, professional and private, contributing to that cycle of frustration and burnout.
Leslie Tarnacki: In my opinion, using outdated workforce management methods is a big barrier to the wellness and psychological safety of employees, especially deskless workers.
For example, some companies are still using traditional calling trees to share updates with employees, which creates big challenges in planning and managing large groups.
This often leaves workers – especially deskless workers – feeling out of the loop and disconnected to their workplace, which can lead to a decrease in engagement and motivation and can also have a negative impact on employees’ mental health.
Today, 80% of the global workforce and 100% of shift workers are deskless. It is important for companies to implement workplace management tools that allow deskless workers to provide feedback in real time, directly to their managers. Then managers can act to improve the employee experience immediately.
Once companies implement tools and technologies to create a more connected workplace experience, they are able to see a boost in employee wellness and satisfaction as well as a more positive overall culture and better business outcomes.
Allwork.Space: How would you define “work-life balance” and how important it is when it comes to achieving a sense of wellbeing?
Stephanie Lovell: It’s vital, but what that balance means to me likely looks vastly different to you. It really comes down to what makes you happy, which of course isn’t consistent person to person. I love getting outdoors for a hike while one of my employees may prefer to sit on the couch and binge the latest Netflix series.
It’s also not as simple as saying work-life balance means not working before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. We know some people are most productive, most creative in traditional off hours, so it’s paramount we support employee autonomy with a flexible work schedule.
Leslie Tarnacki: To me, work-life balance is establishing a stable and sustainable way to work productively while maintaining your mental and physical health as well as your personal life, as well as supporting the mental and physical health of those for whom one cares. And being able to balance these priorities without stress or guilt that one may take precedence over another at certain times.
Having work-life balance is essential in ensuring employees don’t experience burnout. Self-care is more important than ever when stress levels are rising – especially as stress feels exacerbated as we deal with ongoing COVID fatigue, the challenges of remote and hybrid work, and anxiety about the uncertainty of what exactly we may face in the coming year.
By doing things that make you feel better – like taking time to work out, revisiting your favorite travel destination if it’s safe to do, or simply relaxing – it can positively affect your mental health and emotional wellbeing, and can allow for a more positive mindset when you return to the job.
A better, more productive work experience is the natural outcome of ensuring one’s health, family life and priorities outside the office are able to be supported as needed.
Allwork.Space: Is it possible to completely disconnect from work? How can we “reclaim” our personal time?
Stephanie Lovell: It’s certainly more challenging for some. What I preach constantly with my staff is you must own your calendars. Set your boundaries clearly, block calendars for any personal commitments, and reclaim your time.
Truthfully, any organization isn’t going to advocate for you, nor is it their responsibility. We must be our own advocates and set appropriate expectations to disconnect.
Leslie Tarnacki: Disconnecting is essential to achieving wellness in today’s world of work and yes, it’s possible, but only if employees allow themselves to disconnect and if employers support workers’ needs to have personal time.
For employees, take advantage of paid time off. In general, many people are hesitant to take their allotted PTO days. But it’s essential to take advantage of your time off – not only is it part of your benefits package, but it’s also incredibly helpful in reducing burnout and achieving and maintaining a sustainable work/life balance.
For employers, leaders and managers – let your employees unplug. Now that many employees’ homes have become their new offices, it is harder for them to disconnect after work hours. Many are working overtime and feeling pressure to handle work related tasks at any time of the day.
Encouraging employees to log off and unplug at the end of every workday has become a very important step in creating a positive culture in this new world of work. It allows people to come back the next day refreshed and productive, leading to higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement as well as better business outcomes.
Employers also need to really encourage time away from work, without guilt or stress. When you encourage a culture of collaboration and teamwork it’s easier for employees to rely on others to “carry the torch” when they’re away because we all do at one time or another to achieve a positive, constructive work environment.
Allwork.Space: Stephanie – what has your own personal wellness journey entailed?
Stephanie Lovell: Like everyone, I’ve gone through periods where I’ve felt overwhelmed and my work hours were not as balanced as they should’ve been.
But I’ve worked to set those mental boundaries, taken control of my calendar, learned to properly unplug, and prioritized the relationships in my personal life.
While our careers are stimulating, fascinating, and highly necessary, they shouldn’t come at the cost of your personal health or family connections.
Allwork.Space: Leslie – do you have any favourite wellness hacks or top tips to share with our readers?
Leslie Tarnacki: A lot of time is spent on the job, so it’s imperative to take advantage of company offerings that have been implemented to help you feel mentally and physically healthy. As an employer, it’s equally as important to encourage employees to take the time they need and implement policies that support worker wellness.
Some of my favorite wellness tips include:
- Stepping Away: People are juggling a lot right now in their personal and work lives, and the lines between the two continue to be blurred. Even though employees often have paid time off, many are resisting using their time.
However, it is so important for both employers and employees to understand that stepping away can increase productivity in the long run.
Encouraging this behavior, and setting the example at the management level, is critically important to employees using their time off and completely unplugging in order to recharge and be productive when they return to the job.
- Checking In: The best managers know that cultivating a happy and healthy team is one of the most important contributors to their own success. After two years of disruptions in typical work environments and patterns, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for managers to find ways to stay up to date and supportive of their people.
To combat that, stay in contact with your team during the workday to make sure you know what they are working on, recognize their accomplishments more regularly, and determine if they are experiencing any issues with work-life balance or experiencing challenges managing increased work or separating from work.
Also, checking in with team members – especially those who aren’t in close proximity to their colleagues or the office – helps to ensure no one feels like they’re getting lost or falling behind in the new remote and hybrid world that we’re in.
- Utilizing Flexible Scheduling: In the new world of work, many companies are allowing for a flexible schedule – especially for people simultaneously juggling work, childcare, second jobs or supporting other family members.
For instance, if a working parent needs to be out of the office or off the clock to manage childcare, companies are encouraging that and stressing the importance of employees supporting their family’s needs in order to return refreshed. Many companies have realized that barriers to job change have lowered and there are growing alternatives to the traditional 9 – 5 work schedule.
It’s important that employers identify options that will enable them to give their employees options when it comes to input into their own schedules. Beyond burnout and fatigue, winning the war for talent will require companies to rethink the way they plan for and accommodate workers’ needs.
It is equally as important that employees feel comfortable using their flexible scheduling in order to take an active role in ensuring a good work-life balance that will be meaningful to themselves long-term. Better experiences and schedules lead to better outcomes for employees and businesses.
- Financial, Spiritual and Intellectual Wellness: Make a schedule you can stick to for classes, studying, work, exercise, running-errands, appointments and all other things you do. Play fun brain games – very accessible, quick easy ways to take a break when you need to take a breath and enjoy a little fun.
Read something for fun! Even if it’s something you’ve read a thousand times…if it makes you smile it’s more than worth it.
When one is stressed about his/her/their personal finances it can really have a negative impact on work and daily life. Educate yourself on all the financial aspects of your life. It’s not about being rich, it’s about enjoying life and having the skills to manage and deal with financial pressure as it may arise.
Spiritual well-being is often driven by reaching out to friends and the community at large to support things big and small that have a positive impact on those around us.
Give blood, volunteer, send encouraging notes to people for no specific reason, appreciate that nature is all around us and beckons us daily – take advantage of how much that impacts our well-being.
The bottom line is, no one has it all figured out. Remember we don’t know others’ stories just as they don’t usually know ours so being respectful, kind and trustworthy go a very long way.