Not many people can access wellness programs and benefits due to either stigma or financial issues. I think companies should start looking into addressing everyone’s well-being by personalising the programs. For example, providing access to therapists can help employees with mental well-being.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alvin Poh.

Alvin Poh is an entrepreneur passionate about helping fellow entrepreneurs scale their businesses using the 5E Scale Engine. He bootstrapped the biggest web hosting provider in Singapore, Vodien, and sold it for S$30 million, which he considers the most fulfilling 17 years of his life. Now, Alvin Poh runs a web hosting service CLDY, and shares his top secrets on scaling businesses through Super Scaling, a community of driven and happy entrepreneurs who are looking to enjoy true freedom in their businesses.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

I started the business Vodien when I was 17 years old. There were so many things I wish I had done differently back then to improve how the business went. But I would have to also say that those challenges were the most formative experiences that I had.

Most of the challenges that I went through were due to my limiting beliefs. Looking back, I had three big limiting beliefs at that time. One was that I had to work hard, and I’ll explain what this means, exactly. Two was that people couldn’t do as good a job as I could. And three was that I can’t trust people. These limiting beliefs drained my physical and mental energy and made me feel stuck in the business. As a result, I didn’t achieve the freedom I wanted from the business.

It was over time that I realised I had to change my mindset. Firstly, entrepreneurs have to be working ON the business and not IN the business. To do this, I changed my limiting beliefs by working smarter, not harder.

Secondly, I started learning that I had to delegate my tasks to my team. It also helped that I learnt how to recruit competent and suitable people for our team.

Lastly, I discovered how to give my team the freedom and trust to gain mastery and autonomy in their roles.

Overall, this kept my employees happy and fulfilled. Plus, it also gave me a sense of fulfillment as an entrepreneur.

This experience also caused me to believe in the power of systems. Putting proper and relevant systems in place is key to scaling up businesses. I used to think systems were tough to implement until I realised that systems are only a repeatable set of actions.

Implementing systems didn’t only benefit me, my co-founder, and the business. It also benefited the employees, by making them happier employees while increasing their performance and productivity as well. I covered this in my 5E Scale Engine framework, which entails five principles: creating more satisfied employees, achieving the freedom entrepreneurs are looking for, and ultimately, scaling up the business.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

We embody wellness throughout our company culture, which I’ve dubbed the Cycle of Good Work. Any employee with happy well-being would want three things in their career: Meaning, Mastery, and Autonomy. To achieve these three essential elements, the Cycle of Good Work incorporates five main areas: purpose, ownership, iteration, education, and recognition.

As a business owner, you want your employees to have purpose in what they do, or else they’ll dread their work, which will start to mentally affect them. So we had an open-door policy where employees can volunteer to take on tasks they feel are more purposeful and ask for help for tasks if necessary.

We also encouraged our employees to take ownership of their work and to hold toxic employees, especially managers, accountable. A big part of our company culture is to embrace the process of iteration, which means failures are okay because we have to learn from failures before we can succeed at any initiatives.

The company also invests in education for employees who want to upskill, which gives them a lot of mastery in their work. And finally, recognition is a process that happens throughout our organisation where we constantly recognise everyone’s efforts and achievements to increase their self-worth in the workplace.

The business tracks employee sick leaves and overtime work as well. This is a leading indicator that the employees might be overworked, dissatisfied with their jobs, or with the company, reflecting their mental, physical, and financial wellness.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

First and foremost, the anatomy of a good workforce only boils down to one thing — company culture. So I created a company culture that was centered on the employees’ well-being, happiness, and satisfaction with their roles. Although business revenue and growth was important, we always are aware of how our employees feel about their given roles and responsibilities.

One important mindset shift is thinking from the perspective of “I” to the perspective of “WE.” We involve our employees in the decision-making processes in the business and prioritise transparency by showing information about the business, for example, company revenue and client growth. Because of this, everyone in the team understood the results of their responsibilities and could link their specific tasks to business metrics.

Again, this ties back to what we give our employees: meaning, mastery, and autonomy. If a culture of support, purpose, and communication is fully embraced, you’ll certainly feel it within your team.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

The advice I can give to industry leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs whenever they feel stuck between intention and impact is to constantly remind themselves of the “Why”, or your business purpose.

Sometimes, we can have too many things on our plates. As a result, our organisation may prioritise other aspects of the business instead of wellness programs. However, if we ask the “Why”, we’ll understand better how everything works together, and how investing in wellness programs can impact the long-term business goals.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

Wellness programs can come in many forms. For example, in my current companies, CLDY and Super Scaling, vacation leaves are always approved regardless of the reason. I believe that this is an employee privilege and should never be questioned if they want to enjoy this privilege.

We also encourage flexibility of work, because we know that everyone has commitments outside of their work, such as medical emergencies, taking care of children or relatives, or their children’s school commitments.

We ensure that all these are communicated clearly during the hiring process.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

  • Mental Wellness:
  • Emotional Wellness:
  • Social Wellness:
  • Physical Wellness:
  • Financial Wellness:

At Super Scaling and CLDY, we prioritise employees’ mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I don’t demand that employees work during fixed hours or locations, allowing them flexibility in their lives that reflects in their happiness and productivity. From running businesses for over 2 decades, I’ve realised productivity depends on how happy and fulfilled employees are with their jobs.

As of now, we do have employee benefits such as flexible work hours, flexible work locations, and unlimited time off. Time off for those with families and children is critical to keep employees more emotionally stable. As someone who is physically active, this also allows people to pursue the sports or hobbies they love, for example working in a place that allows for surfing or snow sports.

I’m also offering employees free subscriptions to apps that help them do their jobs better. These may be mental health apps or any apps that improve their overall well-being. And if I were to establish another physical office, another innovative idea for mental health would be allowing employees to bring their pets to work!

In the future, I do see other innovative programs for mental wellness, such as having access to an on-call psychologist.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

Here’s the thing: most entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to save on direct costs. But they fail to realise their company’s best assets are their employees, and I cover this in my book, Super Scaling. If you’re not investing in your employees, you’re wasting away your resources.

In the long term, organisations will save on costs by having happy, engaged, and fulfilled employees. We’ll see this from higher employee productivity and performance, higher employee retention, lower recruitment and training costs, and higher customer satisfaction and engagement.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

At Super Scaling and CLDY, we ensure that a positive and nurturing atmosphere is of utmost importance. Even though we work remotely, we conduct regular catch-up meetings to get everyone involved. Team leaders are always reminded of the organisational goals and priorities, so our culture trickles down from top to bottom. For example, I share my leadership resources and frameworks with my team leaders to ensure that we are on the same page. After all, if the company management is in chaos, there is no solid foundation for employees to thrive on.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

I would have to say that these ideas need to be systemised. Businesses put systems in place for recruitment, marketing, customer service, etc, and they should do the same for wellness too. Things are easy enough to do on an individual level, but if it is to work for an entire organisation, systems need to be in place, so that things won’t be missed out and people won’t be neglected. So take that first step by implementing small systems and work your way up from there.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

Personalised wellness programs

Not many people can access wellness programs and benefits due to either stigma or financial issues. I think companies should start looking into addressing everyone’s well-being by personalising the programs. For example, providing access to therapists can help employees with mental well-being.

Fitness challenges

The pandemic has accelerated people’s motivation to better themselves physically, which has a direct impact on employees’ well-being. Businesses can support their employees on their fitness journeys by creating fitness challenges within their organisations.

Time and location flexibility

Work and productivity should be versatile enough to support employees’ needs outside of work. Productivity shouldn’t be tied to working hours, as long as they submit deliverables and perform to expectations.

Telehealth services

The pandemic has accelerated the availability of medical practitioners to provide telehealth services, including psychologists or psychiatrists for mental wellness. Providing access to these telehealth services should be something that businesses should be looking into more and more.

Financial planning workshops

One of the reasons employees struggle with mental and physical health is their finances. Dealing with financial issues in their personal lives will take a toll on employees, resulting in poor performance, tardiness, or other challenges. Financial wellness should be a part of holistic workplace wellness. This can mean making financial planning workshops readily available to employees, increasing their ability and education in that area, which allows them to make better decisions on budget planning and investments to reduce financial struggles.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

I think entrepreneurs should learn something from how the pandemic has created a new way of working. There is a greater emphasis on open conversations with employees, and this allows businesses to understand their needs.

Keeping their ears open to this allows businesses to construct solutions and methods that help in the employees’ personal and professional growth. By steering away from old traditions and exploring new means to prioritise their employees’ well-being, we might soon see innovative wellness benefits and programs being the norm in every business.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

I invite entrepreneurs and business owners looking to scale up their businesses to get more resources at Super Scaling. You may also contact me via email [email protected].

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.