Flexible schedules. Allow employees flexibility to allow for personal engagements and obligations. This builds trust and loyalty and is part of the benefits of working remotely.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Antonella Pisani, CEO of Eyeful Media.

Antonella Pisani is founder and CEO of digital marketing & strategy agency, Eyeful Media. After spending 25 years running marketing for several high-profile brands, she left corporate America and took on a consulting client, which remains with her today and launched her into a full-fledged agency grown completely by word-of-mouth. With a 1178% three-year-growth rate — landing the agency at #530 in the 2022 Inc. 5000 — her people-first, core values-focused ideology is working.

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.

After working on three turnarounds in a row (Guitar Center, JCPenney, and Fossil), I was burnt out and decided to take a year off to travel. During the course of that year, my closest friend was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Although everyone talks about life being short, that really put things into perspective for me. I decided to focus on prioritizing my role as a friend and started consulting remotely a little bit.

Five and a half years later, he’s still in remission and I have a thriving business that places people and values first. We focus on gratitude, generosity and humility and do our best to ensure that our team is able to live a balanced life that allows them to enjoy the things that matter most.

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 define wellness a few ways — similarly to how you did. We begin by paying people competitively, so that financial wellness isn’t a concern. As a remote service business, people and software are our biggest expenses — so that allows us to offer more than most agencies.

Second, we want to ensure the members of our team are feeling good about their work life. We use a tool called 15five to capture weekly Pulse scores — a rating on a scale of 1 to 5 that lets them know how they are feeling in any given week. We look at overall scores, as well as trends for individuals. Their weekly check-ins also make it easy to surface anything that may be getting in the way of their happiness.

Lastly, we know that exercise is good for both physical and mental health. We have been participating in company-wise physical wellness challenges that include a leaderboard and benefit a given charity. The team has a Slack channel called Thrive Together (named for our first challenge which benefited Community Partners of Dallas), where people share pictures of their hikes, bike rides, kayaks, and other activities. We are a competitive group and like to compete with each other and other companies that are part of the wellness challenge. It’s been a great way to encourage the members of our team to get outside and also to form bonds.

I met with one of our employees yesterday, and she told me that she has lost 77lbs since joining us, and that it was as a result of feeling energized at the end of the day and being able to better all aspects of her life. That’s priceless, and made me feel great that we hire leaders and managers who are supporting their team’s efforts in bettering themselves.

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?

We haven’t focused on the correlation — it just feels like the right thing to do. That said, we know that happier employees will stay with us longer, which will reduce turnover. We’d rather avoid spending time and money spent on recruiting and onboarding new hires that are here to offset churn. In 2021 we had a 15% voluntary turnover rate, which is about half of what the industry experienced.

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?

With the shift to remote work, employees have a lot of choices of where to work. Healthy employees are going to produce better results for your clients, and thus for your organization. In every organization, there is “wasted” spend on software that goes unused, subscriptions that go unused, and similar items that drain budgets but add little value. I’d cut there first.

In addition, I’d suggest polling employees to see what’s important to them from a benefits perspective. Perhaps you are offering things they don’t care about. We conduct a quarterly, anonymous start/stop/continue survey to learn what matters most to our team. Wellness initiatives continue to surface.

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?

One of the key aspects of wellness for our team is ensuring that we continue to hire people who are aligned with our values. We use Strengthsfinder and Skillsurvey during our interview process, and also use behavioral interviews to get to the heart of a person’s value system. Two of my favorite questions are “What’s a common misconception about you” and “Tell me about a time that you were asked to do something that didn’t align with your beliefs or sense of integrity — how did you handle it.”

In addition, we also try to take pay off the table as a stressor by offering competitive salaries. We only hire people that would make their bonuses, so we’ve opted for higher salaries in lieu of any structured bonus program — using discretionary spot bonuses, instead.

Lastly, we give each individual PTO, Floating Holidays, Holidays, days off for Volunteering, and ½ day Summer Fridays to ensure that they can balance things they value along with work.

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: Summer Fridays to allow people to take long weekends without having to tap into their PTO. These came from a suggestion in a start/stop/continue survey and the team loves them.
  • Emotional Wellness: High-fives — public compliments that are visible to the company at large, powered by 15five. This tool has allowed us to greatly increase the number of kudos floating around, which make the team feel great about their work and colleagues.
  • Social Wellness: Fun-stuffs and Petful Slack rooms act as our virtual watercoolers to give people a break during the workday. We take our work seriously, and do serious work, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. These rooms provide a forum for the team to show their silly side, and their pets. We also use an app called Donut that randomly pairs two people together for a 15 minute chat so that they can get to know their remote colleagues.
  • Physical Wellness: Monthly wellness challenges across the company to benefit a given charity and encourage physical movement. This has helped foster relationships among colleagues that don’t normally interact, and has helped some of our team become more physically fit in the process.
  • Financial Wellness: Discretionary “surprise” bonuses or increases not tied to a review cycle. People love these because they recognize something more in the moment, as opposed to feeling like something we “have” to do at a review cycle.

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?

The majority of the things listed above don’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to set up — they just help reinforce that your company believes in more than just profits and values its people.

I’d suggest capturing an eNPS (employee net promoter score) along with a start/stop/continue survey to see what is on your team’s minds, implementing some of these ideas above, and then capturing the score again a few months later. Track your retention rates to gauge the impact of involuntary turnover during a pre and post-period, and see if satisfaction is increasing.

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

We’re still a new company — only 5.5 years old — so we haven’t had to do a ton of reskilling. We’ve hired people who fit the mold. However, we do cover topics like giving feedback, attention management and similar in our leadership meetings and monthly all-hands touch bases.

In addition, we frequently share articles, books and podcasts that cover relevant topics about leadership strategies. As an example, everyone who is a director and above recently watched Simon Sinek’s “Most Leaders Don’t Even Know the Game They’re In” video on Youtube.

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 didn’t invest in Slack for our team right away, but it’s been a game changer for us from a cultural perspective. It’s our communication hub. Consider adding an app like Donut, creating “Help Me” rooms to encourage collaboration, and a few fun rooms that can act as a virtual water cooler. The team uses it for work purposes primarily, but you have to work a bit harder to create a tight culture remotely and this tool has been instrumental.

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

  1. Mental Health. Create a culture that celebrates and promotes mental health wellness.
  2. Financial Wellness. Show employees you value them by paying competitive salaries.
  3. Flexible schedules. Allow employees flexibility to allow for personal engagements and obligations. This builds trust and loyalty and is part of the benefits of working remotely.
  4. Additional paid time off (e.g., Summer Fridays, volunteer days).
  5. Find ways to keep employees connected with each other in a remote world, and ideally to something that gives them a sense that they are supporting a broader purpose or mission.

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

I think that the remote culture has shifted company thinking to focus on wellness, and is forcing companies to get creative — attacking the true root of satisfaction at work. It’s no longer about a keg or ping pong table.

What makes me feel most optimistic is realizing that a lot of the initiatives that lead to wellness are not very expensive. With a little creativity and time, companies can promote wellness if it’s important to them.

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?

The best way to connect with me is on Linkedin or via our website, www.eyefulmedia.com.

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