There was, and still is, pressure to hide the menstrual cycle as it’s seen as a “weakness”.

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 Athena Simpson.

Athena is a Serial Entrepreneur and High Performance Expert. She has over 20 years experience mentoring hundreds of startups & founders and advising Fortune 500, FTSE 100, and government clients across the globe. After leaving her life & career in London in 2019 to live with a circus collective and travel the world, she created UNRESTRICTED, a signature framework to feel superhuman mentally, physically, and at work while cutting working time by up to half. She also created the Cycle Hacking™ method which helps women live & work optimally with their 28-day clock. Her coaching clients come from the likes of Apple, CallRail, SAP, ShaktiMat, Michelin Star Restaurant & Hotel Group Owner, and more.

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.

At the end of 2018, I was depressed, burnt out, and unhealthy, despite having everything that was “supposed” to make me happy. I had a high profile career and was literally living the “American in London” life but felt trapped.

I got fixated on the idea of feeling superhuman, because superheroes are strong and they don’t let anyone tell them what to do. I thought that’s what I needed to become in order to escape my current life.

I had no idea how I was going to do it, so I started by removing alcohol. I thought, if I’m going to be superwoman, I need to stop messing around with kryptonite. Not long after, I started taking aerial silks classes despite having no regular exercise practice for 10 years. It took me 2 months to get strong enough to climb, but I absolutely fell in love with how my body reacted to doing silks.

Over the next 9 months, I lost 44lbs, left my business partnership, and reduced my life down to two suitcases so I could live, train, & perform with a circus collective in Indonesia and then travel the world. I called it my life sabbatical.

Throughout my career, I was endlessly curious about productivity and I’d been teaching it for 8 years in my organization and to entrepreneurs and my team. I also started ‘bio-hacking’ at the age of 19 and was obsessed with how intuitive our bodies were.

I had a theory I couldn’t get out of my head that you could do better quality work in less time, by prioritizing your mental, physical, & emotional well-being above everything else.

On reflection, that moment that I decided I wanted to feel superhuman, was the moment I decided to take control of my life. That I was responsible for my own happiness and well-being.

That belief became the basis of the UNRESTRICTED method I developed to help myself and my clients create habits and routines to feel superhuman mentally, physically, and at work. This allows us to achieve our personal and professional goals, by working less and as a result, enjoying our lives fully because we take full control over our life, happiness and time. And by focusing on ourselves, the work we do ends up being better quality too.

I later developed the Cycle Hacking™ method I teach my clients after discovering that women have a 28-day clock we were never taught to read. We can get more productive, achieve our physical goals with more ease, reduce or eliminate hormonal symptoms, and have overall better well-being & health when we tap into our body’s natural rhythm.

All of those dark moments and ‘failures’ allowed me to have the experience to support my clients. I love helping people believe in their own potential. It’s a dream job.

I love that in order to stay in integrity I must live and breathe the system I teach, I get to continually evolve and learn more about how we can feel and perform at our best and call this work!

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?

Ultimately I look at whether someone feels happy, healthy, motivated, and in control of their own life and time. I measure 12 areas under mental, emotional, physical, and working practices.

Personal Vision, Substance Use, Device & Social Media Use, Organization System, Communication & Boundaries, Routines, Physical Movement, Physical Aptitude, Working Practices, Time Management, Prioritization and for women, hormonal symptoms & aptitude.

I work on all of these areas holistically with clients because there is typically a pattern that shows up that they repeat everywhere. When you start working on the root cause and pattern, then overall wellbeing goes up in all areas.

When someone feels in control of their life, their time, and has a clear picture of what happiness looks like for them and feels like the activities they’re doing are contributing to their ideal life, they will feel happy and purposeful.

And when they feel this way, their overall productivity, decision making, work quality and communication become exponentially better.

I think it’s why most exercise, nutrition or well-being programs don’t work. They aren’t addressing the root cause, nor are they looking at the breadth of experiences in someone’s life. Addressing these areas in silo, without offering skills in how to implement desired behaviors, will often not have a long-lasting effect.

Ultimately, as much as workplaces can work on employee wellness programs, I believe wellness is the responsibility of the individual. If someone isn’t taking their own well being seriously and isn’t prioritizing their wellbeing, there’s no amount of workplace wellness measures that will make things better.

That old saying. . . you can lead a horse to water . . .

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?

When employees feel valued, they’re more likely to stay. This can impact hiring costs and lost revenue because of turnover.

When employees are in great shape mentally, physically, and emotionally, they do better work and make fewer mistakes. This saves unnecessary time and resources to fix things, and typically means the overall output is better quality which can lead to more sales and higher profits.

But when most organizations measure their business by revenue and profit, employees will always be measured via the same metrics.

If instead, they looked at the correlation between wellness and profitability, or rather seriously looked at what lack of wellness was costing them, they would see the business case to start taking these measures seriously.

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?

Look at your turnover, how much is it costing your business when people burnout and leave? What impact does that have on the remaining employees? How much more could you be earning or saving if you didn’t have people leaving? And if they’re leaving in droves, the ones remaining are likely unmotivated which will also be impacting overall work output.

Look at sick days — are people getting sick often? This is often a signal of disengagement or burnout. When people are taking care of themselves, they will rarely get sick. But people who are burning themselves out or unhappy will get sick often.

Look at whether mistakes are costing unnecessary time and resources. When people aren’t taking care of themselves, they will make many mistakes.

If you are offering wellness programs that people aren’t taking part in, then it’s likely because people don’t feel they have the time or energy to do so. Or they don’t see leadership taking part, which makes them feel they don’t have permission or to do so at their own risk.

I don’t work with organizations unless the senior leadership team will commit to doing the work and lead by example.

If an organization is offering more time off, flexible working, disconnecting in evenings & weekends, encouraging people to exercise during the day, then the leaders must also do this in order for the rest of the company to feel like they can follow suit.

If you really want a wellness program to work. Go first, do it yourself, lead by example.

This will set the tone and culture of the company, and you’ll be a better leader as a result.

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

Controversially, I think wellbeing is the individual’s responsibility. If they haven’t figured out what they need to feel and perform at their best, and how to communicate that, then switching jobs isn’t going to fix the ‘wellbeing’ problems they had at previous employers.

Many of my clients who came to me wanted to quit their jobs. They ended up getting promoted and they stayed at their company instead of quitting. They realized that it wasn’t the job causing their unhappiness. So when they worked on themselves and what made them happy, they then saw the job as an opportunity to support their happy life. And then because they valued themselves and started to do better quality work, they were then promoted to match how they were showing up.

However, if you are moving companies, it is important to assess the culture by looking at how the leaders operate.

Do the leaders make time for family and friends? Do they take care of their physical health? Do they take care of their mental health by going to therapy or investing in their own personal development? Do they communicate their boundaries and do they respect the boundaries of those around them? Do they take time off and encourage others to do the same? Do the employees feel that they are able to create balance and are treated as adults who can make decisions about their time and methods of work?

When your boss values themselves, you feel valued. We typically leave bosses, so listen to your intuition and ask lots of questions about the culture.

For an organization, I would be investing heavily into making sure senior leadership are performing at their highest mentally, physically, emotionally and at work in addition to the employee programs. This then sets the tone for the culture.

I’d love to see more organizations incorporate benefits that actually help people holistically. I’ve seen some organizations offer substantial personal development credits for employees to invest in programs of their own choosing, which is fantastic because then employees can pick something that works for them with someone they feel good about working with rather than a stock one-size fits all program.

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:

While there are tactics to look at each of these areas individually, when not dealt with holistically, most efforts will be ineffective.

For instance, a woman might not be exercising because she believes that her value is based on how much she works. She relies on external validation in order to feel loved and valued. You can give her the most amazing exercise program in the world, but if she’s not working on overcoming her need to put work first because that’s what she thinks is her worth, she won’t do the exercise. She will keep putting work above personal care, including her mental, physical, social wellness because she’s not learned how to create that validation within herself.

It is more effective to look at these areas holistically and teach the person how to create habits and routines that will encourage them to make changes while addressing what will be the root cause of why they aren’t happy or thriving in a specific area.

There will be a root belief or behavior, such as a fear of success, a lack of confidence, or imposter syndrome as a few examples, that will show up everywhere.

When you can see and address the pattern and teach a system for how to create new habits around it, you’ll help people see it themselves. Then they can self coach and replace toxic habits with positive ones, and you will start to see overall change in all of these areas and an increase in confidence and happiness.

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?

When people are happy, feel in control, and thriving, they are less likely to leave their job, saving the organization money, time and lost productivity because of continuous recruitment.

Quality of work will also improve. Employees will be more productive, less likely to make mistakes or make decisions out of fear. You will save money on corrections of work, losing momentum because someone burns out and gets sick, or inferior work quality because of unsustainable work practices.

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

If the leaders are not taking care of themselves, then the rest of the organization doesn’t feel like they have permission to either.

If someone quits, it’s usually because of their boss. ‘Bad’ bosses are people that also do not take care of their mental, physical, emotional well-being, and then that comes out in how they manage people. They project their unhappiness and lack of control onto those around them.

But a boss you loved most likely valued themselves and as a result, you also felt valued because they encouraged you to do the same.

I think the most important thing that leaders can do right now, is to invest into getting themselves feeling their best, and then making those same tools available to their organization.

Two things will happen:

  1. People will more likely want to take part in the programs because they see the leaders doing so.
  2. Leadership will become more effective leaders because they themselves feel better.

In effect, you will have happy, loyal people who feel valued because they can see the leaders also value themselves and then feel the encouragement to take care of themselves is coming from a place of authenticity.

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?

Go inward. Start thinking about what will truly make you happy. What does your happy life look like, feel like, smell like? Who’s there? Where are you waking up? How are you filling your days?

Start focusing on that, first and foremost, and then work backwards on how the work you’re doing now fits into the picture you’re envisioning.

Are the activities you’re doing putting you on the path to get the life you want? What will that happy life cost (i.e. how much will you need to earn to afford the life you want)? What kind of work should you do now to get to where you want to go? How long will it take you and what habits and lifestyle changes do you need to put in place now?

When you know where you’re going, then every decision you make will allow you to ask, is this helping me or preventing me from living my happiest life?

It’s simple, but not easy.

At first, you might not see anything when you sit down to visualize this. Eventually, with time and practice, you’ll get a very clear picture.

But it’s your responsibility to do this exercise, not your employers. Only you can program your GPS.

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

1. Women Are Not Small Men.

There was, and still is, pressure to hide the menstrual cycle as it’s seen as a “weakness”.

As a result, many women ‘just deal’ with often debilitating hormonal symptoms in an effort to keep up with unrealistic demands to keep up, which can contribute significantly to poor health, decreased well-being and burn out.

PMS and bad period symptoms are not normal. It’s a sign that there are unaddressed hormonal imbalances.

Many workplaces are starting to consider and implement time off for women having period pain. This is a step in the right direction to normalize menstruation and acknowledging that women’s bodies are physiologically different than men’s. However, this doesn’t address the root cause of the pain.

When women learn how to read and work with their 28-day clock, they can increase their well-being, productivity, physical performance AND reduce and even eliminate their hormonal symptoms.

Just one example of this, is that women’s brain chemistry changes 25% week on week because of their hormones (in their menstrual years when not using hormonal contraception).

At some points in their cycle, women are more primed for strategic and creative work because both sides of their brain are active and talking to each other. At other points, women are more primed for social activities like sales and public speaking because those parts of their brain are activated by their hormones.

I’ve created a process I call Cycle Hacking™ which helps women to combine the elements of bio-hacking with cycle syncing to learn how to live and work optimally with their 28-day clock.

This allows them to schedule their activities in work and life to match where their body is at in their cycle. When she works with her natural physiological rhythm, every aspect of her life gets better.

I would love to see more awareness and acknowledgement of our physiological differences and flexibility to choose how to work in order to support this amazing rhythm women go through!

This would not only be a cultural benefit to retain great talent, but it would have a positive impact on morale and productivity.

On an individual level, I would encourage women to not tolerate negative hormonal symptoms and to take responsibility to learn about their body’s physiology.

2. Stop Sober Shaming.

Many people are choosing to stop drinking alcohol as a lifestyle choice. It’s no wonder, when the body responds to booze as if it were an addictive, depressing, poison.

Many people worry what other people will think of them if they do stop drinking. Especially at work. A person abstaining from alcohol can often endure bullying, inappropriate questioning, and pressure to drink anyway.

Some people do not drink for religious or recovery purposes. To have true inclusivity and diversity, you must ensure that you have an environment that is inclusive of non-drinkers. You must ensure there’s no pressure to partake in drinking culture in order to get ahead or be part of the team.

Creating a culture of not guilting, shaming, pressuring, or questioning someone for not drinking should be adopted into a business’s code of ethics.

For team events, have activities that aren’t centered around drinking. If there is alcohol available, make sure to include a range of amazing non-alcoholic options.

Stanford University created their own acronym, EANAB (Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverage) and they are required at every party.

By having social events not centered around alcohol you might have to work harder to facilitate a vibe, but you won’t have an entire workforce calling in sick or being completely unproductive the next day. Calculate that into your profitability!

Some workplaces are adopting company wide-alcohol free challenges like Dry January. Considering the amount of stress, mood, and health related issues as a result of alcohol, it’s a great move for employers to look at this to support their workforce to be happier, healthier and more productive.

On an individual level, if you want to eliminate or reduce booze at work, it can be challenging to stand up to the social pressure, but it is one of the best ways to start working on your well-being.

I suggest starting with a booze free ‘challenge’ by taking 30 or 90 days off. Positioning it as a temporary life challenge is often easier for people to understand and you feel more confidence talking about it. Your brain also likes clarity. So you’re more likely to stop drinking for a specific period of time rather than leaving it open-ended.

This gives you some time to get used to what it feels like to be in various situations as a non-drinker and you can rally people’s support for you to smash your challenge.

If you really want to level up and tap into what I call the ‘sober superpowers’, eliminating alcohol is one of the best things you can do for your emotional well-being, health and productivity.

3. Live & Work Anywhere.

Productivity and open plan offices do not mix, despite countless studies that affirmed this, they still seem to persist. Pre-pandemic, people were treated like children needing to be supervised and to be seen working, but the last two years have shown a different way is possible.

Although it was stressful to shift to working from home overnight, we now know it can be done and people can be more productive and happier with this arrangement (provided they create boundaries to separate work and life).

Many quietly took the opportunity to live somewhere else and felt guilty for doing so. But they were elated that they could enjoy their life somewhere amazing outside of work times.

When summoned back into the office, many did not want to go back. We’ve seen various means of how businesses are dealing with this.

Take Elon Musk writing a letter summoning employees back to the office, or else.

When I saw this headline, the one just under it was Airbnb saying they adopted a permanent Live & Work anywhere policy, and as a result, they’ve seen job applications through the roof.

I wonder, if you were to compare turnover and recruitment costs to find and retain talent between these two companies, what you would see.

In a time when everyone is rightly reevaluating what role work plays in their life, and realizing they don’t want work to be the ONLY thing they do, employers can attract and retain talent by treating employees like adults.

This takes more organization and strategic direction from the business. But if someone gets to go live in their dream destination while working for you without hiding it, you better believe they’re going to want to keep working for you.

On the individual level, you teach people how to treat you. If you are submitting to unreasonable demands from your employer, you are condoning this behavior. You are an autonomous human being who’s entitled to make your own decisions and to say when you are unhappy with a working situation. It will not change unless you ask for that change, and then take action if you are continuously treated badly.

I’ve had many clients negotiate ideal working conditions. If you are a valuable employee who performs well, your company will want to keep you.

You won’t get what you won’t ask for, so if you have one foot out the door anyway, it’s worth seeing if you can change the current situation to be more ideal.

4. Don’t Ask Policy.

Felix Atkin, CEO & Co-Founder of Sharesy, recently shared his company’s Don’t Ask policy, which simply treats employees as adults that have lives outside of work. They trust employees to manage their own time to get their work done.

Their Don’t Ask policy treats employees as humans, who have kids, bereavements, errands and appointments. If they need to attend to these things, they don’t need to ask permission for the time to do so.

Apart from sleeping, work is the activity that takes the most of our time. It is a little unreasonable that we have to fit our life around work and many people are struggling to keep up with life outside of work.

The pandemic reduced commutes and let people do some household tasks or exercise, in and around work. Which many do not want to give up now that they’ve experienced it.

This type of Don’t Ask policy requires leadership to be organized, strategic and give clarity on expectations. When someone is clear on what their role is asking of them with measurable deliverables, they can decide how and when to do that work. Which then allows them to be able to work in alignment with what helps them feel and do their best.

On an individual level, I encourage people to seek clarity from their employers on exactly what deliverables, priorities and timelines are expected of them. They then need to reflect on whether those expectations are reasonable and have a conversation with their manager or team if adjustments need to be made.

Taking on too much isn’t going to win you awards, despite what the burnout culture tells you.

Do better quality work, take care of your well-being, value yourself and those around you will follow suit.

5. No Meeting Days.

Meetings are typically one of the most ineffective uses of time. I rarely see organizations adopt policy around how meetings should be organized and implemented.

When people are in meetings they are unable to complete their work. Companies and managers that have a culture of disorganization, disempowered team members, and unclear directions often have meeting overload.

People often feel they have to work outside of working hours to get their actual work done when they’re in meetings all day.

To counter this, I’ve seen organizations adopt no meeting days — such as Fridays or Mondays to allow people to get work done.

On an individual level, I suggest you discuss blocking out deep work time in your calendar with your line manager or team. Do this in advance so that they know you’ll be offline during your focus times.

Many people are scared of doing this, but if you genuinely do great work while offline, then there’s good reason for you to ask for that time to yourself.

I suggest structuring your days in a way that works for you. Many people prefer early mornings for deep thinking time and do meetings in the afternoon.

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

People will ultimately vote for what they want.

Although the last few years have been difficult, I’m excited we’re adopting new ways of working. Working from home gives you the ability to drop into deep, uninterrupted work because you have more control over your environment. Of course, the parents who had to homeschool while working will understandably think differently, they are superheroes for getting through that time!

However, given adequate childcare, being able to manage your environment and eliminating distractions can be one of the best ways to do productive, good quality work in less time than in a distracting environment.

I love seeing employers no longer acting like disciplinary parents and instead, treating their employees as trusted partners.

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 share the experiments and topics I’m currently analyzing, as well as any events I’ll be hosting or speaking at in my newsletter. I also share content on Instagram and on Linkedin

Please feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss anything I mentioned further. I do consultation, talks, & workshops for organizations as well as work with women individually.

My Newsletter:

My Website:



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.

Thank you for asking me to share. I appreciate you and all you’re doing to raise awareness about this important topic!