BURNOUT & RESILIENCE, Burnout is a big topic right now — many of the headlines we’re seeing about the workplace are about the high rates of burnout happening at all levels of organizations. Addressing workplace burnout and helping employees become more resilient is already trending but will become an ever-bigger trend in the next couple of years with investments in emotional resilience, mindfulness, sleep, and organizational structure re-design all being top of mind.

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 Aura Telman.

Aura Telman is a work culture and people development expert, whose work is rooted in mindfulness and community building. She has been featured in Nasdaq, BRIT+CO, Create & Cultivate, DisruptHR, and Amazing Workplaces for her trailblazing mindful leadership approach, woman-owned business success, and human-centric approach to people strategies in the workplace.

With a BBA in Business Management, a ten plus year career in Human Resources, and a certification in mindfulness studies and practices, she founded Thirteen Thrive in 2020, a culture + people development consulting firm offering work-place integrated mindfulness to transform organizations into thriving communities where everyone belongs. She is a passionate advocate for mental health, wellbeing, and inclusion at work.

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.

My relationship with work has changed with the seasons in my life, I find my personal life and work life have always been intertwined and both affect the other. I’ve always been the type of person to say yes, take on more work than I could handle, and even volunteer for extra work because I wanted to prove myself.

Everything changed for me in February 2022 when I had reached a burnout point that felt like a dark hole I fell into and had no idea how to get out. After starting my business in January 2020 (ironically focused on employee experience + wellness at work), I worked non-stop for two years, I put my mental health and personal life to the side and worked as hard as I could to make my business a success. In February of 2022 I started having anxiety attacks every week and realized it was my bodies way of physically asking me to slow down.

The truth is looking back all the signs were there, but I didn’t make enough time to see them:

  • Waking up at 3 or 4 am every night for no reason and not being able to go back to sleep.
  • Waking up with a tight chest every morning, having shortness of breath (this was my anxiety increasing over time).
  • Feeling tired after just a couple of hours work, work that used to excited me felt like an uphill mountain I did not have the energy to climb.
  • Being more emotional — irritable, angry, blaming, shame “why can’t I do this, or have that or be there”.
  • Couldn’t focus on most things, jumped from task to task constantly.

At that time, I was forced to look at my relationship with work, with leadership and my business. After working hard on my mental health for months, seeking professional help and the support from my family, I found more balance.

Work now plays the role of helping me fulfill my dreams and making work better for everyone, it’s no longer how I measure my self-worth, and it’s not the #1 relationship in my life. It’s still a very important relationship but I have learned to seek calm every day and spot burnout flags early on so I can slow down when I need to.

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 as the mental, emotional, physical, and financial health of each and every individual in the organization, as well as the fulfillment derived from work, and the connection people have to their peers, leaders and their work itself.

We measure wellness in three ways — I like to think of it like building a cake.

First the base, we look at hard data, then we add the frosting, we look at feedback in the team’s own words, then we add the decorations, we look at the story of what our data and feedback is telling us.

The Data

  • Absenteeism rates, turnover rates, sick time off/stress leave rates.
  • Employee benefit usage — are people using their benefits and if so, which ones specifically and how often.

Team Feedback

  • Employee engagement surveys + pulse check feedback.
  • Wellness programs feedback (prior to starting a program/post completing a program).
  • Feedback from exit interviews and stay interviews — we include questions on stress levels, workload and relationship building (which we believe all contribute to overall wellness at work).
  • Feedback from leaders about their own wellness and the wellness of their teams — leaders often feel like they must show up for everyone else first and then themselves, we like to spend time with them, checking in and seeing how they’re really doing

Having data and feedback is great but putting the story together is the most powerful part. Looking at different years, months, teams and departments is important to see if you can spot any trends in the story of wellness in your organization.

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?

Based on my experience and the client’s we’ve worked with, I quantify the impact in the areas of increased employee engagement, increase in employee health habits, increase in employee morale, improved workplace relationships, reduced health care costs and reduced absenteeism costs.

Healthy and happy employees will not only be more productive, but they will also be more creative, more innovative, more collaborative, more fulfilled at work — which in turn leads to higher company profitability. But I see investing in employee wellness as more than wanting to increase productivity, it’s the right thing to do for your people.

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?

My advice is to look at your company values. While revenue and profitability are important to any business, so are its values. Some of the most popular company values (across industries) include integrity, passion, inclusion, boldness, trust, leadership, teamwork, quality, innovation — so the real question is when you’re not investing in your people and their wellness which values are you not living up to?

On the note of cost, the truth is whether you invest in a wellness program or not there is still a cost to the business.

The cost of not investing in workplace wellness can be hidden on the surface but it’s there, it includes the cost of absenteeism, low productivity, low creativity/innovation/motivation, lack of fulfilment and joy at work.

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?

We incorporate wellness into talent recruitment by providing a brief description of wellness benefits and flexible work environment in all job posts, discussing these in the first interview when we talk about the total compensation package and the work environment, and providing the candidates with any accommodation they may need throughout the recruitment process to make them more comfortable and to ensure we’re inclusive.

Most candidates I find do ask how the company supports employee mental health and wellbeing on the first interview or at the point of the offer — and I always feel encouraged to see candidates ask these questions, it shows me change is here.

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 + Emotional Wellness: One of the core ways we help clients with mental wellness is offering a 4-week program for employees designed to cultivate mindfulness and gratitude. Every (work) day for 4 weeks employees receive a prompt for a 10 minutes (or less) activity to practice gratitude, mindfulness, connection, and self-care. The results have been incredible, including employees feeling less stressed when they start their workday, being calmer in difficult work situations, having better emotional regulation, growing closer with their peers, and feeling valued by the organization.

In addition to this program, we always recommend that organizations have a benefit available such as an Employee Assistance Program or access to therapy/counselling/social worker benefit. It’s important for employees to have access to licensed professionals alongside workplace wellness programs.

  • Social Wellness: All the clients we’ve worked/work with have a remote or hybrid environment so social wellness has really become a key component of a holistic wellness strategy — we’ve promoted social wellness through virtual coffee/breakfast/book clubs, virtual open mic nights, and virtual games nights. These are the activities that have gotten the most participation, engagement, and praise from employees.
  • Physical Wellness: Walking clubs, running clubs, and health challenges (water drinking, sleep, step challenges and social media detoxes) are all great for physical wellness and bring teams together. In my experience the more fun, engaging and team oriented the better, especially if you’re in an organization where people/teams like to compete.
  • Financial Wellness: Adopting financial apps in the workplace has become more popular in the last year, with organizations wanting to offer employees a way to seek financial advice or get financial help in a more individualized way.

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?

Through adopting some of these ideas’ workplaces can equip their employees with skills that help them manage stress and anxiety, build a connection to themselves and the people they work with, improve cognitive abilities like sustained attention, cognitive flexibility (being able to shift attention without distraction) and cognitive inhibition (suppressing thoughts that interfere with focus).

When organizations invest in wellness programs, they show employees that they care, not just about profitability, they care about employees and the experience they’re having at work.

During the “great resignation” organizations and leaders were shown that employees notice when you truly care or when you’re being performative, and they want to work for organizations that care and invest in their people.

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

Reskilling leaders in this area first starts with the leader themselves — their self-awareness, their connection to themselves and their work, and their stress/burnout management. In my experience leaders often feel the pressure of showing up for themselves while also showing up for their people at a higher level.

Therefore, it’s important to focus on leadership mental, emotional, and social wellbeing first before re-skilling — because they’re the people most employees will look at to emulate behavior, habits and quickly determine what “work well” means to the organization.

We’ve reskilled leaders to support a “work well” culture by providing 1:1 and group coaching, creating sharing circles where leaders meet to discuss their experience and seek peer support, and providing training and certifications through Mental Health First Aid (USA and Canada) — a training program that teaches participants how to support employees who may be experiencing a mental health, substance use, or workplace crisis.

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?

Organizations can take the first step of understanding the state of wellness within — this includes looking at data and getting feedback from employees. I believe organizations and leaders play the bigger role in creating a culture where wellness is valued, promoted, and rewarded. They must create a work environment where employees feel safe about speaking up and offering recommendations.

Individuals can take the step of speaking up about the state of their wellness. While individually we can all do things to decrease stress at work, our stress is still largely impacted by factors outside of our control — such as workload, priorities, our manager, and our team. Therefore, creating a healthy workplace takes both people and organization involvement.

What are your “Top 5 Trends to Track in the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  1. PERSONALIZED WELLNESS, We’re starting to realize that one-fits-all workplace strategies are no longer working because they’re not accounting for individual needs. Personalized wellness including self-care apps subscriptions, 1:1 health coaching, financial coaching, on-demand classes, allow employees to opt-in and customize their wellness experience based on their needs.
  2. WELLNESS APPS, Wellness apps are growing in popularity, from health and fitness, to meditation, therapy, and personal finance — and while most of these are still accessed individually, they are leaning more into corporate strategies, allowing organizations to provide their employees with these added wellness benefits at no cost.
  3. PREVENTATIVE HEALTH CARE, This is a big trend I think we’re going to see in workplace wellness, with companies looking at the stressors in their current work environments and addressing them before they lead to health problems. A few great examples include companies assessing workload and team structures to address work-life balance, designing work spaces that include rest areas and workday rest periods to combat body & mind fatigue, encouraging employees to have regular health checkups, eat healthy and sleep better.
  4. FINANCIAL WELLNESS, Whether it’s the financial impact of the pandemic, or current financial outlook, all employees have been financially impacted in some way, and are looking for financial advice and support from their organizations. Financial wellness has been an underinvested in strategy in overall wellness due to the belief that “talking about money is taboo” — this isn’t the case anymore. I think a big trend will be organizations offering financial tools (apps) to employees, hosting workshops and partnering with financial advisors to offer 1:1 help to employees who need it.
  5. BURNOUT & RESILIENCE, Burnout is a big topic right now — many of the headlines we’re seeing about the workplace are about the high rates of burnout happening at all levels of organizations. Addressing workplace burnout and helping employees become more resilient is already trending but will become an ever-bigger trend in the next couple of years with investments in emotional resilience, mindfulness, sleep, and organizational structure re-design all being top of mind.

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

My greatest source of optimism is seeing both employees and organizations advocate more for workplace wellness and trying to work together. Organizations are realizing that employee wellness is not just an individual responsibility but a collective responsibility. We’re leaving behind the notion of humans being resources for output and adopting humanity at work, adopting the idea that human needs more than monetary motivation at work, they need fulfilment, connection, inclusion and wellness.

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?

Aura Telman on LinkedIn

@thirteenthrive on Instagram and Facebook


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