Remote work isn’t going away. Companies will develop new and creative ways to support the wellbeing of their associates who work remote. Not only will these efforts pay off for all the reasons we have discussed, but they will also contribute to keeping the remote workforce connected to their company’s culture.

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 Caryn M. Butterfield.

Caryn M. Butterfield is Belden’s Vice President of HR Analytics, Process Improvement, and Total Rewards. As part of her role, Caryn is responsible for supporting Belden’s wellbeing initiative — Be Well — which delivers programs to support the physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing of Belden’s 7,700 associates around the world. Caryn’s 20-year career includes global experience in human resources and large-scale change management.

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.

The experience that immediately comes to mind for me, as I’m sure it does for many, is the pandemic. The last few years have challenged each and every one of us in every aspect of our lives. The COVID pandemic has been a truly collective experience that we have lived through as a global community, and it has also impacted each of us in very personal ways. It has led companies and individuals to the understanding (something that was percolating pre-COVID) that we are at our best when we are truly “well” in all aspects of our lives. It has been such a positive shift to see companies embrace this. I believe by supporting the holistic wellbeing of their employees, companies will be able to attract and retain the diverse, highly-capable talent needed to deliver business results now and into the future. It’s only by considering all aspects of employee well-being that companies will be able to support employees to be their best whether they’re at home, or at work. It’s a mutually beneficial cycle and I’m thankful we’ve arrived here, despite the manner in which it happened.

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?

Belden is made up of 7,700 talented associates in 37 countries with diverse needs when it comes to their wellbeing. “Be Well” is focused on supporting the wellbeing of our associates across all aspects of life — physical, emotional, financial & social. “Be Well” takes a local approach to wellbeing with programs that are designed to meet the diverse needs of our global workforce.

Wellbeing impacts so many aspects of a person’s life and how they show up to work that it is a consideration across many of our metrics. We measure wellbeing in a number of ways — participation in wellness activities, in the results of our twice / year engagement survey, in our retention rates, and in feedback through the exit process.

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?

As our CEO Roel Vestjens said in our company’s recent 120-year Anniversary and Investor Day celebration on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, not only are our ESG commitments the right thing to do but they are also fundamental drivers of business success. Employee wellbeing is a priority area under the “S” pillar of our publicly announced ESG Goals and is being tracked and prioritized by senior leadership with the same emphasis as financial goals for the company. Our Board of Directors and Investor community have validated, through our recently completed materiality study, that employee wellbeing and engagement are one of the top priorities for the social aspect of our ESG Goal commitment. When the stakeholders who are financially investing in our company tell us that employee well-being is top priority, there’s no better proof that a well workforce is a key driver for our company’s productivity and profitability.

In addition to Be Well, Belden has an external campaign promoting our culture as an employer and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) priorities, known as “Belong. Believe. Be You.” We’ve made it a priority to foster an inclusive culture where all are welcome to be themselves because it contributes to employee wellbeing. Internally it’s evident in building a culture that supports employees no matter their background, and highlighting and supporting causes such as Mental Health Awareness Month and Pride Month. It’s a huge step for a company like Belden to be open about mental health and Pride Month, but it’s imperative in fostering total employee wellbeing.

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?

I think one of the challenges in securing funding for wellness programs is that needs vary so much from person-to-person and across geographies. Belden’s Be Well programs are designed locally to help ensure they have the biggest impact. Each of our locations offer programs throughout the year supporting all aspects of wellbeing. They are not overly engineered, they aren’t vendor-driven programs; they are practical, locally driven and targeted at the needs of associates in that specific location. My advice to other organizations and leaders is to ensure you create programs that will meet your employees where they are, and that are personalized to the needs of your employees, not the needs of the company. That’s where impact happens, when the programs become important to your employees.

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?

Our “Belong, Believe, Be You” campaign has been used both internally and externally to demonstrate what Belden’s culture looks like and feels like, in the words of our own employees. Belden’s support of employee wellbeing is increasingly part of the conversation when we talk to candidates about what our organization has to offer. I expect this will continue to be a point of emphasis in the future.

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: Fostering mental wellness happens in so many ways. Belden’s Be Well program is the launching point for locally run events that benefit the mental and emotional wellness of Belden employees around the world. For example, PPC India held a virtual yoga program focused on stress relief and developing healthy habits through the practice of yoga. Belden’s Richmond, Indiana production facility hosted a wellness fair with various vendors, information, and other initiatives aimed at employee wellness.
  • Emotional Wellness: Belden’s global Parental Leave Benefit launches on July 1st — it establishes minimum of 8-weeks of paid parental leave for either parent. In addition, we offer voluntary flex time to help people manage the demands of their life outside of work without always having to rely on PTO. The team in Cobourg Canada hosted an event where they planted trees in honor of Earth Day and educated participants on the many positive benefits trees and time in nature can bring to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet.
  • Social Wellness: Belden’s global Connect with Community program offers employees paid time-off to volunteer for causes that matter to them in their local communities. As part of Be Well, our Tijuana, Mexico location hosted a “kid’s day” which provided the opportunity for families to visit the plant, learn about Belden, and become familiar with their parents do at work each day. It was also a great opportunity for our associates to get to know each other in a more personal way.
  • Physical Wellness: Our team in Belgium celebrated Bike to Work Day with a goal of clocking enough collective miles to equal circling the circumference of the earth. Running & walking clubs have also been established in a number of countries. We are currently discussing options to launch a program that would subsidize wearable fitness trackers for our employees — we believe this could be another great way to support the physical health of our global team.
  • Financial Wellness: As part of our Be Well calendar of events, locations around the world, including our facility in Nogales, Mexico, are hosting financial wellness sessions with expert speakers designed to educate employees about retirement readiness, planning for the future, understanding savings opportunities available to them in their country, and other ways to bolster financial aptitude and wellness.

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?

No matter your organization’s size or geographic footprint, understanding what your employees need and value, and delivering programs and initiatives that support them is critical to employee wellbeing and to creating a positive employee experience. Belden’s local, personalized approach to wellbeing is, I believe, the reason why we are seeing success. If you were to speak to an employee today versus five years ago on the topic of our support of total wellness, I think you’d get a very different perspective. You can make significant progress in a short amount of time, it just requires total leadership support and the ability to localize your approach.

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

As we’ve discussed, the programs, information, and initiatives offered under Be Well are developed “bottom-up” — they are local programs designed to meet the needs of the local teams; as a result, gaining local leadership support is much easier. We have also designed “top-down” programs, such as our global parental leave benefit, which receive overwhelming support from Belden’s leadership team. In addition, Be Well is regularly featured in communications from Belden’s CEO and leadership team. The fact that employee wellbeing is a stated goal in our ESG priorities also ensures it receives the support and visibility needed to be successful. While we are so pleased with the success of Be Well, we recognize there are always areas of opportunity — one of our core values is “Continuous Improvement is a Way of Life”. One that is top-of-mind is helping managers become more comfortable supporting the emotional wellbeing of their teams. This is something we can tackle as Be Well continues to grow and evolve.

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?

Change starts small. By understanding what will have the greatest impact on your employees’ physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing you can implement initiatives, even small ones, that will start to move the needle.

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

  1. Workplace wellness programs are rooted in meeting the diverse needs of a diverse employee population. Be Well was founded according to this philosophy and we are seeing it pay off. Employers will increasingly focus their attention on listening to the unique voices and needs of their employees and they will use this insight to drive the initiatives and programs they offer.
  2. Focus on holistic wellbeing. The history of wellness programs was very much rooted in a focus on physical health. We are already seeing a significant broadening of this definition and I expect this will continue to include the many facets that contribute to wellbeing.
  3. Remote work isn’t going away. Companies will develop new and creative ways to support the wellbeing of their associates who work remote. Not only will these efforts pay off for all the reasons we have discussed, but they will also contribute to keeping the remote workforce connected to their company’s culture.
  4. Prioritizing mental health. Getting comfortable supporting employee mental health is already a priority and will continue to be so, including helping managers support the mental health of their teams.
  5. Support for wellbeing is embedded in company culture. Supporting employee wellbeing will become engrained in the culture of best-in-class companies. Instead of being a “program” or “initiative” it will simply be foundational to how we work, and how we do business.

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

The emphasis we’ve seen companies place on supporting employee wellbeing isn’t going to go away. At the end of the day, we all want to work for organizations that support us, and companies are seeing the benefit of leaning in and making employee wellbeing a priority — not just benefits in engagement and retention but in business results.

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?

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