… A focus on stress and burnout. Burnout was one of the contributing factors to the Great Resignation and something many of us faced during the peak of the pandemic. Preventing burnout and providing wellness support in this area will help insulate employers and better support employees.

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 Cassi Janakos.

Cassi Janakos is the co-founder, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Engineer of Healthy Horizons Breastfeeding Centers and Corporate Lactation Services. Healthy Horizons is the expert in corporate lactation programs and workplace lactation rooms and operates in over 110 cities across North America.

Cassi is an engineer, designer, and serial problem-solver. She uses her technical and leadership expertise to support parents in the workforce and create disruptive changes in how companies ease the transition of new parents returning to across the US and Canada.

Cassi earned an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and B.A. in Business Management Economics from University of California, Santa Cruz.

Cassi is focused on giving back to her community. She serves as a Cultural Mentor with TechWomen through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a Stanford StartX Mentor, and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Society of Women Engineers. Prior to Healthy Horizons she worked as a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin and interned at NASA. Cassi was named a Society of Women Engineers Emerging Leader in Technology & Engineering (ELiTE), Woman Engineer You Should Know, and Silicon Valley Business Journal 40 under 40.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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?

At Healthy Horizons we check in with our team to make sure they feel comfortable and supported in their positions. Many of our employees work remotely and are working parents. We create an environment where they are able to take needed breaks and work at their own pace. Because we have many remote employees, we create fun team-building activities such as a recent virtual wine tasting or sending self-care packages to help staff relax during their off time.

For our clients, we work daily to help businesses create and maintain their dedicated lactation spaces. Lactation spaces are a vital health benefit for parents returning to either in-person or hybrid offices after the birth of a child in our new post-pandemic world. Many new parents were able to earn a living while taking care of their children at home as businesses shifted to remote work, a benefit that had many parents reassessing their return to the workplace. With a safe, clean, and comfortable space for parents to express and store breast milk throughout the day, parents feel valued and supported in the workplace. Many businesses have found that these vital benefits help provide a better work-life balance for their employees and their families.

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 supported and valued at work, their productivity increases and often can exceed their own expectations. When a person is happy in their work environment lateness and absenteeism decline. Employees are more likely to find work satisfaction and loyalty, keeping them from looking elsewhere for a position which, in turn, increases productivity and profitability.

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?

Your employees are your most valuable asset. Retaining top talent and attracting staff the company needs has a direct impact on the bottom line and bringing in revenue. I recommend doing a cost benefit analysis, look at how much you spend on recruiting, training, the labor that supports that, offboarding, severance package, and if possible, knowledge gaps have on your customers, partners and bottom line. Then look at what you’re spending on wellness.

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?

We share our wellness programs with candidates, especially the policies that support working families since we have so many working parents at our company. We set up and manage workplace lactation rooms at other companies, and it is so important that we not only support parents at customer sites but our own parents too!

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: We have planning sessions with staff to see how we can support a low stress work environment, and tailor plans to each individual’s needs. This prevents people from burning out and creates an ideal work environment for them to succeed in the long term.
  • Emotional Wellness: My favorite Healthy Horizons program is our Bring You Baby to Work Program! Babies are welcome at work until they can walk, it is wonderful for mom and baby to have more time together at this important time in their lives.
  • Social Wellness: We have a virtual breakroom, where staff share their wins and personal updates. There is nothing better than getting a cute baby photo from a coworker during the workday!
  • Physical Wellness: Flexibility during the workday is key, if someone needs to recharge with a walk or wants to sign up for that tennis class in the middle of the day. We fully support them going for it! This helps staff stay healthy and have more flexibility to reach their health goals.
  • Financial Wellness: For both part- and full-time employees we have a matching 401k program. This let’s people work part time to take care of kids or to adjust to the new world, while still making progress towards their retirement and future.

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?

Invest in families! When staff become parents, they are faced with more challenges and responsibilities, having an employer that supports their wellness at this time is critical for retention. Implement programs that make this easier like letting staff bring baby to work or having a daycare option. Making sure there is a comfortable and productive lactation room, so they can provide milk for their baby without worrying about the logistics and thinking about parenting and working from their perspective.

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

In our onboarding process we have a segment that is very clear that we are okay with having kids and pets on camera during meetings, people can flex their schedules to support their wellness as long as they are productive and meet commitments, and our other policies that support a less stressful workplace. Management sets a wonderful example by practicing this themselves and serving as a role model for their team.

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?

Recognize that wellness is important to the long term health and success of the business, and start the discussions to improve workplace wellness by workshopping with employees or reaching out to a wellness company, like Healthy Horizons for your working parents.

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

TREND 1. Support for working parents. Working parents were hit hard during the pandemic and are still recovering. Programs to help parents return to work and create realistic programs on-site and virtually will be critical in supporting this segment of the workforce.

TREND 2. More flextime during the day for physical, mental, and emotional wellness breaks. Many people become used to taking breaks for a Zoom workout class or being able to take care of personal items during the day. Flexible schedules and workdays will increase to align with this employee expectation.

TREND 3. Work Life integration. Recognizing and supporting people as a whole so they can realistically integrate their work life and home life. People are more than their work persona, and this is being recognized more and more by employers.

TREND 4. Health and wellness for part-time employees. States like California are considering shorter workweeks and are evaluating whether a 40-hour work week is the best approach. As this becomes more popular, providing health and wellness benefits for part-time employees will grow as well.

TREND 5. A focus on stress and burnout. Burnout was one of the contributing factors to the Great Resignation and something many of us faced during the peak of the pandemic. Preventing burnout and providing wellness support in this area will help insulate employers and better support employees.

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

That there will be more space and understanding for new parents. Before people were expected to work as if they didn’t have a family, and now family life is being recognized and supported. From what I’ve seen from our Fortune 500 clients, this support is growing.

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 can be reached via our website www.HealthyHorizons.com or follow us on social media! We’re also on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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