Team building days. This is a great way to encourage socializing and encourage employees to work together to solve problem.

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 Dr. Michele Leno.

Dr. Michele Leno is a licensed psychologist and owner of DML Psychological Services, PLLC. She is also the host of TV talk show, Mind Matters with Dr. Michele. In Dr. Leno’s words, improve your mental health, improve your life.

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.

I realized early on in my career that I was not the ‘traditional work hour’ type of person. I was not opposed to working an eight-hour day, but I simply desired freedom and believed that if I wanted to spend four hours working one day and 12 hours the next, I should be able to do so. I, like many professionals, thrive under when I have an opportunity to set my schedule. My current role involves responsibilities and deadlines, and I may even work while on vacation. However, I would not trade this type of freedom for anything.

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?

As a mental health professional, I have always been interested in others’ well-being. When employees are happy, feel appreciated, and have clearly defined expectations, they are more likely to perform well, and this is a sign of wellness. I encourage my staff to communicate with me regularly, even if there is no specific concern. Keeping the lines of communication open helps me better understand and meet staff needs. Work stress is inevitable and normal; however, failing to manage it causes us to feel overwhelmed, which will show up in behavior. When employees are unhappy, they fall behind or simple neglect the job all together.

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?

Traditional work settings have planned breaks; however, that is not always sufficient, as needs vary. Employers must exercise more trust; when we trust staff, we lift restrictions and afford staff the freedom to function as individuals. I employ those I trust and respect, and because of this, my business is productive and profitable.

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?

Where there is cost, there is challenge. Sometimes business owners exhaust funds by attempting to incorporate comprehensive programs that do not speak to the company’s needs. A quick assessment or meeting with staff can help owners and executives determine actual needs. A program may offer group and individual therapy as part of a package, but your staff may prefer individual therapy only. In such cases, the ala carte route can save the company a great deal of money and resolve the funding issue. When it comes to mental health, partnering with a company that has funding and resources is also an option.

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?

Mental health professionals do not always take their own “self-care advice” until they feel the impact of self-neglect. As a psychologist, supervising other psychologist, I encourage self-care. I focus on a potential employee’s talents as well as interests and goals. After all, an emotionally well employee is a productive employee.

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: Allowing staff to create their own schedules is very effective. As a professional, you know your needs better than anyone else.
  • Emotional Wellness: I am a firm believer in mental health days. No doctor’s excuse needed.
  • Social Wellness: Interacting with others either in person or virtually is a health necessity. Do something fun. Monthly staff events are also effective for boosting staff morale.
  • Physical Wellness: Mental and physical health are connected. Exercising is a two for one…it helps us emotionally and physically.
  • Financial Wellness: I offer pay increases and bonuses regularly based on productivity.

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?

Mental health is a hot topic right now and we must keep the conversation going. Corporate leaders and professionals in general are reluctant to speak up about their mental health conditions due to fear of being judged or misunderstood. Oftentimes, job security is at the core of such concerns. When employers view employees as people that have lives outside of the job, they will see a boost in productivity across the board. Rules are important; however, focusing on rules over people leads to less-than-optimal performance and high turnover.

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?

Sometimes we focus too much on how it was done in the past. The first step is to embrace a new mindset and incorporate a new idea weekly.

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

  1. Team building days. This is a great way to encourage socializing and encourage employees to work together to solve problem.
  2. Include mental health days in the benefits package. When employees know they can take a day without explanation, they feel appreciated.
  3. Hire on-site massage therapist. This shows staff that you are serious about wellbeing.
  4. Freedom of speech. Allow employees to have a say (within reason) in how they fulfill their job duties.
  5. Hire effective leaders versus micro-managers. Leaders inspire, listen, and set boundaries without creating a hostile work environment.

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

We are working collectively to address wellness, and this is a step in the right direction.

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?

My website:

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