Workplace wellness isn’t just about mental health and physical health. It’s about providing a better working experience all the time, and part of that involves environmental wellness. On the construction site, for example, environmental wellness could mean offering innovative services for workers like stretching stations and water stations to promote hydration. In other industries, that can be expanded to include lifestyle services such as onsite gyms, haircuts, food trucks, smoothie stations, and much more. These may seem like office or on-the-job perks, but they are all a part of a whole wellness package.

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 Emmett McGrath, president of Yoh, a Day & Zimmermann Company.

As president, McGrath is responsible for the strategic and operational success of Yoh’s two main offerings; Specialty Practices, providing highly skilled, professional, STEM talent; and Enterprise Solutions, Yoh’s integrated, managed workforce solutions, including the recently launched DZConneX, Total Talent Solutions brand. McGrath has been president of Yoh since April of 2017, rejoining Yoh after previously working for the company for many years, getting his start with Yoh in 1985.

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.

Well, I’ve raised two children who are adults now, and during their early years I was a busy executive so I had an early appreciation for working families. I was probably spending a lot of time away, but I learned to spend quality time with my family when I was home. More recently, when I came back to Yoh I was running an East Coast-headquartered company from the West Coast and traveling back and forth. I had a bit of a health scare which meant I needed to reduce my air travel — and then COVID hit. So I guess you could say I was on my way to a better work-life balance related to my work travel, when the universe stepped in and really helped me. But the pandemic in general has reminded me to be more empathetic as a leader.

I’ve been fortunate to spend the majority of my career in the recruiting space, and over that time, I’ve seen first-hand how the concept of work has evolved. Decades ago, work-life balance was less so a concept and more the simple reality. It wasn’t nearly as easy to bring your work home with you in the 80s and 90s as it is today. And over the past 20 or so years, we’ve seen how the distinction between work and personal life has blurred, with nearly everyone having access to email and most work files right in their front pocket.

However, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all need to take pause and think about how our relationship with work affects us outside the traditional office confines. Pandemic or not, many leaders are slowly starting to realize the role that sound work-life balance and working wellness plays in a person’s ability to do their work well and enjoy their jobs long-term. Workers’ relationship with their jobs has changed dramatically since 2020, and it’s requiring that companies change their policies and offerings because of it.

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?

Wellness was certainly on our radar before COVID, and I was very proud of the way we responded by not only following the COVID protocols (and more), but also caring for and strengthening our connections to our teams and encouraging co-workers to check in on one another. Even now, more than two years into this, a recent executive blog that was titled, “It’s OK to Not Be OK,” really resonated with team members across the enterprise and highlights that this is still a journey.

So for us, I think we’ve now added a component of “connectivity” to our wellness efforts. We certainly foster inclusion and belonging, and our teams are highly involved in our Employee Resource Groups. And we have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that is at no cost to employees, but we’ve been also more intentional with making sure people are connected. This means checking in, having events that are not always work related, and giving team members access to leaders. I recently became the executive sponsor for a new Caregivers Resource Group. I’m both proud to be a part of this group and passionate about the platform that it is creating for employees to share their personal struggles. Here, with this group in particular, we can come together regardless of status or position to find a common ground to support each other’s journey towards wellness.

As far as measuring it, we have formal measurements like an employee engagement survey, but more importantly, we’ve created goals around engaging our teams, providing development opportunities and just having fun at work. Also, one important thing about our business that gets people out of bed in the morning, is having a competitive environment. We’ve done more to make sure people know where they stand and how to get better. It’s competitive, but in a more transparent way. I think that’s also an element of wellness that reduces stress. If you set clear expectations, give people the right tools, and support them, they can be their best — that’s essentially wellness; creating an environment where team members can be their best and thrive.

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?

It’s certainly a challenge, especially as it relates to our top performers. But I go back to creating that mix of competition and transparency. If a company gets that right, and provides the corresponding supports for both of them, then productivity rises and profitability follows. Success is built on success. You have to be able to see success, know what it is, and be able to see a path to get there. Our teams have a very clear understanding of what it takes to be successful. We provide the “how” — the tools and training for our employees to be successful, which in-turn, reduces stress and allows employees to be more engaged. There’s no denying this takes work. But when you see the path and see others succeeding, then you can visualize yourself succeeding. You have to help create that vision.

Secondly, and on a more pragmatic level, as a firm specializing in staffing and talent management, we quantify a “well workforce” in a handful of ways. One of the biggest ways, especially in our current talent climate, is measuring turnover. If a company is experiencing especially high turnover rates or is seeing their turnover spike at certain intervals of the year, it could be a sign of a workforce that is lacking the appropriate wellness initiatives. Certainly other factors play into turnover — compensation, benefits, leadership and more — but a company that does not place a high priority on employee wellness will almost always find their turnover rates are higher than average. Of course, lower turnover generally leads to greater levels of productivity and profitability when you don’t need to spend as many resources on training, re-training and development.

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?

In my career working in staffing and talent management, rarely (if ever) have I seen an investment made in well-being of workers backfire. Happier and satisfied employees are more productive, less likely to leave and more likely to encourage other talented individuals to join an organization — which is important for recruiting right now, but perhaps from now on. Even the attempt at improving the health and/or well-being of a workforce has positive impacts on workers’ perception of their employer. No one should feel stuck between intention and impact as long as the intention is to deliver an improved experience for a workforce based on aspects of the job they have said they would like to see improved. The simple act of trying to improve the working experience based on worker feedback should easily deliver impacts that can be quantified through engagement and satisfaction surveys. But we have certainly seen a corresponding uptick in productivity. As I said before, if you set expectations and are transparent about your efforts and how it’s impacting your teams, you will likely see the impact directly.

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 have a program called “Build a Better You.” And its premise is simple. We have a discussion with prospective employees around what’s important to them. It speaks to all the elements of the work relationship, such as benefits and culture, to help them understand what we can offer and how it aligns with what they are looking for. I keep going back to transparency and that’s what we strive for — an honest conversation. That’s what all the generations are looking for but certainly some of the younger generations.

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:

Since the pandemic started we emphasized and strengthened some of the things we already had. I’m not sure that I would say we looked to make seismic changes, but we increased some of the things that were already working. And that’s probably the best advice I could give in this area — look at where thing are working and build on those things.

I’ve been in this business for a long time, and while we have new technology and tools, I know team members who know their business or technology or markets so well that all they really need is a phone. So when we quickly pivoted to remote work (which we did immediately), we had to be flexible and empathetic, and understand that our teams’ work life had now just collided with their home life. This meant that they were reassessing their balance and wellness in many areas that included physical, from the pandemic; emotional, from the stress of the pandemic; and social, from isolation, all leading to the mental stress of living during a pandemic. So we increased our outreach, we re-emphasized the tools like EAP, and changed our approach to work.

One example of this is that we restructured our work days and check in meetings to make sure that team members felt connected and that managers were connected to their teams, so that we could quickly identify issues of performance or productivity and help our employees through it. We also looked at leading performance metrics, rather than trailing ones. It wasn’t about keeping tabs on them or just the numbers, but making sure we were keeping up our side of the bargain by continually communicating our expectations in a healthy, transparent way and supporting them in meeting those expectations.

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?

Well, I think that companies should think like recruiting organizations. The investment is in the people. There’s a difference between how a recruiter in a healthy, productive and “well” organization can recruit other people, and a company who is not. You can hear it in their voices. And I think that job seekers are more attuned to being sold, rather than talking to someone who truly believes in the work they do and the company the work for. We emphasize that helping someone find a great position and being a partner in their career is a noble purpose. What we do is helping people and their families. I’ve never forgotten that.

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

COVID-19 forced us all to dramatically rethink how we quantify work wellness. Some of the work-life issues the pandemic brought on were unavoidable; many were not. The increase of working from home only further led employees to work more than they had been before. Add in the fact that many people could not or did not take time off of work to rest and reset, and the problem only worsened.

Across nearly all industries, mid-level and lower-level workers mimic the working styles and culture of their leaders. If a leader is sending out emails at all hours of the night and weekends, all other employees assume that is the expectation and will follow suit. Today, many businesses are reskilling leaders to not only set an example by establishing working boundaries but by mandating that employees “turn off” work between certain hours or on certain days. Encouraging teams to take a set amounts of breaks per day and not rewarding individuals simply for working the most hours are a few ways we’ve seen a “work well” culture supported. As I mentioned before, this led us to restructure our work days and provide leaders with analytics and tools to help them identify the “health” of their teams proactively and with leading metrics, so they could be better leaders. I encouraged leaders to ask their teams to participate in things like “No Zoom Friday” calls, to get away from their computers and to hold meetings is different setting, such as during a walk. In addition, our leaders received tokens of appreciation that were geared towards wellness and personal well-being.

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?

It may seem odd at first, but as mentioned above, there are times when it’s OK to mandate wellness. Setting standards for when it’s OK to send emails and when it’s not OK begins to establish a culture of work-life balance that’s not just smoke but actionable. This can be done at the organization or even team level, as long as expectations are set with those companies who have clients to manage.

Just as easy to implement are regular wellness checks with employees with self-evaluations and colleague evaluations. These checks can be done in person, digitally or even anonymously to identify where someone may be struggling. It can be as easy as simply listening, being supportive and showing empathy. This should be practiced all the time, not just during times of crisis such as a pandemic. In the end, the feedback you receive should help to improve wellness at both the individual and organizational level.

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

  1. Changing Health Benefits.

Basic health care benefits have always been part of a traditional employment compensation package. Today, the focus of health care has begun to shift from reactive treatment to prevention and promoting total worker wellness. More and more we are seeing employers incorporate health assessment screenings, programs focused on reducing stress and caring for mental health into their health benefits. The wellness plans of tomorrow should focus on caring for the mind, body and spirit of the worker.

2. Investing in Total Worker Wellness.

According to one recent study, more than 60% of employees with access to a wellness program reported improving their individual health as a result. Employees report that wellness programs not only play a significant role in physical health but also in boosting morale, which is directly related to employee retention and productivity. This same study found that 45% of employees said they would keep their same job longer because of the wellness program it offered. Total worker wellness leads to happier, healthier and more satisfied employees.

3. Employee-driven wellness.

Wellness programs should not be designed in a silo. They should incorporate the feedback of employees and be mindful of what they’re looking for, not what they organization assumes they need or want. Conducting employee surveys, organization audits and health assessments allows leadership to identify and address any gaps in wellness coverage. Armed with this information, organizations can partner with a team of occupational health experts to put in place a wellness plan that engages employees in the short- and long-term.

4. Making mental health a priority, not an afterthought.

No longer can mental health be ignored by an organization. The costs — both financially and physically for workers — is immense. Building a program begins first and foremost with breaking the stigma around mental health in the workplace. Start by talking more about the importance of mental with employees and consider offering access to resources like online mental health providers that allow employees to get help or assistance in a way that works best for them. We’ve even seen some businesses institute wellness events where experts are brought in to start an open dialogue around mental health. This can be especially valuable in industries where mental health has not been a priority, such as construction and other more physically demanding jobs.

5. Introducing environmental wellness and perks.

Workplace wellness isn’t just about mental health and physical health. It’s about providing a better working experience all the time, and part of that involves environmental wellness. On the construction site, for example, environmental wellness could mean offering innovative services for workers like stretching stations and water stations to promote hydration. In other industries, that can be expanded to include lifestyle services such as onsite gyms, haircuts, food trucks, smoothie stations, and much more. These may seem like office or on-the-job perks, but they are all a part of a whole wellness package.

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

My greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness comes from workers themselves. As I mentioned earlier, I was so impressed and proud of how our teams responded to the pandemic, especially our leaders. I’m finding that today’s workers are more open and honest about what their needs are and are less likely to suffer through a job that doesn’t provide them what they’re looking for. Turnover rates are high, and that’s a challenge for businesses who don’t place enough emphasis on workplace wellness. Those that do will continue to thrive, and those that don’t will have no choice but to adapt or risk falling further behind in the battle for talent.

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?

The best way to connect with me would be via LinkedIn and Yoh’s website, We have a regular blog where we share frequent insights, articles, perspectives, ebooks, and more about the talent industry and how companies can manage their workforce in 2022 and beyond. Additionally, Yoh has a biweekly podcast called Back to Work, where we explore the latest staffing trends in the wake of the pandemic. It’s available on all podcast platforms.

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