Four-Day Work Week. At the beginning of April, thousands of employees across 38 companies in the US and Canada, are testing out a four-day workweek for six months. The program is being executed by 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit associated with the University of Oxford. Working hours have been reduced to 32 hours. They’re going by the 100:80:100 model– meaning 100% pay for 80% of the work while maintaining 100% productivity. There will be a lot to learn from this study, and everyone should track it.
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 Galit Fabiola Cohen.
Galit F. Cohen is a leadership coach specializing in evolving Emotional Intelligence. Galit is a fierce advocate for positive self-talk and passionate about empowering others to overcome self-doubt. Galit brings a unique perspective from growing up in a multicultural household, which provided her with a trifocal lens to examine her relationship with others. She believes there is something magical about each person and loves helping others find that magic within themselves.
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.
In December of 2016, I was deeply dissatisfied. I wasn’t happy with my job or my relationship. I wasn’t growing or living in my full power. I just felt stuck.
I was watering everyone else’s garden and not even considering what I wanted to plant in my own!
One day I finally asked myself, what am I doing for myself?
Asking myself that question was the beginning of my wellness journey. If I’m being candid, it started with a lot of facemasks and listening to sad Ed Sheeran songs in my bathtub.
Then it snowballed into a full-fledged personal and professional development journey that entailed me briefly conquering my fear of the highway to drive to a small town in Maryland, where I stayed for a few days to get my professional coaching certification.
A couple of years later, my business, EQ Evolution, was born.
Of course, there were many other stops along the journey, but that’s what I’ll share for now!
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?
My business, EQ Evolution, currently only has one employee, myself. If it expands in the future, I will take time to define wellness.
As far as measuring my wellness, I look to live a balanced life regarding wellness. I make sure to get moving at least once a day if not 2–3, regularly practice breathwork to regulate my nervous system, and check on my stress levels throughout the day.
If I feel like I’m burning out (which rarely happens but has happened), I reevaluate what I have on my plate.
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?
Start by selecting indicators that define wellness, productivity, and profitability in your organization. Next, send out an anonymous employee survey to measure current wellness (i.e., questions around stress, energy level, and workplace satisfaction). Ideally surveys should be distributed by a third-party organization so that employees feel comfortable being honest.
Next, implement the wellness program, and after some time, say six months, distribute the survey again.
Finally, compare the results from the employee wellness surveys to indicators of your organization’s productivity. It’s advisable to use software, such as SPSS or STATA, to run a crosstab, which is essentially a table that shows the relationships between two or more variables to see if the indicators are correlated with each other.
Alternatively, you can provide the program to a sample of the organization, i.e., one team, and compare the productivity and profitability of that sample to other groups who did not receive it.
Or, stagger the distribution of the program to different departments, and see if the departments that participated in the program earlier, have increased in productivity and profitability before the rest.
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?
One quick look at the data should be enough motivation.
Depression costs employers an estimated $44 billion each year in lost productivity. Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths. Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day; and 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
The list goes on.
The mental and emotional toll stress takes on staff affects their ability to concentrate, procrastinate, lack inspiration, and miss meetings and deadlines.
Investing in your staff is investing in your organization.
Staff is an organization’s most valuable asset. If they don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done. You need to take care of your people if you want your work to get done; and you need to treat them well if you want the work to get done well.
If you show them you’re there for them, you earn their loyalty. Give them an incentive to sta.
*statistics are from Namely’s HR’s Guide to Supporting Employee Mental Health
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?
Millennials and Gen Z are generations who have made it clear they prioritize their mental and emotional health. They want to work for organizations that prioritize, and invest in their well-being. If they feel their wellbeing is compromised, they’ll jump ship to another workplace.
By the end of 2022, Millennials and Gen Z will make up around 70% of the workforce, so we really need to listen to them.
It’s not enough to have generic wellness programs or deceptive slogans. Potential employees need to see that wellness is ingrained in the organization’s culture.
I should put a disclaimer here saying I don’t work directly with talent recruitment and hiring. What I would recommend based on research and conversations I’ve had with millennials who have left their jobs to prioritize their overall wellness is the following:
Present your competitive benefits package with wellness opportunities at center stage, emphasizing that overall employee wellbeing is ingrained in the organization’s culture. As further social proof, gather testimonials from current Millennial and Gen Z staff who feel supported by the existing programs.
Another quick disclaimer, I’m only suggesting organizations that actually have a culture of wellness communicate like this. If anything you present doesn’t line up with reality, when new staff starts at the organization, they will naturally lose trust in you.
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: While it is becoming more common to speak about mental health challenges openly, it is still a very personal and sensitive topic. Send out anonymous surveys, if possible by a third-party organization, every quarter to check on how staff are doing mentally and then take actions based on that data.
Emotional Wellness: Equip your staff with tools to manage stressful situations when they inevitably pop up. I teach each leader I work with square breathing– a simple breathwork technique to regulate the nervous system.
Essentially you breathe in for a four-count, hold your breath for a four-count, breathe out for a four-count, hold your breath for a four-count again, and repeat as many times as needed. Here’s a video on how to do it.
When we get stressed at work, our bodies can go into a “fight or flight” response, where your breathing gets shallow, your heart starts beating hard, and you may feel angry, irritated, or terrified.
When a person goes into fight or flight, their communication becomes reactive, which rarely benefits either party. In fact, relationships can be permanently damaged in the heat of this emotional stress response.
It’s beneficial to explain what happens to your body during stress, either through a short microlearning video, poster, or even presentation, so that staff is aware of what to look out for and how to stop it.
Social Wellness: Organization wellness is not just about reducing stress. It’s also about proactively creating a favorable climate for staff to work in. Make it part of your culture to celebrate your team.
Send them personalized notes on their work anniversaries or birthday. Create a Padlet and have everyone on the team write a customized message. Padlets are fun because you can include a photo, GIF, or meme. Have a team lunch in their honor and have everyone share a memory or quality they appreciate about the honoree. During team meetings, carve out time in the agenda for teammate shoutouts. Celebrate their accomplishments that week! Being celebrated boosts employee morale.
However, if there are weekly team meetings with shout-outs, it’s crucial to make sure it’s not always the same people getting recognized and select staff going unrecognized. Being unrecognized can quickly build resentment and have the employees check-out mentally.
As a leader, it’s essential to keep an eye on this and point it out to supervisors who have a noticeably uneven distribution of shoutouts.
Physical Wellness: Provide staff with appropriate ergonomic equipment, such as desks, chairs, and dual monitors when needed. Run workshops or provide other resources on the harms of sitting for too many hours straight and mobility exercises to prevent injuries.
Encourage movement breaks during the workday. Support your staff if they want to go to the gym during the workday when their schedule allows it.
When possible, consider a walking meeting when possible for those back in the office. Our brains are more at ease during walks and, therefore, more creative.
Of course, walking meetings won’t always be suitable, as not everyone is able to walk, and often we need our computers to visualize data or take notes.
Walking meetings are best suited for brainstorming solutions or discussing decisions.
Financial Wellness: Money-related stress is very prevalent, and even more so after the COVID-19 pandemic. Compensate your employees fairly and equitably. Providing general transparency around salaries how salaries are calculated builds trust.
Additionally, have regular workshops or webinars on budgeting, saving refinancing, etc.
Look into partnerships with financial organizations, where employees have the opportunity to speak 1:1 and in privacy, as some people may feel uncomfortable asking questions about their finances in front of their peers.
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?
Emotions are contagious, and they are most contagious from people at the top, i.e., leadership. In other words, leaders have the most influence on company culture.
If leaders walk around without knowing how to emotionally regulate, their stress and anxiety will bleed onto their teams.
It’s essential to know how to regulate “negative” emotions as they come and be proactive about creating positive ones. If you know that one specific song pumps you up and lifts your spirit, listen to it before leading your team meeting. Your team feeds off your energy more than you may realize.
Every individual is ultimately responsible for regulating their own emotions. However, it is irresponsible and potentially damaging for leaders to assume that their emotions do not affect their team.
Daniel Goleman’s research has shown that for every 1% improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2% increase in revenue.
*Statistic from Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
“Work Well” culture is two-fold. On the one hand, it’s about minimizing stress where possible, but on the other hand, and I would argue this is more effective, is, creating a positive working culture.
First, it’s crucial leaders know how influential they are in creating organizational culture. If they want a healthy, happy, and productive workplace, they need to lead by example– they can’t just talk about it.
As a leadership coach that specializes in enhancing emotional intelligence, one thing I work on with my clients that supports overall workplace wellness is self-mastery.
What I mean by self-mastery is a deep understanding of yourself- what triggers you, what motivates you, what soothes you, etc. You can’t lead others to wellness if you’re not leading yourself first. It’s inauthentic, and your team will pick on that quickly.
The more you understand yourself, the less reactive you are, and the more capacity you have for actually listening to your staff.
Creating Psychological Safety
Safety is a basic human need. Therefore creating psychologically safe workplaces needs to be a priority for organizations. Psychological safety essentially means that staff feels comfortable and free to share their thoughts and ideas, and no one will judge them or shame them.
Leaders can create psychologically safe meetings is to be mindful of how they react and responding to their staff’s thoughts and ideas when they’re shared.
If you’re a leader that wants to create psychological safety during your meetings, ask yourself:
- Am I letting staff express their whole idea, or am I interrupting them when I disagree?
- What does my face look like when they’re speaking?
- Am I asking follow-up questions or remarks to demonstrate I heard and understood them?
- Am I encouraging everyone on my team to share their ideas and feedback?
Fun fact: Google’s Project Aristotle found that the highest performing teams have two things in common: 1. They have psychological safety, and 2. Everyone speaks equally.
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?
Everyone should work on developing greater self-awareness. You can’t fix something within yourself unless you’re aware that there is a problem and what the problem is.
One short activity I always suggest my clients do is, pick one experience from your day and reflect on it for 10 or 15 minutes. You can reflect on an experience that brought you happiness, sadness, anger, stress, or anything in between. You can journal but its not required.
Things happen quickly during the workday, especially if you’re in a fast-paced organization, so you might not always have time to process your feelings at the moment. For example, say you remember feeling super anxious when working in a Google Doc this morning.
You ask yourself, “why was I so stressed out this morning.”
“Oh right, that’s when my supervisor’s cursor was constantly hovering over the paragraphs I was editing.”
“What did that bother me?”
“I felt very micromanaged like my supervisor didn’t trust me to do the job well.”
The awareness that you felt untrusted by your supervisor hovering over you in a Google Doc could lead to a productive conversation with your supervisors about how their actions made you feel and what you’d suggest would be a better process for both of you moving forward.
You don’t want to not reflect on it and then build up resentment and not even really know what.
Self-reflection leads to better conversations, which leads to more productive work.
Reflecting for 10 minutes is a micro-step in the grand scheme of things, but it can have a macro impact in the long run.
Introspection is a powerful tool when it comes to wellness.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Four-Day Work Week. At the beginning of April, thousands of employees across 38 companies in the US and Canada, are testing out a four-day workweek for six months. The program is being executed by 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit associated with the University of Oxford. Working hours have been reduced to 32 hours. They’re going by the 100:80:100 model– meaning 100% pay for 80% of the work while maintaining 100% productivity. There will be a lot to learn from this study, and everyone should track it.
- Holistic Support. The need for wellness does not stop outside of working hours. Since the pandemic started it’s become increasingly difficult to separate work and life. If an employee’s is stressed about something outside of work, such as childcare, that stress will carry into work. Another trend will be organizations supporting staff with outside-of-work needs.
- Workplace Design. With the rise of modern co-working spaces and a lack of desire to return to the office after working from home for almost two years, workplaces will need to be more intentional about designing their space. Our surroundings affect how we feel. Spas are usually green, blue, and purple and minimalistic to create a calm and relaxing feel. Fast food restaurants strategically use red and yellow to influence customers to feel hungrier and get in and out of the establishment quickly. With the rise of modern co-working spaces and a lack of desire to return to the office after working from home for almost two years, workplaces will need to be more intentional about designing their space.
- Wellness Stipends. Stress shows up differently for everyone. Some freeze when feeling anxious. Some pace around. Some eat when stressed, and some lose their appetite. Since everyone shows stress differently, it makes sense that everyone de-stresses differently. Doing a mediation may be great for some staff, but others may need to see a masseuse or attend a comedy show for a laugh. More organizations may begin to provide their employees with “wellness stipends” or gift cards to use at places of their choosing.
- Social Connectivity. We are naturally social beings, and most people have barely seen their colleagues in two years. Many people have even started new jobs and haven’t met their colleagues in person yet. As we become increasingly better at managing COVID-19, I believe organizations will be more intentional about setting up social gatherings for their teams. It promotes healthy team bonding to break bread and laugh together.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
Ariana Huffington said it best. She recently referred to the great resignation as the great re-evaluation.
The pandemic has shown us what is possible regarding how people work. We were forced to learn how to adaptively manage quickly.
We did things we never thought we could or should do, like going completely virtual. COVID-19 forced us to challenge our assumptions about organizations’ work.
I might be looking through rose-colored glasses here, but I also believe many organizations and people have developed a deeper level of empathy. There wasn’t a single one of us who didn’t experience the pain that the pandemic brought. It forced organizations to listen to what their employees need and want to work better and live better.
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?
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.
Thank you! It’s always a pleasure.