Investing in early childhood is one of the most important things we can do as a society. Increasing leave options, phased return to work, and flex time off allow employees to invest time in the critical early years of a child’s development. We also want to openly acknowledge the silent, and typically taboo, situations that people too regularly find themselves in along the family journey and support accordingly.

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 Gina O’Reilly.

Gina O’Reilly joined Nitro in 2008 as SVP of Sales and Marketing, then moved into the role of COO in 2011. In her current role as COO, Gina has global responsibility for the Business Operations and People functions, including Workplace and Facilities, Employee Experience and Talent.

Gina brings with her over 15 years of software industry experience. Prior to Nitro, Gina served as Director of Sales and Marketing at activePDF, a leading provider of server-side PDF solutions and developer tools, where she oversaw global sales and marketing. Gina also previously managed sales and marketing strategy and planning for several major software publishers, including Microsoft, VMware and Crystal Decisions.

Gina holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor’s in International Marketing and Languages from Dublin City University, Ireland.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become a core metric that employers will leverage to analyze and assess their employees’ overall mental, physical and financial health and wellbeing. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

We believe workplace wellbeing is our opportunity to help set employees up for success with the necessary environment, support, and tools they need to do their best work. Wellness at Nitro is much deeper rooted than how we show up through our comprehensive employee programs and benefits, which are heavily focused on wellbeing generally. It is also anchored around how we operate in line with our core values (High Performance, No Bullshit, Be Good) and intrinsic to the environment we help create and foster, to the conversation and connections our employees form and ultimately, how they feel at work every day. We want everyone to feel like they’re adding value, feeling fulfilled and happy at the end of the day. While we measure wellness through engagement and pulse surveys throughout the year, we also focus on encouraging open communication between peers, managers, and leaders to highlight any issues and challenges and know where to action an improvement or solution. As part of our culture code, we make it incumbent on every Nitronaut to flag burnout if/when they see it, irrespective of reporting lines or responsibility. Nobody should get to that point.

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?

Nitro’s focus and investment in our wellness programs signal to both employees and candidates that their wellbeing is a top priority for us. We have naturally found that employees who participate in corporate wellness programs take fewer sick days, are more present and productive at work, and happier overall about their contributions to the company.

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?

My advice would be to invest in your people. You will find if you do, more often than not, they will invest in you in return. The average cost of replacing an employee can range from ½ to 2 times that employee’s annual salary. The “cost of business” provides employees with the support, programs, and access to the care they need, ultimately helping to drive employer differentiation and employee retention, compared to the cost to recruit, hire and backfill roles, absenteeism, and a less productive and engaged workforce. It’s a no brainer from that perspective.

If you are stuck on where to start, a key first step in deciding to offer and build a wellness program within your organization is to increase awareness by:

  • Reflecting and collecting — understand where you are, where you need to go, and who the key stakeholders are to help get there.
  • Address questions, concerns and be transparent in your objectives.
  • Encourage feedback and listen to employees — ultimately, these benefits should be used and valued, otherwise they become meaningless.
  • Recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach will likely not work if you have a diverse employee base — ensure the feedback you receive is incorporated equally and consistently so that the program you develop is both holistic and inclusive.
  • Ensure that well-being is part of your core business strategy and continually measure progress toward your goal.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

To incorporate our wellness programs into the recruitment process, we ensure they are well publicized and promoted on our website and recruitment platforms and we also partner with publications such as The Muse and Silicon Republic to help drive more employer brand awareness. Recently, we joined forces with InHerSight to highlight Nitro as a great place to work for all prospective candidates, particularly women and women of color.

To ensure that we align with employee and employer expectations of providing support and investing in our employee’s health and happiness, our talent team also reviews our perks and benefits of working at Nitro during the screening and hiring processes.

We’ve all heard of the four-day workweek, 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.

Supporting any one area of wellness can lead to increased satisfaction in another. For example, our biannual companywide Recharge Weeks (Winter and Summer) provide employees time to unplug and recharge, spend time with their friends and family, travel, or simply relax at home. We’ve heard from our employees that these periods allow them to truly take a break from work and that they’ve helped improve overall emotional and mental wellbeing of our Nitronauts.

Many of our perks and benefits also serve a dual purpose of improving both mental and physical wellness at work. All Nitronauts have access to the Modern Health platform, which covers things like therapy sessions, professional and personal development programs, and much more. We also know how closely physical and mental wellness is linked, so our BAM program offers a monthly reimbursement intended to help cover the cost of gym memberships, workout classes, or anything related to physical/mental wellbeing.

Even though we are spread across the world, our Nitronauts are social people, and we do what we can to create opportunities both in person and online to connect. From San Francisco to Melbourne, we encourage employees to be active members of their communities and offer five paid volunteer days off (VTO) each year. We also match employee donations up to $500 per year, per person. Nitro’s employee resource groups also contribute to our overall Social Wellness and provide a space for employees to celebrate their individuality and discuss their experiences in a safe, supportive environment with their peers and allies. Resource groups include: Black Life Alliance, Asian American & Pacific Islanders, Women In Tech, LGBTQIA+, & Nitro Parents.

Maintaining and improving our employee’s health is a number one priority for Nitro. We understand that, more often than not, health and financial wellness are closely linked too. So to reduce strain, we provide top-tier Health and Dental benefits and life insurance packages to all full-time employees. Other programs like Families @ Nitro are designed to support and acknowledge our employees through all stages of the family journey, provide increased parental leave, family planning assistance, a baby bonding benefit, and more. We hope these programs remove pressure where possible to allow our employees to focus on what matters most.

I believe we have both the opportunity and responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of our employees. We work daily to foster an environment that positively contributes to the emotional, mental, physical, social, and financial wellness of our Nitronauts.

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?

We have invested in a few key areas that have helped us attract fantastic talent, such as introducing a hybrid work model, flexible time off, and a people-focused onboarding program.

Hybrid work models allow companies to expand their talent hiring pool, allowing for a better skill and culture fit for open positions, which ultimately improves company culture and decreases attrition.

For job seekers, flexible time off is at the top of the list of perks. Providing FTO allows employees the autonomy to take time off when they need to without worrying about “banking” vacation time in case of an emergency.

During our onboarding process, all Nitronauts are assigned a “Nitromate” to assist in transitioning to their new role. Nitromates are culture ambassadors who work outside of their departments to help NitroNewbies better understand the ins and outs of the company. Additionally, new hires are assigned department mentors to help guide them in their role, understand team and company objectives (and how they fit into that), and champion their success and growth.

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

Substantial change begins at the top, and we are working to educate and inform all leaders on how to champion their teams from productivity and performance, to wellness and DEIB. We encourage managers to lead by example and be open to communication about wellbeing at work within their teams. We provide them with resources on how to begin those conversations, address concerns and work together to find workplace wellness solutions with our Work @ Nitro Toolkit.

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?

Start with yourself, be an example. As leaders, taking care of yourself and your wellbeing is important to help those on your team follow suit. Also, participate in the wellness conversations at your organization. Programs are not a one-size-fits-all solution; they are meant to be flexible and adaptable as the workplace needs change and evolve. Share feedback with your HR/People department and managers about what you, your team, and the company could benefit from and how current programs are working or not working. In short, play an active role — forward movement is better than no movement at all.

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

1. Investing in parent/family programs.

Investing in early childhood is one of the most important things we can do as a society. Increasing leave options, phased return to work, and flex time off allow employees to invest time in the critical early years of a child’s development. We also want to openly acknowledge the silent, and typically taboo, situations that people too regularly find themselves in along the family journey and support accordingly.

2. Return to work.

Having a ‘Flexible Forever Program’ has widened our talent pool, allowing our teams to hire the best person for the job, regardless of location. Sometimes, the impact of in-person communication cannot be replaced with video calls. We value the ability to connect and collaborate face to face and have adopted an office hub model that allows employees to travel to work to meet with their peers on a regular basis and for special events.

3. Purpose at work.

Purpose at work is part of holistic wellbeing at work. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends Report, over the past two years, 44% of Millennials and 49% of Gen Z say they have made choices about the type of work they are prepared to do and the organizations for which they are willing to work based on their personal ethics. Employees who find purpose in their work are healthier, more resilient, more likely to recommend their company, and less likely to leave.

4. Focus on skills over jobs.

Encourage employees to develop critical skills that allow them multiple opportunities for career development, rather than skills specific to one role. Investment in career and employee development has encouraged Nitronauts to move within the organization, and because of this, internal promotions at Nitro have been steadily increasing year over year.

5. Drive meaningful DEIB efforts.

DEIB can no longer be just a “box check” initiative. It must be part of your core business strategy. Research data shows diverse companies perform better — companies with a strong DEIB culture report more engaged employees, higher eNPS scores, and more retention, so it makes business sense for all companies.

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

We are optimistic about the move toward a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing overall. Employment is becoming a more mutually beneficial relationship, and a focus on wellness is no longer just a nice to have. It is a necessity. Aside from working to improve our benefits, we are also developing a robust Work @ Nitro Toolkit. We want to give our employees the tools and best practices to maintain a healthy work-life balance while respecting time zones across our global team, which will contribute to the wellness of our employees across the globe.

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?

You can stay up to date with Nitro by following us on social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Read more about what it is like to be a Nitronaut on our blog.

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