Flexibility: Give employees the freedom to work in the space where they are most productive by offering remote or hybrid options.

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 Glenor Cyrus.

Glenor Cyrus is a senior human resources advisor for strategic services at G&A Partners. A graduate of Tarleton State University, Glenor has nearly a decade of experience in human resources, helping companies by executing and supporting critical HR initiatives, developing HR policies, and attracting and retaining top talent. Her experience also includes working with clients to implement performance management and leadership development strategies.

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.

A few years ago while working with a different employer, I saw firsthand how important mental health is and how it can impact the workplace. My mother had recently passed away and I had traveled out of the country to attend her funeral. When I returned home, I learned that a colleague who had recently been laid off had died in tragic circumstances. I was devastated by the news. My colleague had been a friend who I often had lunch with, shared stories of our families with, and a person I valued.

Personally, I sought counseling as I was dealing with both the death of my mother and my colleague. Counseling helped me to process what had happened and helped me understand how to get well again.

Since then, I have learned that it’s important to strike a balance. It’s important to take care of your mental health and to make sure you have support to do so, especially in the workplace. It changed my relationship with work. I recognized that making the necessary changes to reduce stress was imperative, and I had the power to change so I could be successful.

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 is total mind and body and requires one, universal approach. Achieving physical wellness starts with mental wellness. Once your mind is focused and you know how you’re going to channel your thoughts, you can achieve physical wellness to make that whole person. In turn, that triggers how you’re going to be productive and how you’re going to implement, strategize, and come up with ideas so that you can make a significant contribution in the workplace.

At G&A Partners, wellness is centered around that universal approach. For example, employees can participate in an award-winning wellness program that offers a variety of options geared toward mental and physical well-being. The program includes monthly challenges such as limiting sugar intake or logging your reading minutes, company-wide challenges, discounted gym memberships, and biometric screenings.

G&A employees also have access to Teladoc and mental-health therapy, including a certain amount of sessions at no cost. This access lets employees know that they can feel comfortable letting their supervisor or teammates know that they are not OK.

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?

Honestly, if you’re not well, it’s very difficult to focus and produce. To be successful in the workplace, though, you must be able to focus and contribute. You must have a sound mind and body. The workplace can be stressful when production is up. For example, in our environment where many employees work with clients, one employee will have an assigned book of clients who all have different needs. You must be able to adapt and pivot, which takes focus. And to do that, you must be well in mind and body.

You want to be able to give your clients the best and provide world-class service. This goal applies to all non-business industries, like how a doctor wants to be able to take care of their patients and a teacher wants to help their students. It’s imperative that employees have mind and body balance so they can deliver their best.

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?

Financial stability is, of course, important for every business. When you have a productive workforce and a workforce that loves what they do, your returns are much higher. There is a financial return when you invest in wellness because your workforce will be able to give you 100% versus 70% because they are not well. Most companies will find the money for a new acquisition because it’s easy to summarize the numbers to make that decision. Leaders would benefit by approaching employee wellness that same way. Funding wellness programs helps with attracting and retaining employees who are looking for that wholesome company that offers these programs. In recent years, candidates and employees have valued wellness more than before and understand the importance of mental-health awareness and taking care of yourself.

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?

When working with clients who want to promote their wellness programs, I encourage them to provide wellness information during the recruiting process. Potential employees want to know what benefits and resources the company is offering. Including this information when advertising new positions makes it clear to candidates how important employee well-being is to the company.

To reach multiple generations, companies can also demonstrate how important employee well-being is through their social media efforts. They can also provide a variety of perks that will appeal to employees in different generations. For example, Baby Boomers may value healthcare and retirement options, while Generation Z may be more interested in mental-health benefits.

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.

There are several perks that companies can offer to their employees that specifically address employee wellness. Clients I work with have implemented many of the suggestions listed below.

  • Mental Wellness: Giving access to mental health counseling is an excellent way to support your employee’s mental well-being. Many companies are integrating on-demand mental-health help apps such as Headspace, Better Heath, etc., and other online platforms into their benefits where employees can have free or discounted access. Telehealth is another example that’s free of charge for all employees to utilize and employers pay a small nominal fee. With telehealth, employees can access high-quality service virtually from any location at times that fit their schedule. Other companies offer onsite yoga and meditation, or invite speakers to talk to employees about wellness and how it impacts their ability to function and focus.
  • Emotional Wellness: Emotional wellness directly impacts mental wellness. One way companies can support emotional wellness is by offering more flexibility. Several companies are offering hybrid work options and are catering to the large number of employees who no longer want to deal with the stress of commuting to an office. Employees want to find balance between home and work, and employers now recognize that.
  • Social Wellness: With so many employees working remotely, companies are getting creative in offering social outlets. Some employees may gather for an evening cocktail or have a coffee hour with their team during the day. Companies are also organizing unique social events, such as candle making or painting classes, offsite to help their teams bond. Volunteering is another way to promote social wellness. At G&A Partners, we are afforded eight hours of time off for volunteer opportunities. Volunteering with coworkers can create a bond but also provides a way for everyone to give back to the community.
  • Physical Wellness: Employers can support physical wellness by offering gym dues reimbursement, as G&A Partners does. Wellness programs can also encourage employees to exercise more through monthly challenges, such as a walking challenge.
  • Financial Wellness: Employers can offer employee assistance programs, which provide employees and their immediate family members confidential access to counselors, resources, and referrals for personal and work-related issues. EAPs also offer financial counseling to employees and their families, at no cost to the employee.

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?

By improving employee wellness, workplaces can benefit from a healthier staff that leads to increased productivity, greater employee engagement, decreased burnout, and reduced medical healthcare costs. Also, when employers offer these extra perks, they are able to attract and retain the best talent.

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

Leaders like to talk about financials. There first question is going to be, “What is the cost to the company?” My approach is always to present how is it going to benefit the leader first. For example, if a leader is facing an attendance problem, I show them that a well workforce could translate into a larger percentage of their workforce coming to work each day. That will increase productivity, which will lead to improved services for their clients. Overall, this will impact their bottom line.

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?

A good starting point — with minimal financial burden — is to talk to your employees who are on the front line, as they often have insight and want to contribute. Form an employee group to discuss ideas for your organization. Ask them, “This is what we want to do. How can we get there?” As a bonus, employees will appreciate that you’ve involved them in the process and will know that you value their voice and suggestions.

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

  1. Mental health awareness and education: A holistic approach to well-being in the workplace — mental and physical — as it takes both to achieve general well-being.
  2. Virtual care and classes: Virtual options expand access but also make it more convenient for employees. Examples include virtual yoga, meditation, and cooking classes.
  3. Flexibility: Give employees the freedom to work in the space where they are most productive by offering remote or hybrid options.
  4. Stress management: Utilize mindfulness and mediation as a solution to workplace stress.
  5. Mental health training for leaders: Training will help leaders recognize when employees need help. Also, employees want to participate on their terms. Therefore, it is imperative to give leaders the skills they need to recognize burnout and be prepared to as employees how they can help.

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

My greatest source of optimism is that workplace wellness is going to become second nature. Companies are going to recognize and understand that mental health is no longer a taboo subject, but rather a part of life. Mental health is necessary for the workforce to be productive. Mental health is not just for folks who are diagnosed with anxiety or depression. It’s a way of life so that we can be one with ourselves and be productive. Companies will embrace that.

This understanding will make it easier for those with a disability and for those without to get help. It will promote a more open and honest workplace and become second nature. For example, employees will know that it’s OK to take five minutes to meditate every day at work if that’s what they need to get through the next 30 minutes. More importantly, everyone in the workplace will be OK with it.

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?

Contact us at G&A Partners via email ([email protected]) or phone (866–497–4222).

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