Prioritize Physical Wellness — Offering employees a way to prioritize physical fitness such as subscriptions to workout classes is a great way to keep employees working well and retain them.
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 Jackie Sunga.
Jackie Sunga is an entrepreneur, conversion copywriter, and brand voice strategist for online course creators, coaches, and consultants. She specializes in sales copy, funnel strategy, and brand voice to help her clients attract perfect-fit customers and boost conversions of their sales funnels. Her approach to sales copy and brand messaging is strategic, data-driven, and fueled by deep customer empathy, so her clients can sell their educational online programs without sleazy or pushy sales tactics.
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.
Before starting my business, I was a teacher. Helping professions like teaching are notorious for glorifying burnout and viewing rest as lazy or shameful. I remember feeling under-appreciated for the long hours I was expected to put in without compensation. I knew I never wanted to be in a similar environment again.
After I left that work environment, I found myself in a work environment where emotional wellness was highly prioritized and lived out every day throughout the team culture. From then on, I knew that that was the type of culture I wanted to create in my own company. I knew that I wanted my company values to prioritize rest so that everyone can come to the job feeling equipped to do their best creative work.
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 organization defines wellness in 6 parts: emotionally, physically, intellectually, financially, interpersonally, and spiritually. Wellness is not a state where people aren’t just surviving, but a culture in which they are given the resources, support systems, and environment where they can perform at their best.
My organization measures wellness by the quality of inter-personal communication and the quality of the work completed. For example, by interpersonal communication, this can look like scheduling reviews with contractors every single quarter to check-in. During these quarterly reviews, I like to assess their overall happiness in their role and how honest they can be when communicating about all aspects of their role. Even more frequently than quarterly reviews, wellness can be measured by the quality of work completed on a regular basis. A person’s quality of work will be high when wellness in different areas of life is high, which makes it easy to respond to stressors with resilience. If the quality of work is suffering, it is time to examine one of the 6 areas of wellness I mentioned above.
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?
When employees and team members are given the resources they need to do a job well, without overlooking other areas of wellness, the organization thrives. For example, if employees sense that they have all the training they need to complete a job well, but they face low levels of emotional or social connection, those employees will not thrive to their fullest potential. If an employee perceives that emotional well-being is respected, but the organization does not provide the proper training to complete the scope of work well, this will affect job performance, productivity, and profitability.
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?
If organizations find it difficult to fund wellness programs, they can start to improve health and productivity in small ways. Making frequent but strong deposits into human connections and relationships does not cost anything. Communicate a strong mission, vision, and the core values of your organization. More importantly, live from them everyday. Actions speak louder than words. When employees are treated well, they will treat customers well. When customers are treated well, they will refer other customers to your business. Business growth and profitability does not happen in a marketing silo. Creating a strong brand identity that grows profitably is connected to employee happiness as well.
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?
It starts with how you communicate your values from the job description and at each step of the hiring process — and even the onboarding process. It is important to be clear very early on about important areas of discussion like DEI policies and financial incentives in order to find good talent and retain them. Employees will stick around if they feel that they are seen as individuals, if they share similar values with other members in an organization, and if there are opportunities to grow in more ways than one. I personally plan to offer financial incentives to team members to receive bonuses if they bring in new business.
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: It’s important to me to create a culture where nothing ever feels like it’s urgent or something is on fire. No one can thrive in a workplace where there is so much anxiety like that. I like to give flexibility in the time needed to respond to something.
- Emotional Wellness: Since my organization works remotely, we communicate via channels like Slack, Voxer, and Zoom. I acknowledge that there are unexpected things that happen in contractors’ lives that affect work performance. This looks like a #need-a-second Slack channel, where anyone can come and honestly share that they need a moment to collect themselves if something stressful has happened lately in their personal lives. It’s a place to feel understood, express needs honestly, and be connected with others.
- Social Wellness: We foster social connection by setting aside time to connect with each other on topics other than work. This also looks like giving feedback on things done well.
- Physical Wellness: This looks like encouraging conversations for getting proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise.
- Financial Wellness: This looks like opportunities for team members to earn incentives if they contribute to sales.
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?
Companies can create a work culture that supports emotional wellness first by respecting employees’ boundaries around time. If your team works remotely, and you have a message you want to share on the weekends for any reason, use the “schedule send” feature on Gmail or the “Schedule for later” feature on Slack.
If you have to send a message on the weekends or in the evenings, you can follow up with a reminder: communicating on the weekends is not meant to be the norm, and end your message with an encouragement to get deep rest. For example, you can say, “Please know that you don’t have to respond to this now 🙂 I needed to a place to capture my thoughts briefly before forgetting, but you can read this on Monday and we can discuss further on Monday. Hope you are enjoying some well-deserved rest this Saturday!”
Executives can also encourage employees to develop strong project management skills, where priorities are defined on a weekly basis, and open conversation loops are closed on Fridays. If everything is a priority and managers do not communicate structure, it is difficult to employees to stay focused on one thing.
Lastly, companies support a culture of wellness when executives encourage emotional resourcefulness. This can look like having open and honest conversations about how to manage emotions well toward work, such as overwhelm, self-criticism, or stress management. When strong emotions arise, it is always important to take a step back to observe them instead of reacting from them. This promotes a culture of emotional maturity, deeper human connection, psychological safety, and healthy interdependence.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
When company values are communicated from the get-go, there is not going to be a huge need to reskill because expectations were communicated early. With frequent communication that balances constructive feedback and praise about what is done well, relationships will be strong enough to weather stresses that are inevitable with work.
In my organization, it begins with having a strong team onboarding process and frequent check-ins to ensure that leaders in my organization have the resources to do a job well and they can speak up honestly about not only what they need, but also where improvements can be made to their overall happiness.
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?
Listen well to all members of your organization and ask how they are doing when things are going well, not just when it’s time to address problems. Praise them publicly for a job done well. Give grace when times are difficult. Empathy goes a very long way.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Incentivize Employees and Contractors Financially — Small business owners will do well when they can offer opportunities to receive financial incentives. Allow employees to earn bonuses if they help your company meet or exceed the sales goal.
- Encourage Honest Feedback — Often employees are the only ones who receive feedback, but rarely do they get to give feedback to supervisors about their dissatisfaction or where the organization as a whole has an opportunity to grow. A brand is strengthened when employees’ opinions are listened to, considered, and respected.
- Reinforce Boundaries — Brené Brown’s research showed that the most compassionate people were also the most boundaried. This can look like honoring the boundaries around home and work and encouraging strong project management skills so that time management can be performed well.
- Have Mental Health Check Ins — Whether this looks like offering paid time off (like on birthdays) or mental health days, make it a point to acknowledge it when employees honor their mental health and their rest. In an era where most people still feel shame about taking care of their mental health, workplaces have an opportunity to differentiate themselves when they celebrate mental health not just once a year, but all year long.
- Prioritize Physical Wellness — Offering employees a way to prioritize physical fitness such as subscriptions to workout classes is a great way to keep employees working well and retain them.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
More and more companies are understanding the importance of mental health. Whether that looks like more paid time off or implementing 4-day work weeks, prioritizing rest will not only encourage workplace wellness but will improve business sustainability overall.
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?
Feel free to join my email list at jackiesunga.co/email. I share stories that I don’t publish on social media. 🙂 You’re also welcome to send me an email at any time at [email protected].
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.