The Great Reshuffling: New Hires
An opportunity to conceptualize a team’s responsibilities and dynamics in a new way as you bring on employees to fill vacant roles.

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 Jenny Maenpaa.

Jenny Maenpaa, LCSW, EdM is the creator of The FIREwork, an evidence-based framework designed to empower individuals or professional organizations to be forces of change in their lives and the world around them. Jenny is a licensed clinical social worker with a master’s degree in both social work and in education, focusing on curriculum and instruction, and a graduate of New York University’s Organizational and Executive Coaching program. She is also the founder of Forward in Heels, an intersectional feminist group therapy practice serving all genders.

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.

AsI was approaching my 30th birthday, I realized I was completely burnt out and still had decades of work ahead of me. I was working somewhere that expected me to go above and beyond every day, to show up early and stay late, and was resistant to ideas of how we could do things differently.

I knew something had to change. I created a system that allowed me to identify my values, align my life with those values, and take action to live my life to the fullest. I call this system The FIREwork and it can empower individuals to use their own values to be forces of change in their lives and the world around them.

But, there’s only so much one person can do on their own. People need support from better systems. Drawing from my social work education and experience, I adapted The FIREwork framework to focus on the specific challenges of the workplace so that managers, human resources departments, and entire companies could implement these strategies right away to improve company morale, collaboration, and ultimately, results.

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?

We work with organizations to measure perceptions and values before and after working with them to build momentum from the immediately implementable techniques. Given the complexities of measuring work-life wellness, we use quantitative (pre and post-surveys with objective numbers attached for comparison) and qualitative measures (subjective measures of self-reports) to increase participants’ self-awareness and agency over their wellness.

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?

Aim for short-term investments that yield long-term results. Most wellness programs focus on an afternoon or a weekend. Those moments are necessary but come Monday morning, the stress is back. My approach focuses on tools and practices that individuals and organizations can continually use to provide self-care, prevent burnout, and maintain productivity.

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.

I shy away from siloing any of these programs and labeling them as innovative. Instead, I take a more holistic and evidence-based approach. The FIREwork programs address and impact all of these areas because there is power in the interconnectivity.

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?

I see three benefits — stronger leaders, stronger employees, and a stronger bottom line.

First, address the challenge of Human Resources professionals, executives, and managers who are dealing with their own stress and that of their direct reports. By equipping them with better tools and support, the benefits ripple out. As flight attendants always tell us, “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Human resources can’t help their companies if they are not taking care of themselves.

By providing work conditions that put employee wellness first, it reduces the turnover that we see teams reeling from lately. It prevents the plummeting team morale that happens when remaining employees are forced to take on too much and burn out. It steers towards optimal performance and better allows for those employees to thrive.

Finally, turnover is costly. According to Forbes, The Work Institute estimates that turnover is 33% of a worker’s annual salary, while others estimate the cost to be up to 1.5 times an employee’s salary. Whatever the true number, it’s one companies can’t afford to gamble with these days.

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

My approach as a therapist and mental health clinician has always been to address the whole person and recognize all facets of someone’s life. I want to help organizations understand that employees aren’t just “resources” that can turn life off when they sit down to work. There’s really no such thing as work-life balance, which implies that we can focus on one while ignoring the other. We need to focus on incorporating all areas into our work-life wellness because we are people who exist in multiple domains at once.

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?

One small step is to take one deep breath. Forcing your brain to focus and slow your breathing leads to a calmer nervous system in your body and a more relaxed mind. Like a shorter version of meditation, it can improve resilience to stress, decrease feelings of depression, and increase positive feelings.

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

  1. Human Resources Managers Training
    Providing specific guidance they need to operate with the new stresses of work-life while maintaining their own self-care.
  2. The Great Reshuffling: Legacy
    An opportunity to reconceptualize workflows and priorities for the team that is retained, rather than defaulting to more work for fewer employees.
  3. The Great Reshuffling: New Hires
    An opportunity to conceptualize a team’s responsibilities and dynamics in a new way as you bring on employees to fill vacant roles.
  4. Reframing Goals and Key Performance Indicators
    Transitioning from the “how” to the “what” allows for flexibility and life that exists outside of work.
  5. Fostering Diversity and Inclusion
    Supporting and encouraging the differing needs and skillsets within the workforce.

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

We have seen a huge uptick in outreach from Human Resources representatives who want to be more inclusive and considerate around wellness. The pandemic gave workplaces an unexpected opportunity to evaluate how they were operating and consider if continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done is really serving everyone’s needs.

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?

They can reach me through my website,

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