Setting boundaries — Boundaries have been something that I’ve struggled with since I started my career and will always be a struggle. People need to understand boundaries and share that they have their limits and need to take breaks. This is something therapists discuss with their patients all the time and is something that can easily be implemented in the workplace if leaders empower their employees to do so.

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 Johnny Hanna, Co-Founder and CEO at Homie.

Johnny Hanna is the co-founder and CEO of Homie. Prior to Homie, Johnny was co-founder and president of Entrata, where he helped grow the company to over $100M in annual recurring revenue and over $1 billion in monthly rent payment processing. Homie has grown rapidly under Johnny’s leadership and has been named on the 2021 Inc. 5000 list and the 25th fastest growing company on the 2020 Deloitte Fast 500. Johnny has been honored as a finalist for EY Entrepreneur of the Year and winner of Utah Business CEO of the Year. Johnny is an advocate for mental health awareness and improving mental fitness. He is the father of eight kids.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life

One example of how I changed my relationship with work was how I prepare for company meetings. I previously had so much fear going into meetings because I wanted to look polished and prepared, so company meetings were a huge stressor for me. That was until I recognized that it was all in my head, and people just wanted me to be my authentic self. Now I know that I’m doing my best and putting in everything that I have, but the thing I can’t control is how others feel.

Another change I’ve made is putting off work. I wanted to start my Monday mornings by going on a bike ride with my wife, pushing my workday to start a little later. I initially felt a lot of shame around pushing meetings back, but after I was straight forward with my co-founders, I found that they were perfectly fine with accommodating my schedule. It seemed a lot harder in my head than what ended up being the case, but now I have a better balance with my family that enables me to perform better at work.

How does your organization define wellness? And how does your organization measure wellness?

We measure wellness with our ENPS surveys (employee net promoter score), and we also frequently ask each other about our “battery life,” like where’s your battery life? Do you need to recharge? Are you completely empty? Are you full? So those are really good tools to measure wellness.

I don’t think we explicitly define wellness, instead we promote wellness in whatever ways our employees see their personal definition of wellness. Like I mentioned previously, my thing is taking a bike ride on Monday mornings. It is such a great way for me to start off the week in nature. Nature has always been a place for me to meditate, a place for me to heal, and a place for me to feel refreshed.

That said, I do believe I need to lead by example and share with the people at Homie what my definition of wellness is. My hope is that I will inspire others to set boundaries for themselves.

How do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

Right now for Homie, the real estate market is crazy, and our agents have to show more homes per buyer than ever before. I think wellness can be affected based on how hard your job is, and there are so many other factors that can influence our state of mind. Our job as leaders is to recognize that and support our people, knowing the circumstances and offering whatever support and advice we can give them. I truly believe that employees need to have time for themselves to focus on their mental health. I 100% feel that they perform better when they have had a chance to step back from work, reflect on themselves and unplug for a bit.

What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

I would say to let go of control, lead by example and be vulnerable. I recommend that people open up if they want to, and if you need to, provide resources for people to get help or get therapy. On the flipside, if they decide not to take your advice, also recognizing that you’re not in control of what they do.

How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

One of the things we do is address mental health in our new hire training. At Homie, mental health is the foundation of our values. We encourage employees to “check yourself before you wreck yourself,” and the only way to do that is through self-reflection.

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: To help maintain that work-from-home life balance, Homie has rolled out a program with a company that allows you to sign up for therapy that the company pays for.
  • Emotional Wellness: Because of COVID, we’ve come to recognize that people can get work done and be very productive from home. I think the ability to now work from anywhere is such a positive aspect for mental health and wellness, so we’re going to continue to allow people to work from home.
  • Physical Wellness: We encourage our employees to take time for themselves, take walks and even push the workday a little to get outside. As a leader I’ve spoken about leading by example, so I hope I can help instill in my employees that they can use the time to focus on physical wellness while also working on their mental wellness.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas about or above to improve employee wellness, what were workplaces, other workplaces benefit from doing that sort of same thing?

I think a lot of companies preach about transparency, and a lot of that revolves around their key performance indicators: metrics, and financials. But I think transparency is helpful to a company and there should be transparency around mental health, struggles and challenges that are real.

So how are you re-skilling leaders in your organization to support a work well culture and to support the kind of wellness of the company and the people.

I don’t know if re-skilling is the term that I would use, but in our one-on-one meetings, we encourage managers to dive in a little bit more by asking employees how they feel about things like the current economy or about everything that’s going on in the world. We aim to ask questions like how are you really doing? I think that keeps us focused on each other as people instead of taskmasters.

What is one small step every individual team or organization can take to get started on these ideas to get well?

You need to feel safe with individuals who are your corporate leaders. There are plenty of toxic leaders and toxic individuals at companies, so if you are a leader, I would suggest opening up to your people so they know that you also have struggles. This will in turn encourage them to feel safe about opening up about their personal challenges.

The top five trends to track in the future of workplace wellness.

  • Mental Health Stigma — I’m seeing the stigma around mental health going away. More and more people, as well as leaders are feeling empowered to be vulnerable, and I think that’s a skillset leaders are going to need to have for this next generation of workers.
  • Hustle Culture — Another trend I’m seeing is how the hustle culture is being frowned upon instead of celebrated. Putting in 90 to 100 hour work weeks used to be praised, but now people are seeing that this person is not living a balanced life.
  • Access to therapy — Companies are also now offering their employees therapy, and I think this will continue to increase in a lot of businesses.
  • Access to mental health days — Another trend that I’m sure many companies are seeing is time and access to more frequent mental health days that aren’t labeled as sick days. I’ve been seeing companies talk about it on LinkedIn, and it has helped to normalize a lot of that behavior. Burnout is a real thing, and that can lead to anxiety and more — people need to take a day off.
  • Setting boundaries — Boundaries have been something that I’ve struggled with since I started my career and will always be a struggle. People need to understand boundaries and share that they have their limits and need to take breaks. This is something therapists discuss with their patients all the time and is something that can easily be implemented in the workplace if leaders empower their employees to do so.

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

Having the ability to share my own challenge has been my greatest source of optimism, knowing that I, as a leader, can now have more empathy for everyone else at the company since I have faced my own demons. I have seen a trickle-down effect since I opened up. After I had shared my story, two people shared their severe mental health stories with me, and they felt they could confide in me. Looking back, I’m so grateful that they felt safe enough to come to me and open up.

What suggestions do you get or like would you give to someone who’s not necessarily at Homie, or a space where it’s so comfortable but really does need to help?

We all gravitate to certain coworkers that we know are good listeners and that we can trust. We’re all a little bit guarded if we have that manager or boss that’s a workaholic, so finding support within a company is so important. Having somebody that you can go to with your struggles and know that they’ll validate you is essential.

As a company, we’ve recommended to everybody to truly check in on the person during their one-on-one meetings, going beyond the usual “how was your weekend?” or “how are you doing?.” We encourage our people to go deeper and ask meaningful questions and listen.

What is the best way like potential interviewees can be connected with you and like what you’re looking into? I know there’s a blog and I know we’re doing more of these interviews. But is there a way like that you’re speaking about the stuff or personally live on LinkedIn or something that could be a resource that people not just in Homie?

I have been active on LinkedIn and have posted there and been really vulnerable. I’ve had a ton of people reach out because of my posts, including a CEO out in Boston who reached out to me for advice and we had the opportunity to get very candid and personal.

I feel that we get into this mode where life is business and wherever we work is life, but we need to work on separating ourselves from that. It’s important to take time and take care of your personal life first.

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