Workplace Flexibility: Flexibility involving not only remote work but also schedule flexibility will continue to be a main trend related to employees’ wellness.

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 José R. Costa.

José R. Costa has a strong track record of global performance and growth in multi-unit retail operations across multiple industries. He currently serves as CEO of Magnolia Wash Holdings, an express car wash operator with over 100 locations across the southeastern U.S. He is a change agent who focuses on organizational performance by identifying new growth opportunities, developing integrated strategies, hiring and training exceptional talent, and delivering flawless execution.

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.

Work has always been part of my life as I started working when I was just 17 years old. Since then, I have always been able to balance work and personal life. While in college, I would work and study and still find time to practice sports and enjoy time with the family and friends. My strategy has always consisted of taking control of my day as best as possible. I usually wake up at 4:30 a.m., exercise from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., enjoy breakfast with my family, take the kids to school, work from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and finish my evening by having dinner with my family. Every quarter, I try to take at least one day off to spend extra time with my wife and children. Staying organized and planning out my days are some of the key strategies that have helped me find the right work-life balance, and consequently improve my relationship with 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?

At Magnolia Wash Holdings, we equate wellness to happiness. After all, happy employees lead to self-fulfilled employees as they feel energized, motivated, and engaged at work. To measure wellness, we conduct an employee satisfaction survey twice a year, as well as a monthly call with field employees. These are measures we take to check in with employees and help create a safe space where they can express their feelings and concerns. Additionally, our weekly executive meetings follow a psychological safety protocol that allows our team members to ask questions, contribute ideas and even challenge the status quo free of judgment and without fear of retaliation.

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?

Without a doubt, employee wellness translates into higher profitability and productivity. We see it in our financial results every quarter. In the past year, our company has grown to over 100 car wash locations spread across seven U.S. states and 1,200 employees and we have seen employee retention, happiness and engagement go up as we continue to scale. Additionally, a genuine smile on an employee’s face is another way to quantify well-being as it reflects a person’s emotional state, and I am proud to say that we do see a lot of smiles at Magnolia Wash Holdings.

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?

Pilot testing an initiative or program is the best way for an organization to see if a particular concept will work for them or not. It allows them to measure its potential success, see how feasible it is to implement it in the company and note what changes need to be made before a full-scale rollout. Since every company is different, when creating a well-being program, I would recommend organizations ask their employees for their feedback, so the program aligns with their corporate culture and employees’ needs.

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?

Magnolia Wash Holdings offers a variety of wellness and well-being programs to employees. However, having a flex work environment seems to be an important benefit for many job candidates and employees. At our company, we let employees work from home on Fridays. This initiative combined with our other wellness programs has helped us stay competitive as a company when recruiting and retaining talent.

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: The health insurance plans we offer employees include mental wellness. We also have an executive coach with a background in psychology who provides mental support free of charge to our executive team. Starting in 2023, we will be expanding the coach’s role to support other team members.
  • Emotional Wellness: We conduct employee satisfaction surveys twice a year, as well as monthly calls to check in on-field employees. Through our surveys and calls, we can identify challenges, increase transparency, and improve employee morale.
  • Social Wellness: We host monthly lunches for employees, which offer a space for them to sit together as a group and connect and socialize with each other. This helps build a sense of community at work.
  • Physical Wellness: We offer healthier food choices at our employee kitchens. We also have a gym located in the office building where our headquarters are located. Additionally, we provide recycled water bottles to our site managers so they can keep themselves hydrated throughout the day.
  • Financial Wellness: We offer financial literacy classes to employees. Most of these classes are online, but we also provide in-person classes with our CFO.

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?

Our programs have resulted not only in happy employees but also in higher productivity and innovation. Our employees are dedicated to the company and achieving its goals. When you think of employee retention in the current environment, employers need to be very creative and amalgamate various benefits, so employees feel appreciated and they stay with the company longer.

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

I believe in the “Shadow of the Leader” concept, which talks about the influence a leader exerts on their employees and the workplace as a whole. To support a “work well” culture, initial efforts need to come from top management. Satisfaction surveys, check-ins, peer meetings, seeking feedback, and keeping the lines of communication open are just a few of the initiatives and steps that leaders need to embrace so they eventually cascade down through the organization and become part of the company culture.

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?

Every team or organization should start every meeting by asking how everyone is doing. A simple check-in is a key step to connecting with colleagues and employees. Checking in can go beyond asking work-related questions but also taking an interest in someone’s personal interests outside the office. It is about caring!

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

  1. Workplace Flexibility: Flexibility involving not only remote work but also schedule flexibility will continue to be a main trend related to employees’ wellness.
  2. Feedback: Finding better mechanisms to request and receive feedback from employees is key to improving internal processes and the work environment
  3. Health Insurance Plans: Companies will look to offer better health insurance plans that provide mental health coverage, as well as other services such as psychological support.
  4. Physical Space: Organizations will continue to design work environments and physical spaces with employees’ wellness in mind, such as offices with greener spaces and lounge areas, as well as areas that encourage physical activity.
  5. Online Reviews: Encourage managers and top management to regularly check reviews online to see what former employees are saying about the organization and what is the overall sentiment towards the company. This can provide useful insight!

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

Talking to other CEOs is a great source of optimism for me. As more and more staff members and organizations are raising awareness about the importance of employee well-being and mental health, we are starting to see change being implemented across different industries. Even though it has been a slow process, workplace wellness is becoming a priority for many employers.

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 follow me on my LinkedIn:

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