Financial Wellness: Throughout the pandemic, more people chose to focus on financial well-being. Being in control of finances contributes to mental and physical well-being for employees.

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 Karen Neuendorff, Chief People Officer and Head of Human Resources at Brii Biosciences. Karen has more than 20 years of experience as a transformational HR leader with a passion for harnessing human capital as a key driver of business. Throughout her career, she has converted business goals into HR initiatives that improve performance, profitability, growth, and employee engagement on a global scale.

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.

When I started my HR career, I was an HR Associate at a large global organization. During my first day, there was a mass layoff, and I was asked to sit in during the meetings. I will never forget the look on the managers’ faces as they had to let their employees go and the tears of the employees who had to leave.

I’ve been in HR for 20+ years, and that experience has taught me that empathy, respect, and professionalism are essential attributes for anyone who wants to be successful in the HR profession. It can be extremely challenging but also very rewarding.

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?

In the corporate setting, “employee wellness” is often pigeon holed as physical health (i.e., getting fit or improving other physical indicators). At Brii, we prefer to take a more holistic approach by focusing on employee well-being, which encompasses physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial health. We understand that employee wellbeing is a critical component to our company’s success and enabling health across all aspects of our employees’ well-being, not just physical, is necessary to retaining and attracting top talent, especially in today’s competitive biotechnology industry.

When employees are empowered to live a healthy and balanced life, we know that it reduces the risk of chronic disease and improves the quality of daily living. Employees are happier, healthier, and more engaged. We also realize cost savings through improved productivity and a decrease in health-related expenses and absenteeism.

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?

Healthy employees are more engaged. Highly engaged employees, when paired with a strong company culture, are happier and consistently show higher rates of productivity and job satisfaction. A well workforce is a key driver of profit and growth, especially when retaining talent in the long-term.

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?

When engaging leaders, it’s important to provide the background, education, sense of urgency, and the cost/benefit for the wellness program.

That said, every organization is different, so I would also encourage leaders to identify ways to do what they can based on what makes the most sense for their company and their employees. It’s okay for organizations to start small by organizing a walking challenge with employee teams or partnering with a guest speaker to discuss mental health. Many health providers also offer a wellness allowance, so organizations can take advantage of that to implement a wellness program.

Offering flexible work schedules also allow employees to practice healthy habits, such as regular exercise, practicing self-care, cooking healthy meals, and getting more sleep. A great thing about flexible work environments is that employers can benefit from it just as much as employees do, making it a win-win solution.

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?

At Brii, we offer comprehensive health benefit plans to our employees. Our medical providers offer wellness coaching, education, and programs. There is also free access to wellness and fitness apps like Calm and Classpass and gym discounts.

Additionally, we offer flexible work options, such as hybrid work schedules and remote work. We also have generous paid time off so that employees can have a sense of work-life balance.

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

We obtain the pulse of our company by conducting Employee Engagement surveys. We also hold formal and informal Town Hall meetings to check in with employees and to have an open dialogue about their needs. We encourage employees to present different topics in these meetings so that it’s not just senior leadership presenting and so all of our team members feel that they have a stake in helping to build the Company that they want to work for.

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?

Create a team activity, such as a walking challenge using fitness trackers and award prizes. Friendly competition can be a great motivator!

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

  1. Mental Health: Health and wellness solutions that focus on resilience training, mindfulness, virtual mental health services, and positive coping mechanisms will be key in 2022.
  2. Stress Management: With the pandemic, stress levels have reached unprecedented levels. Since stress can cause many health issues, both mentally as well as physically, it makes sense for organizations to add stress management tools to their benefit offerings.
  3. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Social injustice has put a tremendous strain on employees who feel they need to be on guard to protect themselves from bias and discrimination. Creating a sense of belonging is extremely important to fulfilling DE&I initiatives.
  4. Accommodating Remote and Hybrid Workers: This is here to stay. Leaders need to account for this to achieve lasting working wellness in their organizations. Offering a flexible work schedule is a wellness measure in itself, as well as a recruiting and retention tool.
  5. Financial Wellness: Throughout the pandemic, more people chose to focus on financial well-being. Being in control of finances contributes to mental and physical well-being for employees.

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

Corporate wellness isn’t just about health and dental plans anymore. More and more companies will incorporate holistic health options as a standard benefit offering.

Working remotely during the pandemic has ushered in a new era of productivity. A flexible work schedule has become the new normal for many organizations. We recognize that offering this can play a significant role in recruiting and retaining talent.

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 connect with me on LinkedIn.

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