Four-day work week. While I haven’t seen many clients adopt the four-day work week model, it is definitely a hot topic right now. Personally I believe that companies can offer many other benefits such as leaving early on a Friday, or benefits similar to what we offer at Betts to achieve the same goal of rewarding their employees without missing a full day of client communication.
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 work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Schmidt.
Leslie Schmidt is the vice president of recruiting — East at Betts, a leading nationwide technology and recruiting services firm that specializes in revenue-generating talent across the United States. With more than eight years of experience, Schmidt leads a team of recruiters who help full-time professionals in sales, marketing, customer success, and leadership roles in their transition to rewarding positions at innovative technology companies.
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.
My formative experience, which was one that was experienced around the world, was during 2020 when working from home became the new normal. As an employee who never had a remote job and no home office, I had a lot to learn about how to have work/life balance while living and working in the same space. The biggest challenge and lesson I learned was about boundaries; specifically when work stops and home life begins. I went from having a team that was accustomed to being able to see whether you’re at your desk and available, to having the entire company working from home. This took some getting used to. The lesson I taught myself was to set boundaries for when the workday is over. If a Slack or email comes through that’s not urgent? It can wait until morning. Making dinner? Put the phone out of reach so you can enjoy time to yourself. Going for a walk? Don’t look at your phone until you get home. I found that this helped me unplug for long enough to feel that I had “left” the office and made a clear line for when the workday was over rather than letting it spill over into my evenings and nights, which can lead to burnout. After learning this lesson I can truly say that my boundaries and relationship with work are much healthier than they were prior to 2020.
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?
Over the last couple of years, our company has focused primarily on wellness in terms of mental health due to the nature of the pandemic. However, we have made changes to help all three categories of mental, physical and financial wellness. Measuring wellness can be tricky; it’s not data you can pull into a report. At Betts, we rely on the strong social relationships we have with our teams. As a manager, you need to get to know the individual personalities on your team, watch for changes in behavior, and ask questions that let the team feel safe and create an environment where teammates are open to sharing where their wellness level is.
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?
From experience, the correlation between wellness and productivity/profitability is extreme. When wellness on a team dips it can lead to burnout, and no team working at that level is going to be successful. This is true not only of success monetarily, but retention also comes into play. In this market, with the number of candidates job searching and companies hiring, employees will not stay to work on a team that doesn’t strive to keep them healthy and balanced. Employees are no longer settling for murky boundaries and burnout, so keeping wellness at the forefront of company policy is essential for retention and success on all fronts.
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?
There are various programs a business can implement for different levels and commitments. Employers who are hesitant should take the first step and start researching options. Once they find programs that they’re comfortable with, survey the team to see the value they see in each option. Receiving buy-in from the team that these are programs that would be beneficial may change their perspective, along with the clear data that shows companies (likely similar to theirs) seeing a positive impact from these programs.
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?
Our head of talent acquisition at Betts is well-versed in our wellness benefits and is excited to share them when interviewing candidates to join our team. She knows the value these hold and the weight candidates in today’s market put on wellness in the workplace. During the first and second rounds of interviews with possible candidates, our head of talent acquisition often gets asked about the culture at Betts, so she asks in return, “what does culture mean to YOU?” to understand what benefits are important to each job applicant. Based on their response, she’ll highlight a number of the benefits below, adding additional specifics that align with their culture needs:
- Vacation stipend
- Monthly wellness reimbursement
- Unlimited PTO
- Wellness Wednesday
- Bonusly (tool that integrates with Slack that allow money-driven awards and acknowledgement)
- Company trips (Summits) and quarterly in-person team events
- Hybrid/Optional office schedules (in office options to work in a team environment)
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:
At Betts, we offer a vacation stipend which is available for employees annually after they have been with the company for two years. The rule for this policy is that the employee must take a least one week off for vacation and spend the entire stipend when they’re there. We have found that three-day weekends do not help mental wellness the same way one week does, so it is required to ensure our team members return feeling relaxed and refreshed. As this benefit is also offered to management, leadership is encouraged to lead by example, taking time off and unplugging as well.
We also have Wellness Wednesday every week, where we encourage the team to do an activity of their choice at the end of each Wednesday that will help their wellness balance, whether that be a workout class, a walk around the neighborhood, or reading a book, etc.
- Emotional Wellness:
At the beginning of 2022, we switched our insurance to one that provides mental health help, with some sessions offered free, to allow our team members to reach out to a professional when they need help handling life’s tough situations. In addition, at Betts, we have created a culture of transparency and open communication. Our teams know they can ask their managers for breaks if they’re feeling overwhelmed or seeing any signs of burnout.
- Social Wellness:
At Betts, we offer twice-annual Summits (company trips) and in-person team events to bring teams together and build social relationships with their teammates near and far across the country. Although Betts is a remote-first company, we do offer in-office options for teams to get together as often as they see fit. This allows for more social interaction but leaves it optional for the team members to decide.
- Physical Wellness:
We offer monthly stipends to spend on health and wellness, this can be anything from gym memberships to massages. This benefit takes the stress out of the financial burden memberships can sometimes be on employees who want to get healthy.
- Financial Wellness:
At Betts, performance-driven bonuses in equity and money are tied to milestones and success. Betts invests more money back into the team, allowing the team more ways to make money outside of their salary. This benefit not only encourages the team to push for success, they feel more financially compensated at the same time. Betts also pays its employees at each level the same as their counterparts across the U.S. Location does not change an employee’s compensation which allows for equity company-wide.
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?
Workplaces can benefit from creating an employee-first culture. Companies will begin to see increased employee engagement and motivation by prioritizing employee wellness in all aspects. By creating an environment where employees know they are encouraged to prioritize their well-being, companies will begin to see happier employees motivated to stay at the company and perform well.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
At Betts, our leadership team works directly with a third-party consultant who focuses on wellness, coaching and diversity. She meets 1:1 with employees, in some cases weekly, to discuss any of our team’s hardships and ways we can improve the company overall.
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?
Try a team survey to get started. At Betts, we do engagement surveys to collect anonymous feedback and ideas from the team and to do a pulse check on the team’s level of satisfaction when it comes to leadership and the company as a whole.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Four-day work week. While I haven’t seen many clients adopt the four-day work week model, it is definitely a hot topic right now. Personally I believe that companies can offer many other benefits such as leaving early on a Friday, or benefits similar to what we offer at Betts to achieve the same goal of rewarding their employees without missing a full day of client communication.
- External wellness consultants. As companies continue to learn and evolve with what the current workforce is prioritizing, they are going to realize that the ROI of an external wellness consultant will be exponential. What so many of us learned through the pandemic was that we were not prioritizing wellness in the workplace as much as we thought we were. With the new workforce keeping wellness top of mind, having some kind of outside source of knowledge is essential to creating a great program.
- Vacation stipends. At the end of 2021, I took off two full weeks off and went to Belize. The stipend was able to cover all my hotel accommodations, my flights, fun day excursions and more. But most importantly, I was able to completely unplug because of my extremely supportive teams at home that picked up all my work in my absence allowing me to focus on taking a real break. Also, although trying not to work while there, I did find myself having creative ideas on what I could do after returning to better serve my team’s success. After coming back from this trip, I could feel a major surge of energy to get back to work and was able to put many of my new ideas into practice. I’m looking forward to my next trip this year, which will be to Costa Rica!
- In-office vs. remote working. This will continue to vary based on company and industry. There are some industries where in-person and office working is essential to business operations; however, we are going to continue to see the conversation revolve around employee flexibility, and employers will focus on creating an environment that is the most conducive to innovation whether that be in office, fully remote, or a mix of both.
- Company retention (with and without wellness programs). This is a huge conversation now as we are still in the midst of both the Great Resignation and the Great Rehiring. Employees are becoming more and more aware of the benefits, salary, and working environments that are offered, and they are no longer going to settle for less. It will be interesting to see how companies with dated policies, benefits, “old school” culture choose to evolve or stay the same and how they are able to retain employees.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
My source of optimism comes from my own experiences with workplace wellness, knowing that many small changes can add up to big lifestyle changes. The impact on one’s life (both personal and professional) can be incredible, so continuing down the road of wellness awareness and encouragement won’t stop for Betts anytime soon.
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 find me on LinkedIn by visiting, https://www.linkedin.com/in/leslieschmidt/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.