… Free or heavily discounted gym memberships or on-site gyms. This is already a fairly common perk to see in the workplace, but I’d like to see an increase of gentle support for staff who may not otherwise have the means or want to spend their income on a membership.

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 Lindsey Dinneen.

Lindsey is an entrepreneur, creator, learner, and dancer. She founded and is the Artistic Director of the professional dance company, VidaDance, is a Sales & Marketing Specialist for a contract medical device manufacturer, she creates online dance and wellness courses for Life, But Better, and she founded and owned VidaDance Studio for six years. She is passionate about helping women and men live their most healthy, successful, empowered, and inspired lives.

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.

I was three and a half years into owning and running a dance studio, when I looked in the mirror one day and didn’t recognize the face staring back at me. I was only 30, but I looked years older with dark circles under my eyes and an obvious lack of joy or energy. I barely smiled or sang at all anymore, and I usually love both of those activities dearly! I was utterly exhausted. Despite having successfully created a very positive environment for my own staff to work in, I was simultaneously destroying my own health. I had to make a hard decision. I needed to close my rented studio location and pivot to an entirely different format where I only coached a select group of seven students. It was a very difficult adjustment period to shut down a studio space my husband and I had worked so diligently to build, but in the end, regaining my health and joy by adjusting my work format and priorities was wonderfully life changing.

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?

My professional dance company, VidaDance, would define wellness as “being in excellent health in your mind, body, and soul.” We have worked diligently to create a company culture that allows us to thrive while pursuing our fitness goals, mental wellbeing, and spiritual/practical needs for fulfillment and stability. It has always been my number one priority to nurture an environment where dancers feel included, respected, appreciated, cared for, empowered, and inspired. While it’s tricky to measure wellness on the individual level because everyone is so different, for the organization as a whole, we can measure wellness by regular group and private check-ins, by providing that safe space to share concerns and ideas, and by supporting each other’s mental, physical, spiritual, and financial health goals.

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?

As a nonprofit professional dance company, having a well workforce is imperative to our success. Without our dancers being healthy in all areas of their lives, they can’t show up to dance at a professional level that demands excellence, precision, and grueling work ethic. By supporting wellness efforts for our dancers, we decrease “off-days” due to mental or physical injuries while increasing job satisfaction, rehearsal productivity, and overall performance. We have incredibly low attrition, which saves us money and impacts our bottom line in a positive way.

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?

As a business owner, I completely understand the cognitive dissonance that can arise when you’re asked to invest upfront into something that is a very long-game plan for ROI. However, your people are by far your greatest assets. Having healthy, happy, engaged employees is key to your success and continued growth as a company. Think of the investment like you do for marketing activities — often, marketing strategies are a long-term plan that can take months or years to return to you. But, that slow burn of building your brand awareness so potential clients know, like, and trust you pays off in the long run with satisfied customers who are your biggest referral advocates. If investing in marketing is a no-brainer for your business, investing in your people should be too. The impact you’ll have in demonstrating to your employees how committed you are to their wellbeing will transform your organization into one people want to stay with for years.

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?

You know, my company is a little different in that physical wellness is built into the core of what we do. In talent recruitment, what stands out to potential candidates is our emphasis on our mentally healthy and physically safe work environment — something that is shockingly rare in the professional dance world. While not a religious organization, we do bring some elements of spirituality into our backstage pre-performance huddle, and these are optional to attend and participate in. I rarely seek out talent. We receive a lot of interest from dancers who hear about the company and want to be in our inclusive, supportive, encouraging environment because they’re so tired of being treated poorly elsewhere.

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: We encourage open conversations about mental health, sharing when we aren’t doing well, and cheering each other on to seek whatever works best to promote our mental health, especially counseling.
  • Emotional Wellness: We encourage a company atmosphere that doesn’t force us to feel any which way on any given day, but meets us where we are and allows for honesty and vulnerability.
  • Social Wellness: We encourage engagement with each other and our extended network of supportive people outside of work so that work isn’t the only thing in our lives. We host company get-togethers and parties, plus casual one-on-one coffee dates.
  • Physical Wellness: We encourage our dancers to stay fit and healthy through regular dance and complementary workouts to stay at the top of their game and avoid injuries. When injured, we actively encourage our dancers to take time off, seek guidance from medical professionals, and return only when fully healed.
  • Financial Wellness: We encourage our dancers to become financially savvy, to save, invest, and spend responsibly with a realistic monthly budget that accounts for both the daily necessities and the occasional splurges.

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?

  1. Investing in employees’ mental and emotional wellness can lead to their greater satisfaction and productivity at work, resulting in more efficiency, profit, and satisfied customers.
  2. Investing in employees’ social wellness can show that you care about the employee beyond what they contribute to the company and about their life outside of work.
  3. Investing in employees’ physical wellness with gym memberships, quarterly goals challenges, and excellent health care benefits can lead to fewer sick days, more energy, and better moods from your staff who, in turn, will take care of your customers even better.
  4. Investing in employees’ financial wellness with fair and attractive compensation packages, adequate PTO, and other incentives such as bonuses, raises, and commission can lead to staff feeling valued, appreciated, and taken care of.

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

You know, I’ve found it comes naturally that when your encourage a healthy workplace, other people in the organization start stepping into leadership roles to support those efforts. When you’ve made wellness a top priority in your company, and people appreciate that, I’ve observed that they continue to want to nurture and guide those efforts.

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?

Isn’t that the truth! Yes, ideas definitely take time to implement. One small thing that individuals, teams, and organizations can do to promote wellness is to start the day or the weekly meeting with a question to encourage open conversations about wellness. Questions such as “how are you feeling today?” or “what’s one thing you did last week for your wellbeing?” or “how are you incorporating a healthy habits into your week?” can normalize and spark discussions about health and wellbeing.

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

  1. More PTO, paid holidays, paid parental leave, paid sick days, and paid mental health days. Not having enough flexibility in paid time off can easily lead to rapid burnout, job dissatisfaction, and a sense of life/work imbalance. Having a liberal PTO policy that encompasses the above scenarios is essential to the future of well workplaces for all areas of health.
  2. Better health insurance coverage for employees. Many companies cut costs by not offering healthcare or barely subsidizing it, which leaves many people in a lurch when it comes to basic, essential healthcare (let alone emergency services). I’d like to see an increase in companies going all in to either cover the entire premium for employees or offer a substantial subsidy.
  3. Onsite mental health professionals for larger companies. It’s common to have counselors in schools, yet not in workplaces. I’d love to see companies start employing counselors in their human resources departments for confidential, onsite support.
  4. Free or heavily discounted gym memberships or on-site gyms. This is already a fairly common perk to see in the workplace, but I’d like to see an increase of gentle support for staff who may not otherwise have the means or want to spend their income on a membership.
  5. Free subscriptions to fitness apps and in-person fitness classes. Teaming up with fitness app services like Apple Fitness, or allowing each employee to have a virtual class card to yoga, dance, spin, etc. classes through a service like ClassPass, is a great trend to give staff more opportunities to get and stay fit if they don’t’ enjoy a typical gym workout.

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

First of all, we’re having this conversation! So that assures me that there is interest in improving the future of workplace wellness from both the perspectives of the employers and the employees. Prospective staff are demanding workplaces that protect and nurture wellness. Having these types of conversations, brainstorming ways to implement new strategies and ideas, and truly starting to see positive change in many companies makes me very optimistic for the future of workplace wellness.

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 my work at www.lifebutbetter.org, where you’ll find my blog, recipes, links to my online dance and wellness courses, and pictures of some of the whimsical artwork I’ve created. You’re also always welcome to email me at [email protected] or check out www.vidadancecompany.com to learn more about my professional dance company!

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

Thank you so much for having me! It’s been an honor.