Transparency in the interview process is important on both the side of the company and the candidate. It doesn’t serve either to not be direct and truthful during the process and misalignment on the working environment, company culture, etc. will impact employee wellness. If all employees at the company are regularly working 45 hours a week, managers should then share that during the interview process. You want to bring on the employee who is excited about that, not the one who is expecting to sign off at 5:30 p.m. every day.

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 Liz DeGroot.

Liz DeGroot is Head of People and Finance at Eden, an all-in-one people operations platform for employee-centric companies. Liz brings 10+ years of professional experience in operations, compliance and people management to develop the best practices for success across Eden’s teams.

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. 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?

We are human first, and wellness is a core human value that is mission critical to organizational productivity and profitability. If something is impacting an employee before they log on for work, maybe a bad night’s sleep or a break up with a partner, these problems don’t just go away when that employee opens their laptop. Most employee’s will have their productivity impacted by these types of life events. As leaders, we can’t expect our employees to be at 100% output 100% of the time — that isn’t realistic. We do need employees to deliver consistently to have a successful company. This is why we need to keep wellness as a top priority.

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?

You can’t talk about wellness without first talking about culture and how we create a safe environment that actually encourages that for our people. At Eden, we lay the foundation with things like unlimited PTO, flexible schedules, half-day Fridays, and a monthly wellness stipend, but it’s important to make sure we’re putting them into practice and living up to our promises, and we do that in a few different ways.

By encouraging people to use their PTO and having that example set by our leaders within the company. By empowering folks to set boundaries for themselves, block off their calendars, and plan their day around what will best set them up for success. By actually seeing each other log off early on Friday afternoons after a long week of hard work. By not having a rigid definition of where you can spend your wellness stipend and instead leaving it to your discretion. “Wellness” can mean different things to different folks, and while the building blocks are important, at the end of the day, they’re just words on our website if we’re not walking the walk.

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?

At Eden, we recognize that “wellness” has a different meaning for different people and we want to give our employees the freedom to define wellness in their own ways. Our wellness stipend has no limitations on how it can be used, and while a good portion of the team uses their wellness stipend on traditional wellness expenses, like gym memberships or massages, we’ve discovered that a lot of people are finding wellness in other ways, like ordering nice coffee beans that support a cause they care about or getting takeout to decompress after a long week.

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

One of the best things leaders can do to support a “work well” culture is to regularly restate expectations with their teams. It may feel like over-communicating, but employees need clarity and it goes a long way. I’ve worked with multiple team members who feel obligated to reply to any Slack message from their manager right away, even if their manager is in a different time zone or it’s outside the employee’s working hours. Their manager never communicated to the employee this is their expectation, and in many cases, the manager actually had told the employee they do not expect them to do so. However, employees want to make their managers happy and be perceived as hard working, so they do it anyway. This makes the majority of employees feel like they’re working all the time and they’re not present in their life outside of work. It’s important that a manager regularly restates the expectation that they don’t expect or want the employee replying outside of their work hours because it helps the employee trust and get comfortable with it.

At Eden, we also help leaders within our organization recognize the fact that workers operate differently and there’s diversity in work style across our teams. Managers should understand and embrace the different needs of employees on their teams while also appreciating that their own personal styles might be different. This awareness helps managers bring their teams together and work more productively.

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

  1. Flexibility.

Flexibility is something that I’ve seen lead to many thriving employees. It’s equally important that a company offers flexibility in multiple ways as it is to teach employees how to use flexibility to work better for them and help them discover how they work best. I’ve seen that most employees struggle to figure this out on their own, so as leaders, we can empower employees to take ownership over their schedule and provide them with tools to do so.

I once hired an employee in EST time zone while I was working from PST. Initially, the employee told me they would work PST hours but I told them this wasn’t necessary because we don’t need to overlap a full day in order to work well together. I challenged the employee to make it an experiment and consider where work slots in best in their lifestyle — their schedule didn’t need to be locked in forever. The employee took several months to experiment with working out after work to break up the day and putting in a few hours later at night until they found the schedule that makes them most productive and happy. Ultimately, they realized the best plan was to work for a few hours, go to the gym, return to work and end their work day before dinner.

2. More asynchronous communication.

Asynchronous communication is being used more and more, but we need to help employees understand what it means and how to use it. We have tools like Slack that are asynchronous tools, but we rarely use them that way. We regularly fall into treating them as synchronous, with Slack dictating our time. We feel pressure to reply to messages right away and feel productive (sometimes falsely) when we do. I’ve seen over and over again with employees that when they don’t let Slack dictate their schedule, they are immediately more productive. They’re proactively planning their schedule to focus on tasks and check Slack in between their priority projects. They move from reactive to proactive — and feel less anxious — because of this.

3. 1:1 communication training for managers.

Managers can always use more training on how to improve their 1:1 communication and support their team. They walk a fine line: a manager isn’t and shouldn’t be a therapist, but it’s helpful for them to have the skillset to help the employee reflect on what is and what isn’t working and what may be leading them not to be well at work. This allows a manager to help direct the employee to resources that can be useful for them or adjust their coaching plan.

4. Recognition and acceptance that what employees want and need from their company/employer is different.

All employees are different. Some may need a more rigid 9–5 schedule with an hour lunch break to help them separate work and personal, while others may like replying to Slack messages at all hours of the day. Some employees may join every single company event and want a best friend at work, while others are happy with sharing how their weekend was and jumping into work. There’s no right way, and both can be successful and productive. Those of us working in the People Operations space need to allow and encourage space for all sorts of people.

At Eden, we realized there was a consistent group of employees not attending our virtual organization-wide events. We kept spinning our wheels as to how to get them to attend and tried to understand why they weren’t. Through our employee survey process, we realized that this group of employees still reported a high rating of feelings of happiness, belonging and connection at work. They didn’t need the event we were trying to get them to participate in it.

5. More transparency in the interview process.

Transparency in the interview process is important on both the side of the company and the candidate. It doesn’t serve either to not be direct and truthful during the process and misalignment on the working environment, company culture, etc. will impact employee wellness. If all employees at the company are regularly working 45 hours a week, managers should then share that during the interview process. You want to bring on the employee who is excited about that, not the one who is expecting to sign off at 5:30 p.m. every day.

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