Wellness as culture: A fantastic development is that more and more companies are looking at wellness not as a separate “offering” but as an inherent and cohesive part of a company culture. Particularly coming out of the pandemic, how we interact with colleagues, with our workplaces, and with our communities is becoming inextricably linked with a culture of well-being. And that is a great thing!

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 Mark H. Goldberg.

Mark H. Goldberg serves as the director of global health & well-being at Latham & Watkins, one of the world’s “global elite” law firms, overseeing strategy and implementation across the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for LiveWell Latham, the firm’s global wellness program. Mark has spent 22 years in the multinational legal sector, starting his career as a Latham attorney focusing on commercial litigation and antitrust matters, and later transitioning into a full-time management role running the firm’s internal communications function. In 2009, he was part of a core group that set out to build Latham’s first wellness initiative, which has evolved over the last decade into one of the most comprehensive global health and well-being platforms in the legal industry.

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.

Having started my career as a commercial litigator in the corporate legal sector, I worked on high-profile litigations and bet-the-company cases that seemed to have a life of their own. While the experience was exciting, the work cutting-edge, and the opportunities for learning and growth terrific, it was a bit too much of a good thing for me, and after several years I found myself looking for a different way to make use of my particular skills and experience. I’m thrilled with the decision I made and grateful that the subsequent decade-plus of work has shown me how my actions and attitudes had (and continue to have) a strong influence over my well-being. Intense focus, attention to detail, and perfectionist tendencies helped me to produce consistently strong work product, but I also came to realize that they were not the only indicators of success. Teamwork matters. So do relationships and service. And communication and creativity — just as much as the ultimate work product. While my pride in and commitment to work hasn’t changed, my perspective on it has. So too has my understanding of my own responsibility in complementing my work life with restoration and joy in other areas.

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?

We take a holistic view of wellness, recognizing that a person’s well-being encompasses their mental, physical, and emotional states, which are influenced by their health, their happiness, their resilience, and even their financial well-being. This is different for everyone, and for us, it’s personal — it’s about meeting people where they are and proactively engaging them in their well-being. That’s why we’ve spent over a decade building a well-being platform with a wide array of customized programming and resources. From counseling to mindfulness tools, financial wellness to ergonomics, and family planning to caregiving support, we focus on ensuring our people have the right resources at the right time, wherever they are on their well-being journey. We’re pleased to be one of very few law firms to be addressing well-being on such a broad scale. And while perhaps unconventional, we gauge success in this area one person at a time.

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 know that taking care of ourselves allows us to take better care of our clients, our colleagues, our families and friends, as well as others in our communities. We also recognize that investing in well-being is a long game — it’s about continuing to grow and strengthen our platform to meet the evolving needs of our people. What’s good for them is good for the firm. We’ve had colleagues share that our well-being programs and resources have changed their lives, saved their marriages, and helped them weather the most difficult of times. While impossible to quantify that impact in a spreadsheet or data set, our leadership recognizes that these are the types of incredibly positive outcomes for which we are aiming.

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?

We are fortunate to have firm leaders who have long believed that investing in the health and well-being of our people is not only the right thing to do, it is a business imperative. Think about everything we’ve experienced as a global community over the last few years — I would argue that business leaders can’t afford NOT to focus on well-being right now. You can’t have a sustainable and productive workforce if you don’t have a healthy workforce.

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?

The simple answer is that we try to ensure our recruiting teams are familiar with our well-being platform and resources in order to effectively discuss them with candidates. The more nuanced answer is that we work hard to embed well-being within the culture of the firm, so that it’s a natural part of talking with recruits. We’ve also invited law students to engage in topical well-being webinars, podcasts, and other specialized programming targeted toward a student population, and we’re even happier to engage our summer associates and trainees directly when they spend time in our offices, having created well-being trainings and offerings for them, and provided them with firm-paid access to our most popular well-being resources even after they return to law school, including our 24/7 counseling and coaching service, free Headspace memberships, and more. Even beyond that, we’ve trained many members of our recruiting team in our own customized Behavioral Health First Aid, ensuring they are able to serve as go-to resources for recruits once they arrive at the firm, and effectively communicate to potential hires just how embedded well-being is in our firm’s DNA.

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.

Innovation is at the heart of our well-being platform! For over a decade, our modus operandi has been to find thought leaders and experts on key topics across the world — physicians, psychologists, leaders in diabetes prevention, oncology, family-building, performance, mindfulness, you name it — and work with them to build offerings customized for our lawyers and staff. Our well-being approach is not one-size-fits-all, so we’re always focused on tailoring our programming and resources to meet the unique needs of various populations across the firm. For example, we’ve developed a very close relationship with the physician who created the resilience program at a world-renown medical institution, and worked with him to create a customized version just for Latham. After running the program live in several of our offices, we next created a digitized, on-demand version of the program, spending countless hours together shooting and editing an array of episodes that can now be viewed via our intranet. Similarly, we’ve worked closely with a leading psychologist at another top medical center, who not only serves as a trusted advisor, but with whom we created a fun, live podcast just for firm colleagues, discussing serious mental health topics in light-hearted ways. In both examples, we’ve seen how much our people value this kind of customized approach that makes well-being both accessible and engaging without sacrificing quality or substance.

We’ve also brought on-site mental health counselors to various offices and built a network of clinicians across the globe who work closely with the firm and — as a complement to our global 24/7 counseling and coaching service — offer direct local access to our lawyers and staff for confidential counseling, coaching, and advisory sessions. Because these counselors are dedicated to serving a specific geography or office population — and we make a point of engaging them in the life of the office through introductions, presentations, discussion groups, and participation in various internal meetings and events — people feel more comfortable reaching out to them for support.

Along those same lines, we continue to expand our counselor and clinician network to better support the emotional and social well-being of our colleagues through DEI initiatives and affinity groups (i.e., employee resource groups). Some of our most recent offerings have included providing counselors who have expertise in discussing issues of inclusion and diversity, presentations on self-care for those from communities where mental health is not traditionally addressed, and discussion forums around the mental health aspects of safety, identify, and belonging.

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?

I would encourage organizations to focus on the resources that will best meet the specific and most pressing needs of their population. For Latham, this often means developing customized offerings that are tailored to the unique experiences and needs of our attorneys and staff — almost none of our well-being resources or programming are “off-the-shelf,” and we take pride in working with well-being industry providers to create resources that really speak to our specific population. And while our well-being strategy is global, our implementation is local.

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

Over the last few years, Latham has focused on fostering mental health literacy at all levels of the firm. For example, a number of our teams have been trained in our custom-built Behavioral Health First Aid and act as front-line support to bring the firm’s many resources to bear for colleagues in need. Our bespoke Mental Health Toolkit training has educated hundreds of colleagues across the firm on how to conduct mental health check-ins with supervisees, including how to speak about mental health and engage with empathy. And our Mental Health Fundamentals training is designed to build basic mental health literacy among all personnel and offers practical strategies for managing mental health.

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?

Talk to people. Find out what’s on their minds, what they are struggling with, how they need support. This will give you some important data points to build on as you consider where to focus your energy and resources.

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

Wellness as culture: A fantastic development is that more and more companies are looking at wellness not as a separate “offering” but as an inherent and cohesive part of a company culture. Particularly coming out of the pandemic, how we interact with colleagues, with our workplaces, and with our communities is becoming inextricably linked with a culture of well-being. And that is a great thing!

On-Site Mental Health Support: The presence of on-site counselors was beginning to gain traction before the pandemic, and seems to be growing now as we continue to see greater encouragement for employees to return to the office. Given the greater acceptance of mental health and well-being discussions at work, and the increased awareness of supervisors around the importance of checking in with their teams, I suspect more and more businesses will explore ways to provide direct support for the mental and emotional needs of their employees.

Neurodiversity: Across the globe, businesses are recognizing the need to support employees with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, OCD, and many other neurodiverse conditions — and neurodiversity is increasingly discussed at well-being conferences, seminars, and in informal conversations. At Latham, we recently created a Disability & Neurodiversity Network resource group for our personnel, which focuses on advancing recruitment, retention and promotion, as well as strengthening a culture of accessibility, inclusion, and belonging. I predict other organizations will expand their efforts in this area as well.

Social Aspects of Well-Being: One of the hot topics to emerge in the post-pandemic world is the important role that social connection plays in influencing overall well-being. At Latham we have long valued our collaborative culture, and we are exploring ways to enhance our workspaces to further foster inclusion and belonging and bring people together purposefully. During the pandemic, we also saw membership and participation in our affinity groups (ERGs) rise, which, if you think about it, isn’t all that surprising, given the isolation of lockdowns. We see these networks continuing to be a positive force for creating meaningful relationships that boost social well-being at work.

Peer Support: From “Wellness Champions” to “Well-Being Ambassadors” to “Mental Health Allies,” organizations are increasingly recognizing that the conversation around well-being must extend beyond company-provided resources and messages of support from leadership. Conversations are happening at all levels, and organizations’ wellness infrastructures are recognizing this and involving rank-and-file colleagues in many different ways. Expect this trend to continue with new and innovative approaches to peer support for mental health.

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

While it took multiple concurrent crises around the world to get us here, I am encouraged to see the broad interest, and some might say, imperative around mental health right now. You can’t open a newspaper, listen to a podcast, or follow social media today without hearing about the need to support mental health. And the more we openly acknowledge and talk about it, the more we normalize these conversations and enable individuals to seek support and to support each other.

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?

I’d love to hear feedback and share ideas with your readers. My email address is [email protected].

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