Employers will provide better health insurance with comprehensive coverage and subsidize the costs. Reward healthy behaviors.

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 Martin Taggart.

Martin Taggart is the co-founder of Team Real Estate Brokered through eXp Realty, the nation’s fastest-growing real estate company. It operates in 20 countries with a community of over 80,000 real estate professionals connected through its cloud-based platform, eXp World, powered by its subsidiary, Virbela.

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 grew up poor and hungry. I promised myself I would never live that way again. My experience in traditional real estate brokerages taught me that fierce internal competition was counterproductive to building wealth.

I was a top salesperson, but the firm took the lion’s share of my earnings. Colleagues cut me out of deals I originated. My boss was a micromanager specializing in sabotage. As soon as my new idea or initiative started to gain traction, he would view it as a threat to his authority and shoot it down.

It didn’t take long to realize that if I was going to participate in the value that I created in real estate, I needed ownership and equity in the business. I would generate my leads, drum up new clients, build collaborative channel partnerships and create a team culture that attracts and retains top talent.

I was a top-performing franchise owner. I left my traditional brokerage firm for eXp Realty because I wanted a bigger slice of the pie. I realized I had no ownership stake in the company. Innovative and enterprising agents want to work in a company that rewards them with equity, revenue share, and–flipping the model on its head–the lion’s share of the business.

I see a workplace populated by creative, self-managing entrepreneurs who shape their careers on their terms with forward-thinking companies that put their people first.

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?

Wellness initiatives are bubbling up worldwide. We focus on developing creative programs to reduce stress and encourage healthy lifestyles. We incentivize our people to exercise, lose weight, and eat healthy foods.

We make it fun. Our people get chances to win prizes that reinforce the message, yoga mats, noise-canceling headphones for meditation, and fitness stuff.

EXp’s 80,000 agents are given a free subscription to our innovative Calm app, which teaches them new mental wellness habits and coping skills.

It provides access to regular webinar sessions with experts on topics ranging from portion control to stress management and VIP access to a personal health coach, online nutrition programs, plus discounts on fitness gear and healthy foods. Some markets even reimburse employees for gym memberships and offer free annual physicals and health screenings.

We introduced Agent Healthcare last year. This program offers affordable and wide-ranging healthcare benefits, previously unheard of in the real estate industry. But, we always prioritize our people’s well-being and peace of mind in caring for themselves and their families. It frees them up to be creative and focus on solving the client’s problems instead of their own.

At eXp, we believe that we create a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce by investing in our people’s health. We track program participation rates, sick days, and time on our health portal. Then we circle back and connect those metrics to productivity.

At the core of our wellness philosophy is financial health. The stress causes many mental and physical health issues from financial pressure.

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?

I read a report from the Integrated Benefits Institute that said poor health costs U.S. employers $575 billion and 1.5 billion days of lost productivity. But before a workforce can be well, it needs to be well compensated.

People who feel valued are happier, and the correlation between happiness and health is indisputable. Toxic workplaces are losing the talent race. Why are your people resigning? Where are they going?

They are leaving because they weren’t engaged, inspired, and committed to your mission. These restless souls are going somewhere that promises higher fulfillment, job satisfaction, freedom, and advancement.

If your company culture isn’t attractive to the next generation of leadership, who will sustain it? Ask them why they don’t want to work for you. Mold your operating model around the ideal worker instead of trying to squeeze them into your rigid job description.

Is it working? When you look at the numbers, it’s impossible not to see a correlation. With an average of 1,000 new agents joining us daily and a global footprint of 80,000 agents generating $3.8 billion in annual revenue, even the most hardened wellness skeptics can’t argue with the results.

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?

Our competitors don’t provide health insurance to their independent agents. eXp is the only major real estate company that does. It’s a competitive advantage with an extremely high barrier to entry for traditional real estate brokerages.

We make this investment in our workforce to enhance a sense of well-being. It is only possible because we aren’t beholden to independently owned and operated franchises.

Many eXp agents are saving significantly due to our Agent Healthcare program. Beth Silverman, in Florida, is saving $8,000 a year through our program. Joe Sinnona of Long Beach, NY, can now cover his whole family plus afford dental care.

My advice is to take care of your people, so they take care of your customers. Your 400 percent return on investment estimate for wellness is conservative. We’re projecting a return north of 1000 percent on our investment in our people.

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?

As a virtual workplace, there is no commute. Our staff and agents save an enormous chunk of time and gain the freedom to set their own hours. So, if they need to take care of a loved one or pick up their children from school, they can adjust their schedules.

Our agents and staff have a flexible work schedule and can take time out of their workday to go to the gym, walk their dogs, unwind in the spa, meditate, or shop for groceries. People can slide in an appointment with their dentist, doctor, chiropractor, masseuse, or therapist in the “middle of the day, which is defined differently by everyone. The financial, mental, and physical health value proposition is the core differentiator in our recruitment outreach.

We’ve heard about 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? We would benefit from an example in these areas.

We offer our employees and independent agents access to a network of mental health professionals. And our global community means people are Independent but never alone.

Since they don’t compete against each other, the authentic camaraderie between agents and staff is free to flourish.

Every aspect of our virtual workplace empowers our people to craft a personal and professional equilibrium and set goals that make them excited to come to work every day.

Our wellness culture focuses on collaborating with our talent to provide them with the tools they need to stay connected to colleagues in a meaningful way.

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?

Since our people think, act and feel like owners, they have the freedom to make healthy choices every day. And because eXp Realty was born remote, a distributed workforce was never an experiment for us. A breakthrough business model kicked the brick and mortar off the balance sheet, increasing value above and below the profit line from the first day we were open for business.

The new way of working isn’t defined by where work happens but rather by why work happens. It’s purpose-driven and intentional. People want to express their values and beliefs through their career choices.

But if they operate in a toxic environment where they are devalued and elbowed aside, they will fight or flee. These cultures are high pressure, high stress. They can make people physically ill. But even if they don’t get sick, people can’t operate at their full potential if they feel like they’re walking on a tightrope without a net. In the best cultures, motivation comes from collaborating in an inspiring environment that empowers us to do the best work of our lives.

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

The pandemic has had a massive impact on our society, and it’s only going to continue changing the way we live and work. Before digital transformation can happen with a minimum of friction, both sides of the negotiating table must make significant adjustments to the social contract.

A sense of well-being has replaced expense accounts as the new perk. Your people don’t want to be captive. They want to be captivated.

Leaders are adapting and evolving their skill sets to learn how to keep their people performing at their highest levels in a healthy environment that supports the “work well” culture. We hire, develop and train for emotional intelligence first.

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?

The most thoughtful approach to wellness is to provide a positive environment and culture that rewards people. If each individual focuses on their wellness and success and shares their results with others, that is the best motivation to inspire colleagues. As shareholders, a rising tide lifts all boats. That captures the essence of our culture as a company.

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

  1. Beefing up “freedom” benefits like paid time off, holidays, parental leave, sick days, and mental health days for salaried employees.
  2. Employers will provide better health insurance with comprehensive coverage and subsidize the costs. Reward healthy behaviors.
  3. On-site mental health therapists like Wendy Rhodes in Billions on Showtime will become the norm, blending into corporate HR teams.
  4. Free gym memberships: They aren’t expensive, keep employees physically fit, improve performance and reduce healthcare costs. Includes subscriptions to fitness apps or access to fitness classes in the metaverse, like yoga, spin, cycling, and dance classes.
  5. Support groups for people going through traumatic experiences such as divorce, loss of a loved one, medical crisis, bad relationship.

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

When your workforce is happy, healthy, and fit in all areas of life, the ROI is higher. It will show up for customers in a more compelling way. Happiness and productivity go hand in hand. I am excited about building a world-class learning organization.

That’s a tall order if you operate your business in isolated silos. But if you raise them and reward people who share best practices, marketing tactics, and creative ideas, you will accelerate growth. At eXp, we have the digital infrastructure to train and develop our people.

Built on the premise that none of us is more intelligent than all of us, Virbela, our metaverse platform, empowers 80,000 agents in 20 countries to communicate, collaborate and socialize in the cloud.

This connectivity to other professionals in the organization provides our people with an emotional support network, delivering vital connections that keep people healthy and engaged.

We invest in educational capabilities that differentiate us from competitors and strengthen our position as the global leader in attracting, developing, and retaining independent agents.

People-centric management calls for a new breed of leaders that I am excited to see unleashed in our workforce. Leadership isn’t telling your people what to do. When you have the right people, they tell you what to do.

Gen Z and the millennial generation are forces of change. You will find me rooting for them in our private metaverse.

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?

The best place to connect with me and see what I’m thinking about is on LinkedIn.

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