Work to live: Today’s workforce is much more focused on quality of experience and overall wellness in their professional lives. This change in mindset will continue to shift employers’ focus on how to maximize the employee experience and make it a key differentiator to attracting and retaining top talent.

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 Matt Stoyka.

Matt Stoyka, CEO of NewRocket, has extensive experience in starting, growing, and selling high-performance, award-winning technology companies. With over 20 years of leadership experience, Matt is passionate about injecting innovation, empathy, and collaboration into NewRocket, a ServiceNow Elite Partner that advises and supports clients in designing, implementing, and managing digital workflows to improve employee and customer experiences. Prior to NewRocket, Matt served in leadership roles at technology companies such as Rackspace Technology, RelationEdge and CenterBeam.

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.

One of the most pivotal experiences that shaped my relationship with work occurred early in my career. I was a recent engineering graduate and had the opportunity to work abroad for my company. I spent the better part of three years in Europe, first in Germany and later in Spain, working around the clock to support a large global project. It was the first time I had been exposed to the concept of working to live rather than living to work. That experience began a very long journey to recognize how important it is to strike a balance between work and play. It took me over 20 years to really apply this lesson. I’m still working on it today!

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?

To me, wellness is comprised of several key attributes. The first — and arguably the most overlooked by employers today — is mental wellness. Mental wellness is about being kind and generous to yourself, even in times of stress, and maintaining a healthy, learning mindset regardless of what life throws at you. As a society, we are only just beginning to unpack the stigma around the topic and recognize the value of putting mental wellness first.

Second, mental wellness must be supported by physical health. I use the phrase, “strong body, strong mind” all the time, and it rings true in every area of our work. If you don’t prioritize your physical health, you can’t bring your best to the work you do, plain and simple.

The third attribute is the pursuit of opportunities that reflect your values and goals — to do work that you are proud of, that challenges you, and that helps you grow.

At NewRocket, we encourage and support our crew in all three areas. Our flexible PTO and remote-first work policies set up our Crew Members to prioritize wellness, which we reinforce via health programs, “Focus Fridays” with no scheduled internal meetings, and our internal learning and development platform, NewRocket University. Ultimately, it starts and ends with empathy towards our Crew. With empathy as a core value, it becomes easy to make wellness a top priority.

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?

NewRocket provides advisory, implementation, and managed services specific to the ServiceNow technologies. When your people are your product, it’s incredibly important to invest in your employees every day. We see employee satisfaction and engagement as the top indicator of success. When employees feel valued, get compensated fairly, and receive consistent respect, you tend to see better-than-market retention levels and employee satisfaction metrics — a key ingredient in a company’s ability to deliver great services and form lifelong customer relationships.

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?

I recommend adopting empathy as a core value. Rather than saying “Can we afford this wellness initiative?”, leaders need to start asking themselves “How can we afford not to make this investment?” The truth is, it doesn’t cost a lot to be good to people — in fact, it’s nearly free. By embedding empathy into every interaction, leaders can cultivate trust between employer and employee. The presence of trust helps employees feel safe and supported in their work.

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?

Company culture begins in the hiring process, and our talent attraction and retention team is the best in the business! They are incredible brand ambassadors who operate with the highest degree of empathy towards our candidates and employees. They ensure that prospective Crew Members have an incredible experience during the recruitment process and beyond. They demonstrate and speak often of our core values as being deeply embedded in our culture. To top it off, we share with prospective employees on the creative programs and investments we have made and will continue to make to enhance and grow our crew. All of this has helped us attract the best and the brightest in our space.

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.

Our employee experience (EE) team is amazing! They are so creative and always on the lookout for new ways to engage with our global workforce and make every experience matter. A few examples are:

  • Mental Wellness: Every employee receives a free subscription to the meditation app Headspace and is encouraged to use the program to help with mental fatigue and stress. We continue to invest in manager training in this area, as well. We’ve learned to identify signs that a Crew Member is overwhelmed and offer the resources and support they need.
  • Emotional Wellness: At NewRocket, we plug employee feedback directly into our plans, processes, and goals. One outcome has been Focus Fridays, our weekly, no-internal meeting day to be creative, avoid burnout, and focus on what matters. Overall, feedback helps us operate as a high-empathy organization. As a result, close to 90% of our Crew Members say they feel appreciated.
  • Social Wellness: This past summer our EE team introduced Family Days, five days of family-based activities and events curated by our team. The purpose is to remind our crew of the importance of staying connected to those that are closest to us and create opportunities to bond on a personal level. We had dance parties, virtual scavenger hunts, rocket building contests, and lots of other fun events!
  • Physical Wellness: We recently sponsored a fundraising walk with one of our clients. This topic holds deep meaning for me, so I spend a lot of time discussing the importance of physical wellness in my life. I get a lot of questions about my routine and commitment to optimal health. We make it a priority to provide suggestions, ideas, and solutions for our crew along with strong benefits to aid them in their journey to physical wellbeing.
  • Financial Wellness: We host retirement education sessions to educate our Crew on the different ways to plan for their future. These sessions are targeted at new savers, those getting closer to retirement, and how to manage your savings in times of market volatility. They’re extremely helpful! We have online tools through our retirement vendors that are always available. We also offer various spending account options for health care as a part of our benefits packages and contribute towards Crew Members’ HSA accounts. Lastly, we’ve just announced that we are increasing our 401(k) match for 2023.

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?

Our core values are Excellence, Creativity, Innovation, Teamwork and Empathy (ExCITE). These values were determined by our Crew, for our Crew. While I have mentioned empathy several times, the first four core values are absolutely outcomes that workplaces will benefit from when they invest in improving employee wellness.

Happy and healthy employees deliver excellence, inspire creativity, and constantly think of new ways to innovate and collaborate as a part of a team. All this adds up to happy clients who value our work.

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

We engage with our leaders consistently to help them understand how important a ‘work well’ culture is for our employees. We provide tools and coaching to have meaningful interactions with their Crew Members all the time, not just some of the time. We place high importance on listening to our Crew Members and then involving our leaders in the action and improvement plans. This is very much a journey, and we still have a lot more work ahead of us. Candidly, I don’t think this is something that is ever complete, and that’s a good thing.

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?

First, align your core values to wellness. Second, live your core values every day. Third, hold your leadership accountable and give them the opportunity to ask questions, learn, grow, and apply those lessons to the team. Weave this topic into every conversation and meeting. For example, we start out leadership team meetings by sharing a moment of joy from our week. This is easy and costs nothing, but it means the world to people.

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

  1. Work to live: Today’s workforce is much more focused on quality of experience and overall wellness in their professional lives. This change in mindset will continue to shift employers’ focus on how to maximize the employee experience and make it a key differentiator to attracting and retaining top talent.
  2. Four-day workweek: I believe a shorter work week will be necessary to accommodate the growing shift in attitude towards work-life balance and focus on employee wellness.
  3. Mental wellness: I hope that the stigmas that surround mental health completely dissipate and that companies understand that it’s not mental health — it’s just health!
  4. Work from wherever, whenever: Research has revealed that employees care more about working when they want, even more than choosing where they work. I found this very fascinating. It will require a tremendous amount of trust between the employer and employee to make this concept a reality.
  5. Pay transparency: A lot of people stress about finances. Transparency could be a good equalizer in helping employees understand the correlation between their role and the roles of their coworkers with respect to pay.

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

The last several years have forced nearly everyone to be very introspective of what it means to be happy. I think there has been a lot of re-prioritization with respect to what is and what isn’t important to people. One of these is workplace wellness. I am optimistic that this period of reflection will increase the focus on workplace wellness and the importance of employee wellbeing.

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’m not very active on social media besides LinkedIn, so that’s probably the best place to find me professionally. I still prefer real connectivity over digital — call me old school.

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