Keeping women leaders in leadership roles. We have seen a rise in women getting promoted to leadership roles, but just as fast as this is increasing, many are quitting.

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 Maura Kautsky, president of Sales Xceleration. Maura has an extensive background in marketing, sales, client services, retention, and branding. In all these roles, she has managed teams and has seen the shift in employee needs and wants. She has a degree in communications from Indiana University and serves as the Integrator and President of Sales Xceleration, which provides Fractional Sales Leaders and serves the U.S. and Canada.

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.

Since the early years of my career, I created boundaries for myself when I became a parent. I negotiated the time I needed to be present for my kids ‘events. I have to admit it was a foreign concept at the time and caught HR and my future mangers off-guard. My approach was to ask if it was a reasonable request, and they couldn’t deny it. I did this because I didn’t want my peers to judge or think I was always taking time off, and I shared with all of co-workers — when I started or someone new joined — that I would be working with my plan. I learned people respected me for this and even supported me when others who didn’t know my situation questioned it. I believe my approach to work-life balance went a long way with my direct reports as I always supported their needs and, in return, they worked hard and stayed with me because of it.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and assess their employees’ mental, physical, and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

Wellness to us is about mind, body, and soul care. We are an organization that has a core value of “Lead with a Servant Heart.” For us, that means listening to employees and supporting their needs to help them lead a life that brings them joy. We start our meetings with sharing a personal and professional positive focus, setting the mindset for our meetings. We analyze wellness through surveys and manager one-on-ones, where we continue to get to know them on a personal level and ask how employees are doing and seeing how we can help. And we also offer unlimited vacation as we support and believe that stepping away from work is critical to recharging your mind. We watch for employees not taking time for themselves to recharge. We always have team members share what they did on their time off. We also share wins of team members in emails, and everyone jumps in with congrats and thanks. It is the little things that add up to a big win.

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 see it every day in the attitude and gratitude our employees have for how we approach ensuring they have work-life balance. This shows up in people caring about the work they do, working smart, and having candid and open communication from manager to employee. This culture drives employees to give their best to not only the company, but also to their peers. I truly believe no one on teams wants their teammates to think they are letting others down. When you build a culture on trust, respect, honesty, and integrity, it makes the team proud of the work they do, and they feel they are building something together. This all shows up in the productivity and profitability of the company.

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?

There are so many affordable programs to assist employees. For example, we have an EAP program and offer Corporate Chaplains of America. But just as important is equipping managers to tap into their emotional intelligence to be effective listeners and communicators; showing empathy when employees are going through difficult times is mission-critical. It is amazing the impact that effective listening and responding can have. We call it doing the right thing. Holding workshops or webinars is also an inexpensive way to provide employees with coping tools. The pandemic has increased the need for employers to solve for this problem. I still don’t think there is a magic formula; it’s just about getting started and employees seeing you care about their wellness — that is the first critical step.

We’ve all heard of the four-day workweek, 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: Offering EAP, Corporate Chaplains, and other programs where they can talk to professionals in a safe and confidential manner.
  • Emotional Wellness: Training leaders to tap into their emotional intelligence and listen well and empathize. I check in with my leaders to get updates periodically on their wellness and their staff’s wellness and reach out as needed. We have created a culture of caring and direct and honest communication.
  • Social Wellness: Time off to volunteer, whether for corporate-driven programs or employee choice. We have a corporate giving day each year, but we encourage it on other days, too. Employees want to work for companies that give back and pattern the way.
  • Physical Wellness
  • Financial Wellness: Offering 401(k)s and a match, as well as access to financial planners and courses.

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?

The workplace has evolved, and the approach of treating all employees with a one-size-fits-all approach is dead. We have to listen and adapt to employees’ personal needs. This, to me, is the biggest way you can support improving employee wellness. People want to be heard and understood and get the support they need for work-life balance; in return, you’ll get the same from them.

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

This is something we first hire for, using assessments and reference checks. We look for leaders for whom others share stories of support, encouragement, and servant leadership; people they can have candid conversations with and who have a positive attitude. We also have started using the EOS system, which creates a culture of everyone feeling informed, part of decision-making, and supported.

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?

Communicate candidly. Share needs and wants and appreciate and celebrate the successes from those conversations.

Ask employees what they need and try to solve for it. I have worked at so many companies that survey, but still do what they want to do. The answers are there, even if they’re ones you don’t want to hear.

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

  1. Keeping women leaders in leadership roles. We have seen a rise in women getting promoted to leadership roles, but just as fast as this is increasing, many are quitting.
  2. Employees are driving the cultures of the company. They want a company that not only has a mission they believe in, but ones where the leaders also live it. Employees are the key asset of the company, and they are realizing they have a voice and are using it. You see change happening as they band together to demand fixes to injustices in their companies.
  3. No more 8-to-5. People are wanting jobs that work three or four days a week. Flexible hours. Unlimited time off. Remote working. Employees are driving how and when they want to work. They will get the work done, just on their terms. For example, parents need to be able to take an hour or so off when their kids get off the bus or to drive them to activities. Allowing them to take this time and make it up later is important. Focus on having them get the job done vs. always being available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
  4. Fractional workers are one of the fastest-rising trends. In fact, one-third of the workforce is now fractional. People are quitting corporate (i.e., corporate politics/bureaucracy) and working for themselves on their own terms. They bring expertise and come with a mindset of “I provide value for the expertise I bring,” creating job satisfaction and delivering outstanding results in most cases.
  5. Employees are leading the charge. It is no longer employer-driven workplace wellness; now, the employee is equal with the employer on defining the needs and offering. Both are looking for their own unique set of needs. Getting clarity on what that employees want and really listening and adapting is key. Too many companies today take employee surveys but still fix only what they what to or what is easiest, so they’re not getting to the root of things. Change is hard, but done right, it’s a win for all in creating a healthy and balanced workforce.

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

People do care and want to get better. With the right leaders and influences in place, we will see change. It takes a village working together to drive change.

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?

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