Wellness Spaces within the office are a massive trend with mixed results. Wellness spaces or Integrated Wellness Offices are designed with our optimal wellness in mind, something Google has been doing for years but it is becoming more common place.
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 Megan Swan.
Megan Swan is the Founder of Megan Swan Wellness, a Strategic Wellness Advisor + Consultant helping powerful businesses prioritize employee wellness to increase their impact (and income) through her Sustainable Integrated Wellness Approach. Her expertise is boosting employee productivity and success by implementing micro shifts that are custom and approachable within employee lifestyles and company culture. She has 10 years of integrative wellness experience as a certified IIN Health Coach, Plant-Based Chef, Yoga Teacher and Educator.
At 30 she sold everything to embark on her own “Eat, Pray, Love” journey and now at 43 finds herself still on her first stop where she fell in love with one of her English students. She and her husband have two beautiful boys and two adorable dogs. They love to travel and explore the lesser known beaches of Mexico.
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.
Yes, well first off thank you for the opportunity to share my story. My catalyst to change my perspective on what kind of work situation I wanted to seek out happened over a dozen years ago when I decided to embark on my own round the world journey to ‘find myself’. After many years working in the non-for-profit industry in Toronto I was very disillusioned about how much impact my work was actually having on individuals — it didn’t feel tangible. I had recently taken my certification to become a yoga teacher, which I thought I would use as a side gig or hobby, not my main career. However, after working so closely physically with people and actually feeling the difference in their energy after a single yoga class, I knew then that there were other ways to have an impact and I wanted to explore them. My journey started with a plan to teach English and yoga in Mexico, but long story short I never did get to my planned second stop in Bali. Thirteen years later I am still here in Chiapas, Mexico expanding the ways in which I have a positive impact on people through private coaching.
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?
I am thrilled to see that these trends are becoming normalized, because it is required quite frankly in order to make the modern expectations on productivity and information overload sustainable.
At Megan Swan Wellness (MSW) we utilize a 6 Pillars of Optimal Wellness framework that works to support four types of wellness: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Within this framework we strive to make wellness a way of life and not a checkmark on your to do list. We instill a Sustainable Integrated Wellness Approach to ensure that our clients integrate the exact wellness tools that serve them at a given moment so they don’t feel overwhelmed trying to do it all, all the time. There is no one-size-fits-all wellness and therefore we teach clients how to identify which tools work best for them, and at which intensity depending on their season of life, lifestyle and bio individual situation.
We measure optimal wellness in terms of the client’s level of energy, confidence, alignment with their true values and ability to make empowered decisions in order to ensure they are living well in all senses.
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?
Quite simply a well workforce has sustainable energy, productivity, creativity, and motivation precisely because they are given permission to put their own optimal wellness as a priority in their daily routine.
These organizations understand that an investment in the optimal wellness of their workforce is an investment in the company. Given the high cost of onboarding, offboarding and losses with sick leave it just makes more economic sense to empower your workforce to take massive action in protecting their personal wellbeing.
It is a long-term strategy to be sure, but it is solving the problem at the root instead of putting a topical band-aid solution on it. We need to shift our perspective on what is sustainable, because we can now clearly see that the current system is not. It’s the old ”give a man a fish or teach a man to fish” analogy. We need to be taught how to make wellness a way of life, not just another task on the to do list. We can drown ourselves in anti-anxiety meds while downing coffee to stay on task, or we can insert time in the work day for mandatory walks outside, limits on email accessibility and meditation rooms at the office or sessions before the zoom call starts. It’s about micro shifts that are not overwhelming and therefore easily integrated into our lifestyle and company culture.
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 see this all the time speaking with big corporations that think they have their wellness card sussed, yet see very little improvement in terms of retention rates, productivity, and sick leave. The problem in my opinion is that they are trying to solve the “wellness problem” with topical band-aid solutions such as access to an app, or online platform, but not actually changing company policies that affect or protect an individual’s ability to make real changes that protect their well-being. What we really need to do is teach through personal experience how valuable it is to make micro shifts that make a massive impact in the long run so that wellness becomes a way of life, gradually over time. It is not a quick fix, but it is a real sustainable one.
For example, it is one thing to give the entire company access to a meditation app or even these new mental health ‘on demand’ therapy session platforms and say “see, we support mental health”, vs. taking 2 minutes at the beginning of every meeting to meditate as a group or making it mandatory to have a private wellness coaching session once a quarter. One approach is superficial with minimal impact or real results, and the other approach is actually implementing a shift in company wellness culture to make it normal to take a mindful pause or have a coach genuinely check in with your overall well being.
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?
I would argue that all systems in business need to have wellness infused in them, but especially the recruitment and onboarding process because it is the company’s first opportunity to demonstrate that they truly value employee well-being. I would recommend including an in depth questionnaire for all hires that dives deep into their current state of well-being and level of awareness as to what helps them thrive. From there offering support right off the bat to help them seek optimal wellness from where they are and make it a part of the onboarding journey. This questionnaire should inquire about optimal work environments, deep work focus needs, optimal workflow hours or, times of day, number of days a week, etc. and really allow the employee to dream a bit in terms of what would really help them shine at work so they could walk the talk about living and working well.
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.
I am working with corporations to design industry specific workshops that guide their employees and leadership teams to infuse more wellness into the culture both bottom up and top down across all company culture and structures. Here are a few ideas for each category of wellness, although I would add that there is a lot of overlap, optimal social wellness is essential to optimal mental wellness for example. Here we go:
- Mental Wellness: Strategic Meditation Moments throughout the workday, as a team, in meetings, at our desks, in the breakroom — normalizing guided meditations or breathwork as part of the daily culture. It is all about the power of the pause and our ability to support our bodies in calming the nervous system down, decompressing and being present with the task at hand.
- Emotional Wellness: Teaching employees important embodiment tools in order to help process strong emotions and complete the stress cycle. This might include a pillow room designed for employees to scream, punch, kick or rage on pillows in order to allow their nervous system to balance the fight or flight response.
- Social Wellness: The pandemic showed us how important the seemingly insignificant face-to-face check-ins or hellos are important to our humanity and social wellness. We are seeing that doing workshops for smaller groups or teams is a highly effective way to teach multiple ways in which to feel more connected with ourselves and the group in a short amount of time. Quality over quantity is key. Female leadership Wellness Circles, Art Workshops that Spark Joy, Creativity and Connection or a Yoga and Plant-based Cheese Board Series.
- Physical Wellness: Giving employees the option to work and take meetings standing, cycling on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill is a great shift in the energy people bring to the table. Rebounders are also a great way to get a quick shift in our energy, bouncing for 5 minutes in the morning completely reinvigorates all physical wellness. Having policies that honor our sleep cycles and teaching employees the value of a bedtime routine is also a highly effective way to improve overall physical wellness.
- Financial Wellness: Tools and practices that teach employees how to adopt an abundant mindset helps them feel more at ease and incontrol of their financial situation, combined with expert advice on how to best create personal wealth in the long run, investment basics and importance of multiple income streams.
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?
Definitely. Investing in optimal wellness for all employees will result in:
Increased employee productivity, energy, motivation and creativity when it comes to problem solving.
Increased employee loyalty to the company and to the work when they see that the initiatives of the company to infuse wellness into all systems is real and not just ‘wellness washing’.
Increased employee retention rates which would result in a decrease of costs around onboarding, offboarding, recruiting and training.
The entire company will run more smoothly when everyone’s optimal wellness is at the forefront of company culture granting employees clear permission to do their part from a bottom up perspective and management clearly following through and modeling this wellness company culture from the top down.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
We offer highly targeted Leadership Seminars such as — How to Infuse Essential Optimal Wellness Strategies into the Company Culture to Protect Employees from Burnout, which teaches:
- Optimal Wellness Awareness for Partial or Fully Remote Teams: 6 Pillars of Wellness to Consider.
- Best Practices to Give Full Permission of Use of the Unlimited Time Off Policy.
- Wellness Events that Really Benefit Employee Mental and Physical Wellness.
- Normalizing Digital Wellness, Mindful Stress Management Practices and Employee Right to Work/Life Balance.
These seminars result in Clear Dialogue and Common Ground Across Company Culture around Optimal Wellness.
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?
I would say just giving each other space and grace to carve out our own wellness journey. We all learn and implement things at different rates. From my perspective, making it competitive tends to leave a lot of people out of the process. It should be more about authentically celebrating each other and the company as a whole for micro shifts that are gained such as meditating once a week together or making socializing at a morning juice bar just as attractive as going out for drinks after work.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
1 . Wellness Apps An introductory starting point for many big companies wellness tech is huge, but it is essential to track how many employees are actually using them and to what degree.
Fitness apps are a great way to encourage everyone to get more active.
On Demand Mental Health Coaching could be a lifeline for some, but it is unclear to what degree having multiple coaches or therapists listen is having a potent effect.
Healthy Recipe Apps with meal plans and grocery delivery integration. Making it as easy as possible for people to eat well is an essential support tool to overall wellness.
All encompassing wellness apps that do all the above and more!
Again I caution that this is a very topical solution to a very deep rooted issue to resolve.
2. Retreats are not necessarily a new trend but now companies are more open to sponsoring the whole event, and not just running conferences that are more the typical golf, steak and drinks with little real time to rest. There are so many retreats that actually teach and infuse wellness principles into the entire experience from start to finish. Changing our environment is extremely invigorating and when this is coupled with real opportunities to rest, sleep, connect with nature, nourish our bodies with healthy food and connect with each other deeply it is life changing. Retreat trends to watch are:
- Breathwork Retreats.
- Spiritual Retreats such as Reiki, Human Design or Meditation.
- Journaling & Expressive Writing Retreats.
- Silent Retreats.
- Sacred Sexuality Retreats for Female Leaders.
3. Wellness Spaces within the office are a massive trend with mixed results. Wellness spaces or Integrated Wellness Offices are designed with our optimal wellness in mind, something Google has been doing for years but it is becoming more common place. Some newer trends include:
- Spaces or policies around bringing your pet to work to support emotional wellness.
- Meditation, zen, yoga, mantra, affirmations and prayer rooms to provide safe spaces for a mindful moment.
- Fresh juice bars to elevate employee energy, mood and immunity.
- Outdoor work spaces, nap or chill spaces, sound baths, body work, energy healing, or in house spa.
It is twice as powerful if the employee has a company spending account to find their own wellness services coupled with some of these services being offered right at the office.
4. Digital Wellness Policies is a big one. Books such as Stolen Focus by Johann Hari and Deep Work by Cal Newport have illustrated how we have to take back and practice our ability to focus our attention and focus it on one thing at a time if we hope to ever create truly novel or accomplish deep work. We as a society and therefore corporations are battling the drain that comes with the information overload and constant interruptions of modern technology and smartphones. Digital Wellness Policies that are working are:
- Strict business hours around work emails.
- Honoring employee focus hours: no meetings, no messaging, no interruptions.
- Getting smart and streamlining data entry to ensure employees only have to enter data points in one place to ensure it shows up across all company trackers.
- Teaching employees to take micro breaks from their screens, turn off their phones before bed and not turn them on until after their morning routine.
5. Radical Flexibility: many corporations were forced to make radical flexibility work in order to retain employees who were homeschooling or other care activities during the pandemic. The up tick is they saw it was possible and that giving more freedom and in turn asking for more responsibility from its employees to be honest with reporting their hours was extremely successful. This trend is especially relevant for women who are oftentimes still juggling the majority of the household management duties. Allowing for more personal freedom to work in the hours that are convenient to their family’s schedule and from home has been life changing.
- Employees being allowed to block their availability on a week by week, month by month or quarterly cycle with no negative impact on their career.
- Creating systems around respecting everyone’s digital boundaries and work cycles.
- Removing all stigmas around setting clear digital and workflow boundaries.
When company culture authentically shifts to place trust back into the hands of the employee to allow them to control the structure of their workday to a greater extent we will really see an improvement in retention rates and overall reported employee satisfaction.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
My greatest source of optimism is the wellness revolution that is happening now and working its way into corporate structures across the board. The pandemic was a wake up call. We were already on the path towards questioning how sustainable and desirable corporate hustle culture is but now so many more companies are on board to make the shift to truly integrate a wellness-forward company culture. Where company and workforce wellness are one in the same. Wellness becomes a way of life, not a checkmark on your to do list.
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?
Yes, please reach out to my via my website: www.meganswanwellness.com
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.
Thanks again for the opportunity to share my thoughts.