Benefits Carryover. No one wants to feel like they lost out on a perk or benefit solely because the fiscal year has changed. Allowing benefits that would normally expire to carryover makes it so that the employee won’t feel that their benefit was wasted. These days can be converted to mental health days that will prevent future sickness and burnout.

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 Meghan Lape.

Meghan Lape AFC®, CFP®, EA is the founder of Conscious Impact Financial Planning, a values-based financial planning firm in Colorado Springs, CO and Austin, TX. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from Franklin University and Masters of Science in Family Financial Planning from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which provided the foundation for her attaining her license as a Certified Financial Planner. Meghan has spent the last 13 years conducting financial life planning, counseling and education and is dedicated to empowering others to transform their finances into personal advocacy.

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.

Living abroad for twelve years really made an impression on me as an individual. I was able to personally experience both the workaholic work culture of Asia as well as the humanistic work culture of Europe. I consider both to be drastically different to the work culture in the United States. Sometimes I worry that we took the worst parts of each.

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 define wellness as thriving in one’s environment and having the ability to pursue activities and interests that are more than just coping with everyday life. When it comes to people, this usually can’t be reduced to pure figures and data, but it is also highly dependent on the unique needs and experiences of the individual themselves. Because of this, our organization measures quantitative data as well as qualitative data collected from our financial counselors in one-on-one sessions. Only with the data combined can we can paint a whole picture that actually addresses financial wellness in a holistic manner.

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?

According to the Financial Health Network, 66% of people in the United states are not considered financially healthy. In fact, from 2020–21, 43% of people experienced reductions in financial health and 10% of people moved to a lower financial health tier. Moreover, PWC’s most recent financial wellness survey found that 62% of millennial employees had less than $1,000 to deal with emergencies, up from 34–37% in other generations. The most financially stressed employees can spend up to 20 hours per month dealing with financial issues.

FHN’s suggested solution for this is to create supportive workplaces, expand access to benefits and improve benefit options, support struggling employees through targeted programs, and apply behavioral insights to financial benefits design. While implementing this framework, we utilize savings ratios, net worth changes, financial wellness scores, and employee surveys and correlate that to productivity markers such as employee driven engagement, sick time, and retention. We recognize that this is correlation and not causation, but it is a great start to digging into the complexities of financial and holistic wellness.

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?

Organizations and leaders can be stuck in a really difficult place when trying to implement wellness programs. They want to support their employees and help them succeed, but they are also beholden to shareholders and investors. These outside interests are often not participating in the day-to-day company culture, and it can be hard to persuade them without being able show how wellness programs directly affect the balance sheet. However, with the rise of socially responsible investing, companies can pivot their strategy to attract a different type of investor. In fact, having wellness programs will not only attract those who care about social responsibility, but reaffirm why they hold their investment.

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?

First of all, it is important that your employee benefit program is flexible to the needs of your employees, which are not always easy to anticipate. We let our candidates know that we are always open to suggestions if they identify an employee benefit that supports the community we are trying to build. We also try to allow for substitutions if an employee cannot utilize a benefit and ensure we do not punish those who are outside the norm.

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.

  • Mental Wellness: Though mental health days are finally starting to become the norm, we have not found a better way to address mental health. We insist that our employees either take their mental health days, or if for some reason they choose not to, to utilize that time volunteering, learning, or pursuing some other personal interest. We don’t want to punish anyone for not needing mental health days, but we also realize that these breaks can be preventative as well.
  • Emotional Wellness: One of the biggest obstacles to emotional wellness is dramatic life changes. Whether marriage, birth, disability, or death, employees want to know that if they need to divert their attention to their family, it doesn’t make them a bad employee. Having employee assistance and wellness plans, bereavement leave, and leaves of absence that are returnable lets our employees know that they are not expendable and we want them back to normal just as much as they want it.
  • Social Wellness: We believe the best path to social wellness is volunteering. We give our employees paid time to volunteer and create community events catered to the causes that the employee cares about. And though we cannot tell anyone to volunteer, we also make a special effort to encourage volunteering or participation on voting days and automatically give the day off.
  • Physical Wellness: Everyone has different needs when it comes to being physically comfortable in their environment. One of the best things to come out of the pandemic was not only the accelerated development of working from home, but the experience each individual had to transforming one’s work space into the most productive one possible. Employees report better job satisfaction from home, and we are able to gift them the commute time back into their lives.
  • Financial Wellness: We implement our unique system that combines financial education and financial counseling for holistic financial wellness. By charting and monitoring financial wellness scores, we give the maximum opportunity for progress while also being easily deployable when the employee faces a dramatic life event. Moreover, the implementation of this program was a major factor in our ability to reach three of our sustainable development goals.

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 wellness program has had multiple benefits. Primarily, we have seen employees feel that their work is more valued and not wasted. They take approved time off and conduct self-care more often, causing less burnout and fewer “sudden” days off. We even have benefited from unexpected client referrals at events where our employee was volunteering.

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

We trust our people to know themselves and what kind of training or education would suit them best. Our education benefits are flexible and not restricted to job related training or any particular accreditation or type of educational institution.

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?

Programs are more likely to succeed when employees feel heard and part of the process. Not all demographics have the same needs, so employee feedback is important to not only pinpoint what you need, but allow you to cut out anything that is not being utilized.

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

  1. Office conveniences. Having a monthly stipend for office upgrades or food delivery removes challenges and can help employees be more motivated to spend time in their office being productive.
  2. Schedule Flexibility. Not everyone is most productive at the same time of day. Allowing early risers or night owls to take advantage of their natural rhythm can increase engaged and productive time.
  3. Benefits Carryover. No one wants to feel like they lost out on a perk or benefit solely because the fiscal year has changed. Allowing benefits that would normally expire to carryover makes it so that the employee won’t feel that their benefit was wasted. These days can be converted to mental health days that will prevent future sickness and burnout.
  4. Volunteering. Employees love when their work reflects their values. By allowing paid time to be used for volunteering or donating company resources to employee picked charities, employees will resonate with the fact that they are the best versions of themselves at your company.
  5. Financial Wellness. Financial insecurity is often at the heart of distracted productivity and frequent job changes. Employees will most benefit with proactive programs instead of reactive ones like employee assistance programs. Benefits like these will continue to push the envelope and convey how dedicated your company culture is to employee wellness.

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

The good news is that we all haven’t been replaced by machines. We still have people-centric workplaces that ultimately have reason to be invested in their employees. So ultimately companies will have to get on board if they want to stay competitive and keep up.

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?

LinkedIn has been a terrific place for these discussions, and I am always happy to chat more. Please feel free to reach out, I’d love to see financial advocacy and financial wellness become contagious!

[email protected]

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