Hybrid work environment where people have the option to work from home when it’s conducive to them. Coming to the office is wonderful to feel the impact of the work family and community. I don’t see that being replaced even in a virtual reality.

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 Mike Michalowicz.

Mike Mchalowicz leads two new multi-million-dollar ventures as he tests his latest business research for his books. He is a popular main stage keynote speaker on innovative entrepreneurial topics, and is the author of eight books including Profit First, which has transformed over three hundred thousand businesses.

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.

Without question, the most defining moment was when I lost it all and my daughter offered up her piggy bank to support the family. Talk about a game changer. That shifted how I approached finances and was the starting point of Profit First. But another big shift occurred when my son participated in track his senior year. There was a track meet and I was going to miss it. Again. There was always a reason for me not to attend during the week. I had all the excuses not to go. I had one last son in school. It was my last opportunity to experience watching him do what he worked so tirelessly for. I realized that it was more important to be there for him at that moment than behind my desk. I don’t remember what it was at work that I put on hold, but I do remember the details and experience of that particular track meet. I remember my son’s surprise and huge smile when he saw me. I remember seeing how few couples were there. It was mostly moms. My wife was so happy to have me there and my son loved seeing us together cheering him on and supporting him.

It was this moment that I realized I had been boxed in my office and missing out on so many fulfilling and joyful moments in life. There’s always an excuse to work, and miss out. I now view work as water and my personal life as the rocks. Work will always fill up space. Define the rocks, be it your family or something that makes you who you are, and the water will flow around those when it works best for you. It’s one of the key elements for emotional, mental and physical wellness.

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 is the new metric for employers. Companies must make it a main priority to ask themselves how they define wellness and how the organization provides and measures it.

I believe that wellness is defined by our identity and consistency with who we view ourselves to be. Our company actively ensures that individuals are achieving the objectives that are consistent with our identity. At every quarterly meeting we discuss our professional and personal goals, and receive feedback and affirmation. We keep posters in our workspaces of the goals we want to achieve. We’ve also decorated our office like a living room (maybe your moms!) in that we have our childhood photos displayed throughout to remind us of what we would want for that kid. There’s that conversation and connection with each other. We’ve developed extraordinary friendships which are now part of our identity.

I think all of the wellness aspects should be to support individuals in how they see themselves and ensure that view is in the most positive form. I absolutely feel that this is the job of the employer. Work is where we spend the majority of our time, so a supportive wellness structure is imperative for individual, and organizational success.

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?

If I compare our company to others, I see that we have disproportionately less employees, and work less hours collectively than our competition. Yet we have a greater global impact, more income, greater circulation of our work, and we’re more profitable than a lot of small businesses. That’s the definition of it. We have people working less, yet producing more. And they’re happy.

When people are struggling, they can’t produce. They feel stuck. But when we’re well, there’s a direct correlation in the uptick in productivity and joy.

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?

Impact doesn’t start with money and I don’t think it takes money to have an impact. The impact is just looking in someone’s eyes and listening to their story. The impact is in showing care for others. The impact is being a good friend. That’s where your impact starts. And it begins with your leadership. When leadership demonstrates true care for others and their work, it naturally begins to play out in the business. But, if the leadership doesn’t demonstrate it, no one will.

It’s a farce to think we need money to have impact. The money comes in at the tail end. But the core fundamentals of impact? They’re all free.

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?

It’s not lip service. We don’t have a list of perks to attract prospects. We show, not tell. We set an example. Part of our work is showing how we work. Since our business is supporting other small business owners, we’re very public about our inner operations. In our social media, blogs and email campaigns, we have videos and articles illustrating the inner workings of our business. The intention is to show what has worked for us. Other businesses will adopt the practices that will benefit them.

We have people from around the world sending us emails asking for jobs, because they want to be a part of our organization. This summer we’ll physically have someone join us from Spain who cold emailed us asking to work with us. It’s easy to list values and wellness initiatives on your company website. It’s another thing entirely to live it daily and show it in a video clip.

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.

  • Emotional Wellness: I feel a big part of emotional wellness is sustained through acceptance. We’re all similar in our values and dedication, and are all unique as well. One fun way we support each other is by sharing our personal stories and goals in our quick morning huddles and quarterly meetings. We even have a tree on the wall that we add leaves to when we accomplish a personal goal. It’s a visual that we’re supported not only in our professional goals, but our personal ones as well.
  • Mental Wellness: Something else we do that shocks a lot of folks? Every year, each employee is made to take a four week, paid vacation. We do this for two reasons. One, I wrote Clockwork and the four week vacation is a huge part of that system. You have to remove yourself from the business to ensure you’re not the linchpin and that your business is sustainable without your presence. The beauty of this is two folks since this allows you to live your life without the stress of thinking your role at work will collapse without you there. The other aspect though is that, let’s face it, a week’s vacation barely lets you unpack, let alone detach from your daily responsibilities. The four weeker really allows for a true vacation and get a necessary mental health break. It’s possible that other companies won’t want to partake in the four week vacation method (though I strongly, ok, emphatically encourage it). At the very least, create systems that enable roles to continue in an employees’ absence.
  • Social Wellness: People thrive in a community, and we have a tight knit one here. We do have an optional work from home model if an employee chooses, but if you are local and can come into the office, we encourage it. We also have a quick, daily huddle which gives everyone a chance to meet in person and we Zoom with anyone not in the office. The sense of community in our office is a massive part of what makes it tick.
  • Physical Wellness: Self before wealth. Health before business. As a leader I encourage physical wellness by setting what I hope is a decent example. The office agreed to a text chain in which we report what physical activities we get up to. The first messages we see from each other aren’t about work, but about what we did for our physical well being. We don’t want perfection. We just send a quick note when we work out, take a hike, chase our kids. We inspire each other and share recipes, links for yoga, you name it. We also get on each other’s cases about making sure we get to the doctor for physicals. I even discussed my colonoscopy with my team because I want to ensure that we’re all taking care of ourselves. Now, I realize larger corporations may have wellness initiatives that are less personal. But I have found that in a small setting, there is more accountability. So if you do have a large workplace, consider creating what we have with a group of like minded folks.
  • Financial Wellness: Financial wellness is really created by financial awareness. We create tools so small business owners and individuals can easily manage their finances. Having that sense of control of finances provides great peace. For our employees, we developed a profit sharing model so everyone receives a quarterly bonus (after one year of employment). We also introduced our employees to a money manager and guess what? Most of them signed up with them to ensure their money is working for them.

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?

I think the four week vacation really is important. It’s the best way to create balance in your business. If someone isn’t available, nothing needs to crumble if their systems are readily available for others to take over for the time being.

Because our employees are cared for, our customers feel cared for. Our client experience is elevated because our employees go above and beyond to serve them so well.

And, all of this creates a happy family at home, because we’re happy at work. I know our partners, spouses, kids, and family members are all supportive of our work not only because they love our mission, but they see the positive effect our jobs have on our personal lives as well.

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

The biggest impact you can have on your employees is by setting an example and leading with humanity. Get back to basics. There’s nothing to learn, just a lot to unlearn.

We hire leaders who inherently have a “working well” talent. You want to hire employees who genuinely care about others.

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?

One small step that we take that I love is meetings. I know, but one on one meetings, even for a few minutes, allows for communication so many of us benefit from. Nothing beats eye contact and a one on one chat. Get those in the calendar so they can’t be blown off.

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

Hybrid work environment where people have the option to work from home when it’s conducive to them. Coming to the office is wonderful to feel the impact of the work family and community. I don’t see that being replaced even in a virtual reality.

The rise of shorter work periods. Humans are more productive in short bursts in general, and I’ve seen the benefits first hand. so a four day week or shorter work day models are on the horizon. People are happier this way than when they’re in a long grind.

I do think we’re going to set the trend with the four week vacation. In some countries this is standard anyway, and I think the United States needs to follow that example.

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

The human experience. More business leaders need to make it a priority. Because we do, I love going to work. And I love going home. When you create a workplace that prioritizes creating space for people to be human and fr their personal wellness, your business, and the people in it, thrive.

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 way to stay connected is via our newsletter, which you can sign up for here: https://mikemichalowicz.com/

We’re constantly creating new, free resources or offering inspiration for business owners and entrepreneurs.

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