… Zoom meetings vs in-person. I think Zoom is a great technology and saves a great deal of travel time when a client meeting on the schedule but there is nothing like meeting in person and the overall connection that takes place when one is in the same room, eye-to-eye (literally) with the other person. Zoom isn’t going away but I foresee it falling by the wayside a bit as we get back to real life again.

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 Mindie Barnett.

After ten years working as a television news reporter and anchor within the Philadelphia, and New York regions — among other cities — Mindie Barnett decided to use her knowledge and experience in the media to help propel businesses and position companies as thought-leaders. Barnett founded MB and Associates in 2003 and swiftly garnered a great deal of clients in a short amount of time. Mindie spearheads her public relations and social media firm, published author of “Intermission,” and “You Don’t Need to Be a B*tch to Be a Boss,” a keynote speaker, host of “The Race for the Ring” podcast and on-air contributor.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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 in a variety of ways. As a soon-to-be mental health professional, I personally prioritize the mental health and physical health of each and every employee. If they are feeling overworked, overstressed or under the weather they will not be at their best and will in turn not serve the company and our clients to the best of their ability. It’s imperative that everyone remain healthy and feel safe to share with me, when they’re not.

We do weekly check-ins and I maintain a genuinely authentic “open-door policy,” where my employees can always feel safe to share what’s on their mind or troubling them professionally and personally.

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 employees are not at their best and feeling their best, they will not perform their best and that will directly impact the service we provide and ultimately our bottom line.

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?

Mental health wellness doesn’t have to be an investment of dollars, a smaller company, such as mine, can simply be creative: hold a walking meeting, do a staff meeting outdoors, do a group lunch in-the-office, take a ten minute pause in the day for a group medication from an app. These are all free examples of initiatives that will instantly help via positive psychology tactics.

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’ve implemented all of the points from my answer in #3 and I think my company culture, which is full of empathy, compassion and connection, provides recruits and employees benefits which are sometimes deemed more valuable than a dollar figure.

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: I will be implementing weekly check-ins and a Wellness Wednesday medication at Noon starting in May.
  • Emotional Wellness: my open-door policy for conversation and support.
  • Social Wellness: quarterly group gatherings at 4pm on Fridays.
  • Physical Wellness: walking meetings.
  • Financial Wellness: we have a company financial advisor who is available to employees at any time for planning support. We also contribute 3% to our employees’ retirement funds.

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 employees will feel more at ease, less stressed and have more energy to perform, if their mental health is cared for. In addition, they will likely implement the practice into their personal lives, once they’ve seen the benefits of mental health maintenance and will grow and evolve even more so.

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

We aren’t reskilling — we are all just participating along with our team.

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?

To take one meeting a week outdoors.

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

  • Zoom meetings vs in-person. I think Zoom is a great technology and saves a great deal of travel time when a client meeting on the schedule but there is nothing like meeting in person and the overall connection that takes place when one is in the same room, eye-to-eye (literally) with the other person. Zoom isn’t going away but I foresee it falling by the wayside a bit as we get back to real life again.
  • Mental Health Days — many companies do not officially offer this, but I suspect they’re on the horizon. They will serve as a day employees can become present and practice self-care without guilt or other responsibilities which often occur on weekends or holidays.
  • Transplant employees -hiring employees from various parts of the country or allowing current employees to move out of state and retain their positions. I don’t have a personal story to share for this, but I believe this is going to be a commonality soon.
  • More focus on skills in the future. That’s been my rule-of-thumb for quite some time, but I value skill over role at a company now more than ever and others will be following suit. Skill is very important to efficiency and productivity and keeping the company lean and mean.
  • Hybrid — this is something many companies implemented in 2021 and will continue into 2022 and beyond. The larger the company, the more ability to offer this model. I also think less emphasis on fancy offices and impressive monthly office rent is going to be a thing of the past.

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

I believe in time, bigger companies will invest in a mental health professional to offer group and individual counseling to employees, just as they offer other benefits. The stigma surrounding mental health is thankfully lifting and employers are realizing the great importance of employees not only keeping their cholesterol and weight down but also their mental health intact.

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 am most active on Instagram @midnie.barnett and my company website: mbandassociatespr.com

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