Work Life Balance — Harmonious work-life integration meaning balancing or finding an equilibrium between life and work responsibilities. Example: focus on having the flexibility to get things done in your professional life while still having time and the ability to enjoy your personal life. This may mean long hours on certain days but on others you will be free to enjoy your free time.
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 Miranda Spigener-Sapon, President of Noirtainment, DeVonna Prinzi, EVP of Creative Affairs of Noirtainment and Grayson Arndt, Exec. Assistant/Associate Partner at Noirtainment.
An Award-winning Writer, Director, and Producer for Feature Documentaries, Series Animation, and Live-Action Shorts, Miranda Spigener-Sapon has an eclectic mix of experiences in film, theatre, and even authorship, getting ready to publish the first novel in her “Marisa Romanov” Series. Some of her accolades include an Audience Choice award from the Venice International Film Festival, an iHeart Radio Podcast titled “Inspire Change”, and a Documentary on Amazon Prime titled “Masculinity that Inspires Change”.
From Galas and Social Media Campaigns all the way to short films and features, Devonna Prinzi has a wide array of Production skills and experiences including her dynamic film “Yellow Belt” which demonstrates the wide benefits of martial arts practices for students with Behavioral Disorders.
After graduating from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy, Grayson Arndt joined Noirtainment as an Executive Assistant to Miranda and most recently was made Associate Partner and Producer at the company. Previously, Grayson was performing Development Evaluation for the International Screenwriter’s Association. Most recently at Noirtainment, Grayson’s animated short script Tremor was greenlit for production.
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.
DeVonna: A very formative experience that prompted me to change my relationship with work was the fact that I was in recovery from my third devastatingly crippling accident when our company was presented with the opportunity to open our animation division, which I personally had been wanting to do for some time. It was evident that I had to move into action as I was vested in the opportunity, that and the fact Miranda and I are where we are today is because we have made the best of the opportunities presented to us; however, the more I tried to persist the more the pain escalated. The situation became practically unbearable as l I started losing function in my extremities and in addition, I developed new debilitating digestive issues. It was becoming impossible to function normally as the pain was horrifically escalated by the workload of founding a division. Having been disabled before, I reached out to the University of Florida’s Health to their Pain Management Department and was referred to the Shand’s Sports Ortho Rehab Center at the University where the therapist reminded me of the tools at my disposal and encouraged me to start meditating again. Following their advice, I started to regain control over my pain and began sharing the things I was learning or relearning in Neuro Cognitive Therapy. That is when I realized I needed to follow my own advice more closely and put my health and wellness above all. Investing more time into Physical therapy and Meditation, but how could I do that with all that was crossing my plate? The easy solution was to incorporate it into my day but as professionals we all know that it can be challenging to add one more thing. However, from my previous experiences I knew without a shadow of a doubt that to facilitate the possibility of continuing to pursue my goals and aspirations the way things were ran had to be changed. So, we worked more diligently on reducing stress in the workplace. One of the most successful ways was by adding Mediation Moments to our workday, to take time to relax our minds and bodies, releasing the stress of the day and focusing on our own wellbeing before starting our meetings.
We revamped the meeting schedule to illuminate redundancy and combine and streamline meetings that I and the other Executives needed to attend, and we started to eliminate the Executives from Administration tasks by relying more heavily on our Assistants instead of trying to handle everything ourselves. Now everything goes through our Assistants which helps free up time for our Executives to take wellness walks etc. I have found it to be painfully true that if I do not take care of myself first, I am unable to help anyone else and in choosing those that I help or projects to take on I am a great deal more selective of the opportunities that I Invest myself in.
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 having a sense of wellbeing which means being and feeling happy, healthy, emotionally balanced, and productive. Our organization measures wellness by checking in with personnel and discussing how they are doing as well as encouraging them to reach out when necessary. It is very important that your members understand that you want what’s best for everyone included in your company and one of the ways to ensure that happens is to bring anything of concern to the appropriate persons attention. Focusing less on punitive and more on collaboration and preventive measures allowing you to address the concerns together.
I feel that because Noirtainment Productions has a diverse and inclusive culture where members have a sense of belonging, it is easier for individuals to share how they are truly doing. We let them know that we want the best for them, and we have a Phycologists that work with us when and if the need should arise. We are a team so there is no reason to suffer in silence because one must take care of oneself.
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?
Since it is my experience that if I do not attend to my personal health and wellness needs, then I am not able to be productive. It correlates that if the people in my workforce are not properly taking care of themselves, they cannot possible be as productive as their full potential and therefore; we have always encouraged our workforce to put their wellbeing first and foremost, then attend to the loved ones and close relationships around them, because we believe that if you are well and those around you are cared for you can accomplish all your goals going beyond simple profitability into the stuff dreams are made of.
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?
For those leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact I say, “Start Simple”. I simply took a survey to see if my team was interested and since It only takes approximately 3 minutes to complete 10 deep cleansing breaths, and if you add two more minutes for quite time and you have spent merely 5 minutes but gained the full attention and clarity of each and every person in the room. Not to mention that by taking this time to focus on everyone’s peace and wellbeing, it helps everyone to feel better and feeling better leads to more creativity and a better workflow, which in the end may even save money as Mental Health disorders could be on the decline if as a work culture we attend more to individual and community wellness. The reward is a better place to work and to live not to mention better profit margins and a happier workforce.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
When recruiting we look for like-minded individuals that are willing to focus on wellness. During the hiring process we inform them that we use Robert’s Rules of Order and an agenda for our meetings so that things are ran fairly and everyone gets the opportunity to have their say. We also make certain we inform them of our policy of “You’re 1st, loved ones next, and work to follow”. We explain that if something should arise that concerns them that we are here to support them and to please reach out to their Team Leader, HR or one of Board members if they have not received sufficient results from the former contacts.
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: Reducing stress at the workplace and in general allows for one to not feel burdened and overwhelmed.
● Emotional Wellness: Making certain that each member knows they are supported and heard when they are having emotional difficulty and to avoid repeating things that cause distress whenever possible.
● Social Wellness: We have set up a lounge on our server so that anyone that wants to hang out and chat about topic other than work they have a place to do it. We also encourage everyone to submit their ideas for activities that we can do together. So far we have Music Monday where we share music that we enjoy or are listening to so that others can share the jam. We are currently working on a Movie night and we also had a game night.
● Physical Wellness: We encourage our Animators and other sedentary workers to get up and move once an hour. We also encourage nature walks or simply getting outdoors.
● Financial Wellness: We are planning on having seminars on this and other topics that will be of benefit to our team.
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?
Specifically, a workplace benefits when they improve employee wellness because the individual is stronger and when the individual is stronger the team is stronger. An employer risks high turnover and low productivity if they do not incorporate wellness into their workplace; however, by doing so their company will thrive as those taken care of tend to look out for those who have helped them. Companies will not only see productivity increase leading to bigger revenue and lower sick leave costs.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
We ask our Leaders to focus on the positive. This does not mean ignoring the negative but verbally framing things in the positive. This does set a tone for Work Well culture as it sets the environmental tone resulting in the direction and focus being on the positive aspects and not the negative. Focusing on what we want and not on what we do not want.
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?
As I mentioned before I suggest beginning with a simple relaxing meditation or breathing exercise. The increased oxygen flow is great for the entire body giving an individual energy, stamina, and relaxation. Is there anything more fundamental than breathing? This is the simplest and easiest way to affect your own wellbeing because as stressed individuals we tend to breathe from our chest and not our belly which does not supply enough oxygen and prevents optimal performance. Just know if you have not meditated before or focused on your breath it may feel odd, just give it another try and remember the objective of clearing the mind is not to be void of thoughts but to let stray thoughts come and to dismiss them and return your focus to your breath. Generally, I try to do 10–15 minutes once to twice a day at home. The thing to remember is when breathing out try to exhale longer than the time it took you to inhale. In time you may find yourself being able to relax quicker as your body responds when you consistently provide self-care. Like I described above even the Meditation moments of 5 minutes makes a big difference for focus and stress relief.
What are your “Top 5 Trends to Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
1. Work Life Balance — Harmonious work-life integration meaning balancing or finding an equilibrium between life and work responsibilities. Example: focus on having the flexibility to get things done in your professional life while still having time and the ability to enjoy your personal life. This may mean long hours on certain days but on others you will be free to enjoy your free time.
2. Stress Management — Chronic stress can and most often does lead to burnout. A way to handle stress at work is to develop relaxation strategies that you can used when you are starting to feel stressed. You can also use problem solving — instead of avoiding a situation look for ways to solve the problem. And then, what I feel is one of the basic building blocks of wellness, conscious thinking or mindfulness, which is being open and accepting in the present. When you feel yourself leaning toward cynicism or fear you can redirect your thinking.
3. Physical Activities — Chair Yoga during break, a walk at lunch or just simply stretching can make all the difference to how a person feels at work.
· Provide access to exercise facilities and encourage their use through outreach activities.
· Use policies and incentives to encourage physical activity, such as flextime, paid activity breaks, or discounts for offsite exercise facilities.
· Establish walking clubs or competitions that encourage and motivate employees to meet individual or team goals.
· Promote and support active commuting to and from work.
· Consider walkability and access to public transit when selecting new worksite locations.
· Engage in community planning efforts to make the communities around worksites more walkable.
4. Social Events — at Noirtainment we have themed days: Music Mondays where everyone on the team shares new music. Tune/Toon Tuesday is an extension of Music Monday, but because we all love music so much that we added Toon to the theme as we have a new animation division, so we invite our team to share their favorite animated films or even share something they created on the side that we like as well. We also have Wellness Wednesday where we share what we are doing for selfcare or suggestions we think would be helpful for others to know. Thursdays are called Thrash Thursday and that is just a fun play on terms where team members can share mashups of their creative work. The purpose of this was just a an improv way of getting our team to share fun things. Fridays are kind of a free for all where we share pics of fur babies and plans are in progress for special scheduled social hours and get togethers outside of work.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
The occurrence of the Covid-19 Pandemic and the reality of mankind facing the actual possibility of death gave us all an opportunity to evaluate our lives and ask the important question of what is important and really matters to us and our happiness. The outcome of that reality has been a global reprioritization. This makes me very optimistic for the future of workplace wellness as many people have already come to the realization of wellbeing the most important thing on Earth. Additionally, since the global pandemic, it is important to value the power of in person human connection. Many on our teamwork from home and remote, but scheduling a few hours in the office on creative meetings is important.
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 is via our website at www.Noirtainment.com and we can also engage on LinkedIn:
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.
You are most welcome, and we thank you for taking the time to interview us as we are very excited to share the way we have developed our company in order to make the changes we felt were necessary so that wellness is not only ensured for our worker but hopefully for the world as our programming focuses on the light in the darkness; therefore, we have many influential programs that we are working on right now that are already having a positive impact. Thank you for your well wishes as we hope the best for you as well.