Building the creative capacity of colleagues- this doesn’t mean “take an art class”- this means incentivizing breaks, pauses, play and invisible work- see my Fast Company article Your invisible work is key to your most productive self.

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 Natalie Nixon.

Natalie Nixon is the creativity whisperer to the C-suite, helping leaders make better business decisions through wonder and rigor. As founder of Figure 8 Thinking she’s a creativity strategist, global keynote speaker and author of the award winning book The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curioisty, Improvisation and Intuition at Work. Real Leaders named Natalie one of the top 50 keynote speakers of 2022 and she’s been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and INC magazines. She received her BA from Vassar College, and her PhD from the University of Westminster. These days you can find her on the ballroom floor fine-tuning her cha-cha and foxtrot. Learn more at and follow her @natwnixon.

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?

Wellness must be approached in an integrative way- focusing not only on our physical health, but also on our mental and emotional well-being.

A big metric for wellness at Figure 8 Thinking is intentionally building in time for pausing, breaks and rest. I’m a huge advocate of taking daydream breaks whether those last 90 seconds or 15 minutes. Daydreaming is different from meditation- it’s not requiring you to focus, instead daydreaming allows our frontal neo-cortex to relax and for our mind to expand. Your prompt could be floating clouds or an ant crawling on the sidewalk. I absolutely budget in time during my day for daydream breaks! Increasingly, research on the neuroscience of creativity is pointing to the value of such pauses and breaks for the brain, to activate new neural synapses.

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?

Productivity is inside-out work. And by that I mean, we cannot expect to people to be highly productive at work, if their internal engines are sapped and tapped. In my view, we owe it to our organizations to ensure that our colleagues have opportunities to build their creative capacity. Creativity is our ability to toggle between wonder and rigor to solve problems- and it’s the foundation to innovation.

In terms of quantifying the impact of a well workforce, the knowledge transfer that occurs when people quit and leave your organization because they’re burnt out? Well, that’s priceless!

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 remind them to take their medicine now- or later. The long-term costs of apathy, low engagement, burn out and resignations have an overall impact on organizational culture. In the future of work, the organizations who figure out how to work at the intersection of 1)technology; 2) productivity; and 3) meaningful human connection will be the ones that flourish because they will be able to attract and retain the best talent. Building the creativity capacity of your organization is the best way to leverage all three.

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?

At Figure 8 Thinking we are a small and lean team, but I encourage breaks and pauses and celebrate small wins. Focusing on the positive and generating optimism is a very important tactic in in building a culture of well-being.

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:
  • Emotional Wellness:
  • Social Wellness:
  • Physical Wellness:
  • Financial Wellness:

Such formal programs don’t apply to my company because I am an entrepreneur with a virtual assistant and a project manager. What I can tell you is that I block out sections of my day for literally doing nothing to avoid meeting churn. I’ve already referenced daydream breaks and celebrating success. I see among too many of my clients that they are churning through work because they do not draw protective boundaries around their employees’ time to avoid going from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting. A 5-minute break interval is not enough time for people to use the bathroom, stand up and stretch and have a glass of water. Leaders must model drawing those boundaries and stick to them- clients will respect that. If this sounds like too scary a leap to make, try prototyping it with a small team for a limited amount of time: approach it as an experiment!

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?

  • Greater retention.
  • Happier employees who are energized, and intrinsicaly-motivated to do great work.
  • Higher levels of trust because there will be a shift away from a culture of micromanagement to a culture of macromanagement.

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?

  1. Start by taking care of yourself. Delineate small chunks of time on your calendar to pause, go for a walk, take a daydream break.
  2. Share out at the top of a meeting how you are doing this and request that others in subsequent meetings share their “recess tips”.
  3. If you have the authority, institute “recess” at your organization! In my book The Creativity Leap I shared the story of how Gerry Laybourne, founder of Nickelodeon, used to do this.

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

  1. Apps that help us pause and step away from the computer; example- the Calm app.
  2. Millennials and centennials pushing back on return to the office requirements.
  3. Embodied work- being attuned to how you feel physically, emotionally and intuitively (interoception) and integrating those signals into your strategic decision making process will be the hallmark of great leaders as tech (robotics, automation and AI) take over basic tasks in the 4th industrial revolution.
  4. Building the creative capacity of colleagues- this doesn’t mean “take an art class”- this means incentivizing breaks, pauses, play and invisible work- see my Fast Company article Your invisible work is key to your most productive self.
  5. A shift away from languishing to flourishing. Languishing is something Adam Grant talked about as a pattern during COVID. I define flourishing as “the ability to expand in your own life on your own terms”- stay tuned for my next book!

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

Young people who are challenging older people about our assumptions about what work looks like.

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?

  1. Go to and sign up for the Ever Wonder…? Newsletter;
  2. follow me on LinkedIn (;
  3. download any one of the amazing applied creativity resources at

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