Flexibility: At Xplor Technologies we’ve spoken to our Xplorers worldwide to understand preferences for returning to the office, and then created flexible working policies to suit. By listening, encouraging, and engaging, our workforce has shifted to 2–3 days a week in the office, or in some cases fully remote.

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 Nichole Viviani, Chief People & Marketing Officer, Xplor Technologies.

Nichole has a wealth of fintech M&A experience in global high growth environments, and a strong track record of enabling innovation and transformation through high-performing teams, powerful brands and winning cultures. Nichole was part of the leadership team that took Worldpay to IPO in 2015, and then saw Worldpay through two significant acquisitions. She joined Xplor Technologies from FIS, a global leading provider of finance solutions, where she was Senior VP People for their payments divisions.

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.

Throughout my career I’ve had the privilege to spend time learning from and listening to many talented women, and for many, a major point that was holding them back from fulfilling their full potential was balancing their caring responsibility with their work and career ambitions. From a personal point of view, having raised three children, I’ve always valued flexibility and the ability to work from home one to two days a week, many years before the pandemic made it such a hot topic.

This flexibility allowed me to pursue my career ambitions and progress, while also being a present parent for my kids, working their needs around my work demands. I was very fortunate to have good leaders who supported me and global roles which allowed me this flexibility. I think the pandemic has highlighted what is possible and propelled the world forward in allowing more parents and care givers to manage caring and their careers. I believe companies that offer remote and hybrid working post-pandemic, can open the door to an untapped pool of diverse talent and create a competitive advantage in the fight for talent.

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?

The Great Resignation is prompting new conversations about workplace culture, and how companies should be attracting and retaining talent — which is a good thing. Work plays a fundamental part in people’s lives, and everyone deserves to feel valued, included and that they belong, along with having the opportunity to contribute and leave a lasting impact in the workplace.

Being a relatively new company, we’re at the start of our wellness journey at Xplor Technologies, but wellbeing plays a key part in our ESG strategy Leave a Lasting Impact and our DE&I strategy Inclusion Ignites Innovation. One of the goals of our Leave a Lasting Impact strategy is improving Xplorer wellbeing — including financial, emotional and physical. This is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals #3 and #8 which focus on Good Health & Wellbeing and Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Our promise to every Xplorer is that we’ll help them reach their full potential, and power others to reach their own, and we’ll do this by fostering an inclusive culture that prioritizes Xplorer wellbeing. Quite simply, we see wellness as when a person is in good health, in all areas of their life. At Xplor, we measure wellness by tracking sickness, absence, attrition and overall engagement.

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?

Burnout costs all workplaces and we’re no different. Burnout is linked to lower quality of life for individuals, increased risk of health conditions, and costs to society and business. And the impacts to a company’s bottom line come from high attrition, absenteeism, loss of productivity and low engagement.

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?

Firstly, I’d say, it’s ok to feel stuck in that place. That’s not uncommon. But let’s not stay in that place. As leaders we should be encouraging each other to continue to focus on wellbeing, knowing that’s the right thing to do for your organization and for your people. It’s ok to start small and build from wherever you’re at.

While wellness programs are valuable, they’re generally only impactful for those that really want and do use them. The challenge for companies is in investing in wellness activities that cater to the diverse needs and interests of their whole employee base.

One area where organizations can invest to see quick impact, often at low to no cost, is in empowering and training managers to help lead their wellness agenda. You can train managers to be able to spot the signs of burnout, to effectively check in on employees’ wellness in a remote environment, and to be able to review large workloads and help their people manage competing priorities. By doing these things managers can help contribute to an increase in wellness for their employees.

No company can deliver on all the nuanced desires of their workforce — instead look to prioritize key needs that matter to your employees. Not sure what they are? Don’t be afraid to ask. You can do that through wellness surveys, focus groups, or general discussions with people throughout the week.

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?

To attract and retain diverse talent in today’s climate, it’s important to understand what matters most to your employees and then deliver on it. Part of this is recognizing that many people need and want more from their jobs than they used to. From flexible working, to seeing the impact of your work, from feeling connected to a deeper purpose, to being empowered to reach your full potential, employees are looking to their employers for more than they used to.

As part of our Inclusion Ignites Innovation DE&I strategy, we’ve initiated unconscious bias training for all our Xplorers. We’ve also overhauled our hiring processes to ensure we have more diverse candidate slates — and we review job and company descriptions for anything that has potential to introduce unconscious bias. Our recruiters work closely with our hiring managers to upskill them on removing bias from every part of the hiring process. And this isn’t a once and done, it’s something we all need to keep coming back to.

These things all contribute to an increased focus on wellness throughout the hiring process. By helping connect future Xplorers to our purpose and ensuring an inclusive hiring process, we believe we’re creating a healthy work environment for our current and future Xplorers.

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: We’re prioritizing equipping managers with the tools and skills they need to monitor and manage mental wellness with their teams, including how to check in on people virtually and how to re-prioritize workloads if things are getting too busy. Every Xplorer has access to flexible working and our Employee Assistance Program, which includes a free confidential counselling service. We also have various benefits available across our different regions. In the U.S. for example, we provide unlimited paid time off, plus a mental health holiday on October 10.
  • Emotional Wellness: Pre-pandemic it was easier to connect socially and enjoy the emotional benefits of this connection, because many of us were working in an office four or five days a week. Now, many companies are faced with trying to engineer connections remotely, so we’ve focused on equipping managers with the tools and training to build a strong, supportive team culture virtually. One tool we’ve found to be successful in engaging a global workforce is Workplace by Meta. Every Xplorer has access to Workplace on desktop and mobile, and alongside seeing company and team news, people can share their own updates in real-time, or pre-record videos so those in different time zones can watch on demand. Many of our Xplorers have set up their own Workplace Groups too, with everything from pets, sports, travel and food groups, all the way through to our Espresso Martini and Tiramisu group where Xplorers share photos of… Espresso Martinis and Tiramisu! With 1,800+ regular users, out of 2,100 Xplorers, Workplace is helping us engineer more connections in our increasingly virtual world.
  • Social Wellness: Covid has shifted many people’s priorities more towards family, wellbeing, and community, so one of the ways we’re helping people feel like they’re able to do good is via our giveback days, where we give Xplorers three days of paid leave a year to contribute to their local community. Another is our gender-neutral parental leave policy for welcoming a new child, which is available globally. We’re also very proud of the fact that many of our Xplorers used to, or still do, work in the “everyday life” verticals we serve.
  • Physical Wellness: Many companies asked their teams to return to the office as soon as Covid restrictions lifted. We didn’t. Why? Many of our Xplorers want the flexibility of working from home or working in the office, or both — and we know companies that prioritize flexibility see higher retention rates than those that don’t. Knowing the anxiety some people have about spending time in crowded spaces, and that we’re all at different stages on the post-pandemic change curve, we asked our Xplorers about their preferences for returning to the office and then created flexible working policies to suit. By encouraging rather than pushing people, we’ve seen many Xplorers return to the office and benefit from that in-person connection, while those that aren’t ready for that yet have plenty of options for virtual connection.
  • Financial Wellness: Our Xplorer promise is Reach your full potential, power others to reach their own. To bring this promise to life we launched an initiative called my My10% — which encourages Xplorers to spend roughly 10% of their time on growth and development. This isn’t just sitting and watching videos, though we do give every Xplorer access to leading online learning platforms. We’ve spent time training our managers to be able to help their people develop personal growth plans and to have regular career or coaching conversations with their teams. And we’ve encouraged our Xplorers to seek out on-the-job learning opportunities in their wider teams or in adjacent areas, because whether they’re with Xplor for one year or ten years, we want every Xplorer to have had the opportunity to reach their full potential while with us — knowing it’s going to set them up for success in whatever they go on to do next.

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?

One way to increase people’s wellbeing is to help them feel connected to, and be part of, something bigger than themselves. Organizations can do this by having a clear, inspiring purpose.

At Xplor, our purpose is to help people succeed. This is what gets us out of bed in the morning. We help people running small and medium-sized businesses (these people are our friends, neighbours, family) get back to doing what they love, by giving them cloud-based, intuitive technology and payments solutions that manage all the hassles of running and growing a business. Or in other words, we help them succeed. Many of our Xplorers were once small business owners themselves, and they truly understand the pain points our customers face day-to-day. As a result, we take great pride in making things simpler for them by reducing admin and overhead, and ultimately helping them grow.

To help embed our purpose for every Xplorer, when we launched our new brand, and revealed this fresh purpose, we sent every Xplorer a personalised metallic business card, with the job title “Founder”, to represent their individual role in helping to shape the future of our company, and connect them with our new purpose.

This connection to a great purpose can lead to increased wellbeing, higher engagement and a more productive workforce.

When investing in wellness, companies should also look to play to their strengths. At Xplor we’ve done this by leveraging the diverse talents of many of our Xplorers to deliver wellbeing sessions for our workforce. Many of our Xplorers working in Fitness & Wellbeing are certified in Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Meditation, Breathwork, Remedial Massage, Primal Movement, Functional Conditioning, CrossFit, Bodyweight, HIIT, and Group Fitness. Their expertise is a regular source of inspiration for fellow Xplorers and customers.

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

We’ve focused our manager training efforts on equipping managers to help drive our wellness agenda. This includes:

  • Being able to spot the signs of burnout in your team, and then having the ability to talk with people about this, including how to help team members prioritize busy workloads and balance competing priorities.
  • How to create connection in partial or fully remote teams, which can be particularly challenging if you’re a manager that’s never led a remote team before.
  • Being aware of the tools and resources available within the company to support Xplorers’ wellbeing.
  • Knowing the importance of when to inspire people to drive productivity, and when to pause, take a break and just have some fun together too.

We also believe that a “working well” culture is an inclusive culture. So that our managers can lead from the front in building an inclusive culture, we’ve focused on helping our managers learn about unconscious bias, from hiring to strategy, from product to customer decisions.

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. Ask your people how they’re feeling. This doesn’t need to be a huge piece of work. You can do a simple survey. You can ask your managers to poll their people in an upcoming meeting, and feedback the results. You can do it live during your next All Hands, as most video platforms now have inbuilt polling tools. This gives you a starting point for what you might do next, as well as being a conversation starter on the topic.
  2. Ask your managers what support they need in looking after their team’s wellbeing. We all know that your manager is likely to be the most influential person on your wellbeing. As leaders, we want to make sure the managers at our organizations have the skills to check in on people’s wellbeing, to have conversations around burnout and workload, and to be able to do this in an increasingly remote world. Get this conversation going by asking your managers, “Do you have the support you need, to be able to look after your team’s wellbeing? What would that support look like for you?”

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

  1. Purpose: “The Great Resignation” has shown how much people’s priorities have shifted. It’s no longer enough for people to take home a paycheck, they want to know their work has value, and to feel connected to a higher purpose. Does your company purpose inspire, and make people want to get out of bed in the morning? Can you use it to guide decision making? If not, then maybe it’s time to revisit it. At Xplor, our purpose to help people succeed unites us and helps every Xplorer feel connected to something bigger than themselves.
  2. Flexibility: At Xplor Technologies we’ve spoken to our Xplorers worldwide to understand preferences for returning to the office, and then created flexible working policies to suit. By listening, encouraging, and engaging, our workforce has shifted to 2–3 days a week in the office, or in some cases fully remote.
  3. Inclusion: We believe Inclusion Ignites Innovation and our company strategy is underpinned by this. The best ideas emerge when different perspectives meet — different cultures, generations, disciplines, and experiences, and an inclusive culture that values differences, welcomes ideas, and empowers people is what drives innovation. Unlike other companies that have tried to retrofit their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program into their overall business strategy, inclusion is foremost in everything we do, and has been this way right from the very start. And we’re working with our people to create inclusive innovation experiences where Xplorers can collaborate, experiment intelligently, and propose new ideas.

We don’t want this limited to those in tech or product either — regardless of role, we want every Xplorer involved in our innovation activities. We recently brought this to life through Launchpad, which is what we call our company-wide hackathon. One of the most popular ideas to come out of this was the Xplor Olympics, a virtual event designed to bring Xplorers together by competing in various sports, creative, and fun challenges, all over the world. We’ve just run the first Xplor Olympics and not only was it a great demonstration of the power of inclusion to drive innovation, it was also a lot of fun, with Xplorers getting to take part in creative, physical and mental challenges that provided a break from their day to day.

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

For me, it’s the openness and transparency we’re seeing around wellness conversations, and how much society has shifted towards encouraging and prioritizing wellness, both in life and in the workplace. The most important thing is making sure people feel safe enough to tell someone when they’re not okay — because the sooner an issue is shared, the sooner it can move towards being improved.

When leaders normalize discussions on these topics, it empowers employees to do the same, reducing stigma and creating a more open culture where people feel safe to talk about life’s real issues and empowered to seek support if they need it. As company leaders, our role is to make sure our people know that we want them to succeed, and that we will support them to do so.

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?

Via the Xplor website or my LinkedIn.

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