… Ideas don’t have to take time to implement. I think if you want something to be a priority, in terms of retention and performance of your workforce, then you need to make it happen. I think the easiest and quickest step to roll out is the unlimited paid vacation, because in terms of logistics you already have a system in place to track, approval, etc. Also a point to note that unlimited paid vacation needs to align with your manager and team. It has a huge impact both mentally and physically.
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 Nico Blier-Silvestri.
Nico Blier-Silvestri is the CEO and Co-Founder of Platypus. He brings over 15 years of experience and knowledge from the recruitment space to the HR tech startup. Nico has an extensive background in directing and managing HR departments. Since 2015 he has been strategic advisor, supporting the portfolio for all things HR, Culture and Recruitment for Practica Capital.
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.
Before starting Platypus I was in denial as to the amount of work that I was capable of doing. Shortly after having our second child, I took a job that took me to London for 3 days a week and the other 2 based here in Copenhagen. That role was both ego and money driven, but very quickly I realised that I was lying to myself, as I started to burn out. My health and family life was in jeopardy and that was a massive wake up call as to how much I was willing to sacrifice and do for my career. I realised very quickly that it comes at a cost to both my physical and mental well-being and most importantly at a cost to my family life. So I resigned.
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 it as how important it is for me that my physical and psychological well-being is a priority to the organization. Financial well-being should be a given, if you don’t pay well then your people are going to leave. We use our tool, Platypus, to help run on a quarterly basis an internal survey asking them how satisfied and engaged they are with well-being. Employees rate this on a score of 1 to 5, plus there is a call to action where they can add what they would like to see from the organization. So far we are doing very well in this area. My co-founder and myself, who have worked in some incredibly stressful companies, have seen the cost of stress and burn out on people, so we realised that this was a very important issue to us.
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?
We can correlate well-being with engagement, if we feel good about our work environment both physically and mentally, then employees will be more engaged and motivated. The right set up provides an open environment to do so. There is a massive correlation between satisfaction of well-being and how people are performing. We have the data to show this, not only within our own organization but throughout all organizations we work with. Productivity to me is how impactful an individual can be within the company, in the best environment possible. We cannot remove stress, it is impossible, but what we can do is make sure this is manageable and reduced. Building or sustaining an organization is a marathon, and there are going to be times where stress is a factor, but there will need to be resting times.
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 think a lot of leaders want to run a good organization, but the key skill is listening. They need a tool that targets engagement and satisfaction and what is important to people. Even without a tool, all leaders can start with qualitative interviews and try to gather information and data on their people’s well-being. The difficulty here is having open and honest conversations with managers, some employees might feel that this will be held against them and be a detriment to their career. Lead by example, talking about your own personal journey. Mirror communication is one of the best ways to start a discussion around this.
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?
Well we have a tool that looks at all of this! Understanding what is important to a candidate and what drives that candidate to join an organization is absolutely critical. Being honest with the candidate, who is driven by well-being, as to how important well-being is within Platypus, as we have this data. One of the most impactful things we have, outside of our tool, is the unlimited paid leave. We are good with open communication, and our employees come to us and speak to us when they feel they need a break.
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 have just hired a Chief People Officer, which is unheard of with a company of only 30 employees. It is critical for us as to the way we want to build this organization on prioritizing physical and mental well-being. So we need someone who is experienced in dealing with this.
- Emotional Wellness: We have a very flat hierarchical structure with a culture of open communication. I would love to think that everyone at Platypus feels comfortable being able to speak their mind. Both Dan, my co-founder and myself are incredibly open as to how we feel and I hope this is mirrored with our employees.
- Social Wellness: We know that relationships are important to our people, so we spend time and money investing in this. We have Friday bars and parties, but this is not mandatory to attend, there is no pressure for people to be involved. This can become toxic, so you need to give the flexibility to your people to decide for themselves.
- Physical Wellness: We have invested in ergonomic seating and moving desks and have given them the tech to enhance physical wellness. We also from the very start of the company have encouraged a hybrid working environment. People need to work where they feel comfortable. We are also in the process of moving to a bigger office, so people can have space to move about and also have some relax/chill areas. Along with this office comes a catered nutritious lunch.
- Financial Wellness: As discussed we have unlimited PTO. This needs to be paid, as we have in Platypus, otherwise it simply does not work.
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 it is really important that office environments have a chill or relax area, so there is a place for people that can go and switch off. It is physicall and mentally impossible to be switched on for 8 hours a day, you are not going to perform to your best. So there needs to be a quiet area, where people can go and gather their thoughts and switch off.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
I think we are lucky enough that we don’t need to reskill our leadership, as we employed people with the right mind set from the get go. But I realise that not everyone is lucky like us at Platypus, so the best way is have a data driven approach to look at the positive impact it has on your workforce to invest in well-being in terms of productivity, retention and results of the organization.
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?
Ideas don’t have to take time to implement. I think if you want something to be a priority, in terms of retention and performance of your workforce, then you need to make it happen. I think the easiest and quickest step to roll out is the unlimited paid vacation, because in terms of logistics you already have a system in place to track, approval, etc. Also a point to note that unlimited paid vacation needs to align with your manager and team. It has a huge impact both mentally and physically.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- 4 day working week — we are seeing this working well throughout Europe
- Hiring of an internal psychological coach to help support mental health, stress and failure.
- Investment in home office furniture/tech to mirror the office environment.
- Working hours start from the time you leave your home. So travel time is considered work time.
- Supporting contract break clauses for employees, so they can freelance and have flexibility within their career. They gain experience and skills working for another company safe in the knowledge that they have a role waiting for them.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
The fact that we have the data that well-being is becoming more and more important for people globally. We have data points from over 50 countries that well-being is on the rise. Organizations are going to have to align with this, not only with the new workforce entering the workplace, but also all age groups. COVID has just fast forwarded this trend.
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?
My LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicoblier/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.