Fitness and Health Trackers: Many employees are leveraging fitness trackers like Fitbit and the Apple Watch to gain insight into their person wellness and make lifestyle changes.

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 Hodel.

Nico Hodel is Co-CEO of Start It Up, a digital innovation agency based in the US that provides content marketing, app development, digital advertising, data analytics, innovation consulting and video production services for startups, and B2B companies.

A full-stack web developer and programmatic marketing specialist, Nico ran development efforts at his former company Valence Digital for over 4 years, overseeing a 12 person marketing and development team, working on projects in the Angular, React, and React Native frameworks.

After working on web development projects in the tech, finance, and legal fields with clients from around the world Nico took on an advisory role at the company to build Start It Up, and its subsidiary, the content writing service Rriter, where he now works full time as Co-CEO.

When he’s not on his computer or speaking at a tech or startup event, you’ll find Nico surfing in his native Honolulu, or playing tennis in Brooklyn.

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 tend to look at wellness through three primary lenses: physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Physical wellness refers to the optimization of bodily mechanisms, healthspan, and performance. Unfortunately, our allelopathic medical model doesn’t always place the emphasis it should on the prevention of chronic disease and on optimizing physical performance. Instead, our system focuses on treating the sysmptoms of chronic disease, often with expensive and exotic medical interventions that produce side effects of their own.

Luckily, a growing number of scientists and longevity doctors have begun offering direct-to-consumer knowledge of some of the most cutting edge developments in functional and regenerative medicine that is centered on disease prevention. Scientists like David Sinclair of Harvard, Andrew Huberman of Stanford, and Medical Doctors like Peter Attia have all started successful podcasts that offer direct-to-consumer knowledge about the latest developments in physical performance, disease prevention, and anti-aging lifestyle interventions. Optimizing workers’ physical wellness boosts their energy levels, concentration, neuronal health, and intelligence.

Giving employees the ability to expand their intellectual development is also important. One effective approach is to offer employees access to online education programs through organizations like Linkedin Learning,, and Free Code Camp, which allow them to hone their intellectual and creative skills.

Finally, emotional health means giving employees the chance to serve something greater than their own direct personal interests. To do so, management should tie day-to-day work with a greater vision. This vision should inspire workers to serve a societal good that is greater than themselves. Extending resources to workers which give them access to therapists and mental health counseling is another great way to imporve the emotional wellbeing of the company at large. Connecting with independent media outlets that shed light on how victims process traumatic events is also a great practice for employees.

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?

One of the best proxies for wellness in a workforce is interpersonal cohesion and communication. Workers that are physically, intellectually, and emotionally well communicate professionally, precisely, and warmly. As wellness declines, organizational conflict and infighting emerge.

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?

Mangement should see spending on organizational wellness not as a cost of doing business but rather as an investment that will pay dividends in the longterm by improving productivity, increasing retention, and creating a cohesive company culture.

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?

We try to recruit talent that values work-life balance and holistic wellness by asking questions related to interviewees daily routines, passions, and hobbies. Questions that step outside of talents’ professional qualifications give hiring managers the chance to gauge if a prospecive employee will contribute to a culture of wellness at the company.

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:

The best example of mental wellness is a healthy sense of intellectual curiosity. Cultivating a love a learning is one of the best ways to foster mental wellness. Expanding access of online education courses is a priority.

  • Emotional Wellness:

An example of emotional wellness would be the capacity to respond intelligently and productively to emotionally triggering events. Giving workers access to mental health professionals and resources that facilitate practices like mindfulness meditation can be extremely beneficial in this regard.

  • Social Wellness:

The best example of social wellness is the capacity to form meaningful interpersonal relationships that are based on trust and respect. Giving employees the tools to communicate effectively and form interpersonal bonds is crucial.

  • Physical Wellness:

Freedom from chronic disease and the capacity to engage in aerobic, anaerobic, and high-intensity interval exercise is vital. Giving employees the time off and knowledge they need to devote time to diet and exercise is very important.

  • Financial Wellness:

The meaning of financial wellness will vary by person but one good definition is the idea of financial freedom. Financial freedom means that employees have the financial resources to make the life decisions that are most important to them. There is no substitute for paying workers for their time and effort.

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?

Investing in employee wellness results in a renewed company culture, higher productivity, and greater social cohesion.

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

Supplying leaders with enough time off to achieve a healthy work-life balance and giving them the educational resources they need to optimize their wellness is essential.

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?

There are no shortcuts to wellness, but lifestyle changes like getting proper sleep, adopting a healthy diet such as a Mediterranean diet.

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

  1. Teletherapy: Therapy and mental health counseling are essential for employees’ emotional wellbeing. Teletherapy gives workers the option to receive therapy virtually over the internet through companies like Better Help.
  2. Free Healthy Food: Many tech companies already provide caffeterias to employees that are stocked with healthy, fresh food that help to optimize workers’ physical health.
  3. Continuing Education Online Courses: Many companies have realized the benefits of providing their employees access to online courses that help them to hone their skills.
  4. Next-Generation Communication Tools: Many executives think that the central role of email in the workplace is coming to an end as interactive communication platforms like Slack, Asana, and Trello rise to take its place.
  5. Fitness and Health Trackers: Many employees are leveraging fitness trackers like Fitbit and the Apple Watch to gain insight into their person wellness and make lifestyle changes.

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

My greatest source of optimism are the innovations occuring in the healthtech space and the many products that empower workers to take wellness into their own hands. I do, however, think it’s important that workers maintain their data and medical privacy rights in the face of these new products.

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?

Feel free to follow me on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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