Turning employees into ambassadors. By involving employees from every level in the development of long-term strategies and handbooks, staff members can become ambassadors of their workplace, and also move into the next year with greater aspirations and a collective sense of determination, ambition and purpose.

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 Samu Hällfors.

Samu Hällfors founded Framery at the age of 22. As the brand’s Founder and CEO, Samu has continued to develop and refine a deep knowledge of Framey’s company culture, product particulars and insight on how and why the company was started. As Framery grows and expands to meet market needs, Samu believes that strengthening the company’s world-class culture and providing individuals with thought leadership will help contribute to the continued success of Framery all over the world.

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:

Back in 2010 a coworker and I were tired of listening to our boss constantly speaking on his phone — it was very disruptive. The two of us came up with a less than polite proposal, that our boss go somewhere else to take his phone calls. He responded with: “Well, buy me a phone booth”. Unfortunately, there was not a phone booth on the market, so our only alternative was to make one. After years of development and trial and error, the concept for Framery was born. Before becoming acoustic experts, we just wanted to solve the problem of noise at work. We were interested in self fulfillment and happiness, and Framery prioritizes these exact principles to this very day. Office employees are often not happy because they can’t succeed at work as well as they could if they had more streamlined means of both privacy and collaboration. Framery helps people concentrate in the open office whether during individual work or group efforts. This formative experience changed my relationship with work and inspired Framery, a company that is serious about happiness.

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?:

One of our mottos here at Framery is that we are “Serious about Happiness”. I find that, with my own company, it’s all about exploring the balance between a supportive workplace environment and a healthy, happy company culture. I think these things work toward identifying how to meet the needs of employees so that they can be themselves and reach their highest potential. As it relates to how we measure wellness at Framery, we conduct internal surveys to get a more direct pulse on how our staff is feeling. We encourage every Framerian to be whoever they wish to be at work — if they’re introverted, we want them to feel like they can have privacy and quiet time at work; if they’re extroverted, we want them to feel encouraged to step away from their tasks and socialize and collaborate to their own desire and fulfillment. A recent internal survey suggests that 98% of Framery employees feel that they can be themselves at work — our team is incredibly proud of this as individuality is a key component to a successful, inclusive company culture.

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?:

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, all executives are re-learning how to approach business matters in this new normal, that includes ensuring you have a “well” workforce. No one knows exactly how things will truly settle in a post- pandemic world, and many executives are asking: how do we measure and enable productivity and profitability? Employees now have the power — and that is a good thing! Executives must turn to their employees and see what aspects are most important to them in terms of curating a well workforce and positive environment (both virtually and physically). From in-person collaboration to long periods of uninterrupted thinking, executives need to be open to figuring out how they can best accommodate and support a post-pandemic worklife, this includes keeping our employees happy, healthy, and fulfilled in their roles.

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?:

Great leaders must understand that initiatives they invest in are not always 100% directly measurable. You may not always see the results right away, and leaders must trust that employee impact can benefit the company in the long run. It is the same thing when leaders invest in new technologies — you may not know how to use it or what the return is, but you invest in technologies because you know it will benefit your company in the long term. Wellbeing should be treated the same way — leaders need to make good and reliable enough estimates into how wellbeing programs impact employees, and survey employees to make sure they feel the same way. Money invested into developing wellness programs will show itself in productivity and profitability somewhere in the future. Leaders who are committed to making investments in wellbeing will retain the best talent in the market. Wellbeing initiatives will attract new talent, and companies will lose their best talent if they do not make serious investments into wellness programs.

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?:

Framery makes the discussion of wellness-related policies part of everyday work life and not just on special occasions, days, or months out of the year. Well-being is a priority every single day employees come to the office and it’s a responsibility that Framery is proud to pursue. We walk the talk when saying we are serious about happiness. One of the most important factors of our talent recruitment and hiring process is to find talent that fits into the Framery culture. We need programs that meet the expectations of many different people. We highlight our initiatives from day one, so new hires can immediately learn and have access to the wellness programs we have to offer. It is important to have a desirable and wellness-oriented package for new hires. Our wellness programs may not work for everybody, but they work for Framerians. We always want to make sure the people we recruit fit Framery’s culture and value what we have to offer.

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:

  • Framery offers occupational health care for its employees and access to a dedicated occupational health psychologist and their array of specific services. At Framery, if anything is on your mind that you’d like to discuss with a trained professional, in addition to traditional contact channels (like phone, email, or in-person appointments) Framery has a dedicated Slack-channel to make contact and next steps easy.

Emotional Wellness:

  • Framery recently offered employees an optional three-month “self-leadership and work skills” e-training pilot conducted with Academy of Brain, a human resources consulting company. The themes covered include resilience, sleep, recovery skills, focus and concentration. Academy of Brain’s online learning tutorials are based on behavioral and social science research and practical experiences. The company’s online training develops important psychological work-life skills. The goal is to improve employees’ interaction and management skills as well as their way of handling pressure. They also provide methods and tools for more efficient concentration and recovery.

Social Wellness:

  • Virtual Framery events, also known as “Virtual Frevents,” are highly recommended and popular at Framery. Most recently, the team hosted a virtual cooking class for all Framerians who wanted to join from anywhere around the world. A professional chef guided employees through a delicious 3-course meal. We also host virtual breaks and get-togethers such as virtual coffee breaks with your team and other co-workers. This brings together our company no matter where in the world our employees are located.

Physical Wellness:

  • Framery gives employees an hour every week to go for a mid-day walk or stop at the gym, while they’re still getting paid. We trust employees to be able to step away at the appropriate time to take care of themselves, while also still getting their work done in a timely manner. One application we recommend is Cuckoo Workout, an easy-to-use break exercise app that motivates employees to move in a fun way during the workday. It reminds employees, especially those who sit in front of a computer at work, to take breaks and get physically active. Additionally, our production workers are invited to specific exercise programs during their breaks that are guided by trained physiotherapists. Since these employees are doing more physically-demanding work, Framery gives them the opportunity to find movements and exercises that balance out that labor and helps them recover from heavy lifting.

Financial Wellness:

  • I believe in the philosophy that Framery employees need to be paid a salary in the level that will never cause extra stress in their life — which means that no matter what it will cover the cost of living. I am not a huge fan of bonus schemes, especially in creative roles. At Framery, financial wellness needs to be based on financial safety so that employees can trust that they will be paid a salary that is fair and comfortable for them.

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?

  • Prioritizing wellness and transparency at work and providing accessible mental health services go hand-in-hand in creating an environment that generates happiness. Workplaces must maintain sincerity and transparency in these conversations around employee wellness. The key is to create a culture where everyone has the feeling that it’s not only okay but highly recommended to talk about employee wellness with your team leaders and within your team.

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

  • Leaders should consider providing access to a series of wellness programs, healthcare providers and therapists that are available during the workday; this can help staff not only manage stress in the office, but also build healthy, holistic routines into their daily lives. While wellness programs might not be a personal fit for all employees, rolling out these types of resources communicates to staff that the company prioritizes their wellbeing in the workplace.

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?

  • Understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to get well. Some people want to lean into their feelings in the workplace and feel comfortable discussing where they’re at mentally — while others prefer to do the opposite: bury their heads in work when they’re on the clock. Everyone processes their emotions differently; so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to help employees “Get well” at work. Employers should seek out a myriad of resources that will appeal to different personality types and working styles.

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

  1. Transparency from the beginning. A key element to building a happy company (where people want to stay) is transparency. The idea is simple: no strong hierarchy, no unnecessary middle management, no hidden or secret processes. All the information regarding the operation of Framery is available to staff members on their internal Wiki.
  2. Fair decision-making. From June to November 2021; Framery’s entire personnel was given the opportunity to collectively collaborate on a “Five Year Strategy” and a “Culture Handbook” refresh (a series of documents that outline the company’s core messages, including the Code of Conduct). The new Framery strategy, co-designed with the personnel, represented a huge investment of time, but ultimately the insights and collective voices of all staff members also led to an increased understanding of the company’s entire operational ecosystem.
  3. Turning employees into ambassadors. By involving employees from every level in the development of long-term strategies and handbooks, staff members can become ambassadors of their workplace, and also move into the next year with greater aspirations and a collective sense of determination, ambition and purpose.
  4. Make the weekdays count. Framery believes that getting teams together, be it in-person or virtual, leads to better culture, innovation, and trust. Amongst this programming includes “Thank God It’s Wednesday” coffees (TGIW), where all staff members will gather to enjoy a cup of coffee and spend some time together.
  5. Let staff members know that it is ok to fail. For a team to be successful, there has to be complete trust amongst its members — part of this circle of trust is the communication that it’s okay to fail, especially at the beginning of one’s career. Without knowing it is okay to fail, only known-to-work solutions are considered. This comfort allows employees to put all ideas out for consideration, regardless of size.

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

In this post-pandemic world where employers have given their employees more and more power into where they want to live and how they want to work, employees have the ability to make a difference in their company. I am optimistic for a future workplace that values wellness, where employers and employees have a happier work environment.

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