CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE. It is not one size fits all. It is a choose your own adventure from multiple opportunities available to individuals.

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 Shawn Gulyas from humanworks8.

Shawn exists to design and facilitate creative experiences that challenge one’s thinking and action — helping individuals and companies find their authenticity and elevate their people touchpoints. Shawn and his team have guided organizations to improve their bottom line by building sustainable people practices through four end-to-end service solutions: The Core Value Touchpoints — Culture Development Solution, The Kolbe System™ — Talent Engagement Solution, The Leadership Model — Leadership Development Solution and The Way — Strategic Planning Solution. Think of Shawn as a “jump-starter” of energy and ideas around the belief that everyone matters and as a leader who creates cultures and communities where values, natural instincts and well-being are the essence of success.

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.

The one life experience that pops out at me is becoming a caregiver for aging parents over the last decade. This experience that I am still living and working to thrive within has been a gift to practice many well-being principles that I have used within the workplace as well. Three of these concepts include building a gratitude practice, understanding and leaning into one’s innate way of working to energize your commitments and actions, and focusing on one’s personal values to focus decisions and plans.

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?

humanworks8 looks at wellness through our philosophy of The 8 — eight characteristics that all humans have whether they are at work or in life. These elements are foundational to us to build strong cultures and allow people to bring their best self to work every day. The one that focuses on well-being is — Everyone Thrives — this centers wellness around four pillars — Purpose, Balance, Nutrition & Movement. Within each area we help organizations create sustainable practices from a 365 framework — believing that well-being doesn’t come from an event or program, but rather from a way work of working and honoring the unique needs of individuals so they are able to create a wellness practice that meets their specific needs and then have them measure their success based on the outcomes that are aligned to their wellness journey purpose.

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 have found that employee engagement and presence increase when unique practices are implemented that allow individuals to choose their own adventure in the well-being arena. We have seen cost of employer sponsored benefits decrease, retention increase, and employee satisfaction measured through surveys and focus groups rise.

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?

It’s opening up owners and executive leadership mindsets to all the people touchpoints that well-being initiatives impact including hiring/retention, performance management, belonging and teamwork. Drawing clear lines to elevated engagement and outcomes in these areas is critical. Wellness must also be seen in an organization’s core values for it to have the bottom-line link to organizational success.

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 help organizations build well-being into their culture beginning with their core values and then aligning it throughout the 12 human touchpoints in a business. Being able to talk about that advantage during the recruitment process will speak to potential candidates about what life at work is really about in an organization.

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.

A framework we use to elevate well-being from just being a program or benefit into a way of life at an organization is called 52/52. This way of thinking about wellness engages every people leader in an organization into being a role model for what well-being looks and feels like in real life. Anyone in a leadership role “owns” a piece of the wellness practice by bringing what purpose, balance, nutrition, and movement look like to them personally in their life. Each is assigned a week in the year to present globally to the organization their personal well-being journey through one of the four pillars. We have seen remarkable success, engagement, and a change in culture in organizations that use this framework. We have seen leadership present on topics ranging from golf to scrapbooking, from photography to meditation. The framework allows multiple entry points for anyone in an organization to access and participate. It can also touch on each of the five areas you list below. It has greater chance for success because it is not a program or policy, but an organic, real-life growth process that builds not only wellness growth, but strong inter-personal relationships at all levels in a business.

We have also found that focusing on wellness areas off the typical wellness plan can build interest and engagement. Some areas we have explored have included:

  • Caregiving
  • Humor
  • Personal Values linked to Organizational Values
  • Mental Wellness
  • Emotional Wellness
  • Social Wellness
  • Physical Wellness
  • Financial Wellness

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?

Bottom-line — The process above builds a sustainable well-being practice that is not owned by Human Resources or a specific individual in a business, but a way working from a foundation of a well-being value that is seen lived and role modeled throughout the organization. It can eventually be opened to everyone at every level to participate not only as a learner, but as presenter from their unique method of finding their own well-being.

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

We are helping organization include well-being goals and success criteria in all strategy and planning sessions, in performance review discussions, in any team or project team events as well as through volunteer activities.

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?

We use a tool call a well-being planner for individuals to outline from a place of their purpose what actions they want to consider in their well-being journey. This builds a greater sense of “why” and commitment for purposeful action moving forward.

For organizations it must start at the top and not be housed in Human Resources. For a culture of well-being, it must be a conversation in every strategy and planning discussion and have targeted outcomes and projects aligned to values and people touchpoints.

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

  1. SUSTAINABLE. It is not a program or policy. It must instead be a sustainable practice aligned with the values of the organization.
  2. 365. It must have a 365 mindset because well-being is important to people every single day of the year.
  3. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE. It is not one size fits all. It is a choose your own adventure from multiple opportunities available to individuals.
  4. OWNED BY ALL. It is a responsibility of every leader in an organization to be a role model from their entry point of personal well-being.
  5. BOTTOM-LINE. Wellness must appear on strategy and planning and tied to organization success criteria because it does have bottom-line impact.

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

The pandemic has shaken up and opened eyes to the needs of people both at work and in life. Organizations have a unique opportunity to elevate their practices and beliefs that will be noticed by current employees, but also to external talent.

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?

Connect with me in LinkedIn and follow my Wondering Wednesday thoughts each week.

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