Financial wellness through transparency. Making sure everyone is paid fairly is of course a given, but financial transparency is also very important for us. We don’t gatekeep information like salaries and budgets to our employees. For example, salaries are always clearly stated in our job offers.

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 Tania Kefs.

Tania Kefs is the CEO and co-founder of Jurnee, a remote-first tech company that makes organising team-events anywhere in the world seamless.

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.

I spent four incredibly formative years at Aircall. As their first employee, I saw the company grow from a startup with a small but very dedicated team, into a unicorn with hundreds of employees.

By the third year, I was responsible for key teams both in Paris and New York, which meant that I had to travel back and forth multiple times a month. This lifestyle had a huge impact on my personal life and my health, but at the time it seemed impossible to do that job without being there in person with both teams as much as I could.

At the time, the general belief was that for leadership to be effective, leaders needed to be present in the same office as their teams. It seemed as if what was really important to be a good leader was your attitude and the way you express yourself more than anything else. But I think that real leadership can be seen in other things.

The rise of hybrid and remote work forced us to think about how we were working, and how we can reach a better work-life balance because, let’s face it, when you have to fly halfway around the world every two weeks you can’t really have a full life outside of work.

I believe that the future of work is flexible and that, to remain attractive to talents, employers need to adapt to the new ways of working — hybrid and remote work being at the centre of this ‘workplace revolution’. I wanted to be part of the people making a change, so I took all my learnings from my time at Aircall and used them to build a remote-first company, Jurnee.

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?

I think the secret is to treat your employees like the adults they are, make them feel like they are in charge not only of their productivity but also of their work-life balance and that they should be the ones identifying what they need to be at their best in their professional and personal lives. To succeed though, the employer has to be able to create the kind of company culture that welcomes dialogue and feedback from their employees. And, of course, good intentions need to be followed by real actions.

What an employer also has to do, is to make sure that all their employees feel comfortable sharing their needs, because boundaries vary from person to person. The real failure of an employer is not being able to create a healthy environment where employees can feel empowered and in charge of themselves. Reaching this point is not easy and building a strong company culture requires an allocated budget, processes put in place and an execution plan — just like any other project.

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?

I believe a joyful, purpose-driven team is a more productive team — it’s one of the reasons why I started Jurnee. It’s extremely important to create strong connections between employees through human interaction — this way we create a team where people feel like they can rely and lean on each other if they need to. This is fundamental for their well-being at work and it has been proven to improve productivity as well. As humans, the connections we have at work are the things that have the strongest positive impact on us and having a team that works well together is one of the most important assets that any business needs to succeed.

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?

The main problem is that companies don’t really know what to do, because we are fed the narrative that wellness means the same thing for everyone. We need to have a diversified and personalised approach to wellness for a ‘program’ to really have meaning and be effective.

For one person wellness might be being able to work flexible hours, for someone else it’s fewer meetings, for others, it can be having a sports voucher or a great work setup at home. We treat people at work like they are their output, not like real people — this is what needs to change.

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?

For us, the main wellness asset in our culture is flexibility. Our employees can choose to live wherever they want, they can be remote, hybrid or they can come to the office in Paris every day. They are responsible for choosing the set-up that best fits their needs, from the location to the material and tools they use. We invite them to voice their needs for flexible hours or different equipment, and we always listen. I think people want the opportunity to decide what’s best for themselves, but the employer needs to create an environment where people feel like they will be heard.

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 promote work/life balance through flexibility. Whatever a person needs to feel happy and healthy at work, it’s something we want to explore. For example, if you feel stuck and can’t concentrate on what you are doing, maybe a walk in the park during working hours will be more beneficial to completing your task than just staring blankly at your screen.
  • Emotional Wellness: We create a healthy environment where people know that they can be open and lean on both their colleagues and management. There is no such thing as too much communication. We try to make sure that everyone knows exactly what is happening in any department, we promote collaboration between different poles and we created rituals to build connections within the team and foster a feeling of trust.
  • Social Wellness: We organise regular team-building events to build a strong team and develop human connections. Making sure that we create space for our employees to develop meaningful relationships is a pivotal part of our long-term strategy and a pillar of our company culture. Research shows that people who have strong ties with their teammates are happier, more productive and less likely to leave the company.
  • Physical Wellness: Every year we offer a voucher that employees can spend on anything that could improve their home office or work set-up in general. This could cover anything from a comfortable chair to a good coffee machine, depending on the employee’s needs. Someone will be more productive having a standing desk while someone else will prefer a very specific keyboard or a mouse that doesn’t hurt their wrist — each person works differently and we embrace that.
  • Financial Wellness: Our offers follow the market standards and we are always transparent. For example, all job listings include the pay bracket for full transparency and everyone in the company is free to check how much other roles are paid. This improves trust and avoids resentment within the team.

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?

Firstly, flexibility and personalization are key. People have different lives and needs outside of work and well-being at work is not going to be the same for everyone. Someone in your company will benefit from flexible hours while someone else might like a mentorship program — being open to listening to your employees’ needs and being able to adapt to them is key.

Secondly, now that companies have started embracing more remote and hybrid solutions, I think a team-building strategy is necessary to create meaningful relationships within a team and keep the team cohesive and connected. The study by Gallup cited earlier is just one of the many studies that clearly shows that social wellbeing — meaning having strong relationships at work — is pivotal for talent retention and employees’ engagement, performance and overall wellbeing.

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

We are a small team so we don’t have a lot of people in senior management positions, but I find that one of the best ways to make sure that every employee is on the same page about company culture is to lead by example — especially when the business is still small. Working closely with our senior members of staff, and providing coaching and mentoring, helps us to make sure that everyone is always reminded of what the pillars of our company culture are.

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?

I think the first step for anyone would be to embrace a new, more modern, way of working. Employers need to allow their employees to be the masters of their professional lives, but they also need to make themselves available and open for dialogue. That means putting real work into understanding and answering employees’ necessities and requests and always following through with commitments.

Everyone is different, so some people might have different boundaries and needs that need to be respected — we should normalise the fact that the company should try to adapt to employees’ needs just as much as the employees adapt to the company’s requirements.

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

  1. Remote and hybrid work. Some people thrive working in the office, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a big city, while others prefer working from home in a more relaxed atmosphere. Giving this choice to employees also means giving them the opportunity to be at their best.
  2. Flexibility and personalisation. As I said before, wellness is not the same for everyone. One person will consider flexible hours a big help to their wellbeing, while others will prefer other things such as a mentorship program — personalising what you offer to your employees is the only effective way to make a difference in their lives.
  3. Home office set-up. Especially for remote and hybrid teams, safety needs to be the number one priority. We offer a voucher to all our employees to spend on whatever will improve their home office, whether that is a great chair, a big screen or anything else they might need to be as comfortable as they can be.
  4. Financial wellness through transparency. Making sure everyone is paid fairly is of course a given, but financial transparency is also very important for us. We don’t gatekeep information like salaries and budgets to our employees. For example, salaries are always clearly stated in our job offers.
  5. Promote work-life balance through clear boundaries. We promote flexible work when needed but otherwise, we try to respect working hours to make sure everyone gets enough time away from work to recharge. This means no emails or Slack messages after work and no ‘urgent’ calls while someone is off work. Respecting everyone’s time off is respecting their boundaries.

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

I am optimistic about the future of work in general. I think the mindset change we are seeing is definitely the greatest source of optimism for me. In the last two years, we witnessed an incredibly fast evolution of the workplace and many companies are now continuing to strive for a more inclusive and balanced future of work.

This deep change in how we see work is going to produce a stimulating time full of creativity, innovation and a complete shift in how people live their lives. The rise of remote work has already started to transform entire industries, but I think it’s fair to believe that this is just the beginning.

Predicting what exactly is going to happen is impossible, but we have all the reasons to believe the next few years will bring very exciting opportunities for the future of work.

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?

The best way is to follow Jurnee on LinkedIn, Twitter and our newsletter.

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