A Gallup study found two-thirds of the U.S. workforce is disengaged in the office.

The researchers defined this as being mentally and emotionally checked out, with these workers doing “the minimum required” and willing to “quickly leave their company for [even] a slightly better offer.”

While engaged workers have seen a slight uptick in the last 20 years (from 26 percent to 34 percent), workplace engagement isn’t exactly making strides.

Line graph. U.S. employee engagement rises to 34%.

And because the study shows engaged workers produce more than 400 percent what disengaged workers do, leaders should pay close attention to this solvable problem.

While engagement is driven by a host of things (such as meaningful work), Gallup cites “wellness” as a key component. And one of the direct effects is “substantially better” customer engagement.

Happy employees result in happy customers. And what do happy customers do? They refer your product or services to their circle of influence. This directly turns social capital into economic capital.

Obviously every founder, owner, or leader would love more referrals. However, I believe employee well-being may be an undervalued path to getting there. In fact, I believe wellness can actually be part of your marketing strategy—referrals and new business growth alike.

Here’s how it can work.

Wellness as a Strategy

Seven years ago, I founded our company Boldly. We launched in the executive assistant space, starting with a small offering and a tight customer base.

As we grew, I hired high-caliber contractors with extensive experience. They stayed with us for years — rather than months — and I did everything in my power to make it an attractive, fulfilling, and flexible job for them.

Then, last year, we recognized the opportunity to make a big change to our structure and model. For us to go next-level, we had to double down on our brand and also our culture. 

One of our primary focuses? Wellness through stability, flexibility, and meaning.

I know first hand that this investment has paid off in value to our people, our clients, and our bottom line.

How To Promote A Wellness Culture

At the start of 2019, we had a new team member named Stacy start. She had nearly 20 years of experience, a Master’s in management and leadership, and an incredible ability to solve complex problems.

She was a natural fit. She was also a magnet for new business.

The very first client she supported was a high-level interior designer. Stacy said she immediately immersed herself into their businesses, building high trust and allowing for rapid learning. And within a month, her first client referred Boldly to another, and then another.

Stacy was also shocked when her team leader reminded her, “You don’t always have to have your notifications on. Support your clients, but also take care of you.”

Promoting wellness fosters employees who shine and become incredible referral creators.

For us, clients stick around for years and lifetime value is high. And conversations with most prospective clients who are referred to us begin with, “When can we get started?” rather than, “How much does this cost?”

What’s in Their Best Interest?

We decided to build a company wrapped around the best interests of our team and clients. As cliché as that might sound on the surface, it’s taken serious commitment to fulfill. For us, this has meant:

  1. Hiring only the best of the best.
    A-level players want to work with other A-level players. Each year, we field over 32,000 applications. We hire less than 1% of them. While we could grow faster if we even slightly lowered our standards, keeping the bar high serves our team. It promotes a culture of wellness by reducing stress and increasing connectedness.
  1. Bringing team on as W2 employees rather than contractors.
    We engaged in the long, arduous, and expensive process of incorporating in all 23 U.S. states we have team members in so we can bring them on as W2 employees. Today, our model rests on stability, which is the foundation of wellness and combats everything from chronic illness to anxiety. This W2 status allows our team to receive employment benefits like health insurance while also providing a compliant solution for enterprise-level clients.
  2. Giving employees complete flexibility on location, schedule, and even the clients they serve.
    Because we are fully-remote, our team’s location is flexible. Plus, they’re even able to set their own schedules and, as mentioned, have a say in the client-pairing process to ensure chemistry. The work-life integration increases satisfaction and happiness while reducing anxiety. Many of our team members have families they feel they can now be fully present for, which is a new way to work for them.

Wellness as a Competitive Advantage

Wellness can — and should — be a massive referral engine for companies big and small.

Happier employees equal happier customers. Happier customers equal more best-match referrals. And, because 83% of customers trust referrals from someone they know, this shortens sales cycles and enables faster client onboarding.

Because employee engagement (and wellness) in the U.S. is only crawling upwards, doubling down on it can be a major competitive advantage. Those who help their peoples’ quality of lives hockey-stick will see their bottom lines follow as well.

How can you go all in on employee wellness, engagement, and satisfaction?