Working Well: Michael Heinrich Of Garten On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Karen Mangia
Authority Magazine

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Employers will be navigating through a hybrid workforce and will continue to find wellness solutions that are both in-person and virtual to connect teams across the globe.

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 Michael Heinrich, Founder & CEO — garten.

Michael is dedicating his time to making the world healthy and blissful. Educated at Stanford (Threshold Venture Fellow, OnTrack Innovation Scholar), Harvard, UC Berkeley (summa cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Americorps Bonner Leader). He is the Founder & CEO of garten (formerly Oh My Green), a YcombinatorTop 100 (S16 and YCG F19 batches), and Stanford StartX company.

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. Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

We at garten work hard to incorporate wellness into the entire employee lifecycle. We start with attracting and recruiting the best talent — and we do that by ensuring they are completely aligned with our values, and with our core mission. We use a Predictive Index assessment to ensure that we are hiring the best person for the job (and to weed out any possibility of unconscious bias). Additionally, we know that wellbeing starts at the top — from day one, our new ambassadors are given an onboarding that includes ‘gtime’, which is a 2x daily rest (meditation, yoga, going for a walk) — which all the executives adhere to. Ambassadors are eligible to learn TM (transcendental meditation) with a TM teacher, and if they continue to practice are reimbursed for the expense of learning. Michael takes a 3-week wellbeing retreat every year where he completely shuts down and allows himself to revitalize and renew, coming back fresh and clear.

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.

We are uniquely positioned to check the pulse of ongoing wellness trends because we combine wellness with technology. This means real-time feedback, both subjective and objective. Like a biofeedback loop, the relationships we have with clients give us the ability to forecast the upcoming needs as we monitor the current movement in the wellness space. We then give that feedback to the clients so they can make informed decisions on where to invest in their employees’ wellness. We have created 3 tools that help us to capture trends while at the same time creating quality wellness offerings.

  • Proprietary Analytics Dashboard gives managers a way to support their employee’s nutritional goals and steadily increase the overall wellness of their offices by providing high quality nutrition and education while staying within budget. They can see their consumption ratings within our proprietary ranking system, with guidelines developed by nutritionists, and make adjustments accordingly. This can also be used to keep track of employee favorites and to provide anonymous feedback on the program.
  • One of the best things to come from the ashes of the last couple of years was our on-demand streaming service for wellness content 24/7. garten TV was our answer to offices suddenly shut down and employees stuck at home. Our providers went to work quickly to create content that could be accessed as often as needed, and the reach expanded way beyond the workplace as spouses, dependents, and students were able to enjoy this benefit right alongside those working from home. Available on Android and iOS devices, people can access this content from anywhere, anytime, which is also a great solution for those 3rd shift employees.
  • The garten Experiences marketplace is a robust platform where clients can book providers for their in-office or virtual wellness programming, whether that’s one-off team-building events, or weekly yoga classes, in person or virtual. Not only does this make connecting with high-quality programming easy for HR & benefits teams, but it gives us high level insight into market trends nationally. Here is what we are seeing from just this past year:

Physical Wellness:

Physical wellbeing still tops the charts. 70% of experiences booked are massages, yoga, Tai Chi, and fitness classes, along with talks on ergonomics, nutrition, and sleep.

Mental and Emotional Wellness:

More and more companies are bringing in speakers on stress management, breathing techniques, and meditation classes to help release the pressure valve of what continues to be a stressful global situation. 1 out of 10 experiences booked on our platform have to do with Mental Wellness. Recurring themes are reducing the stress of returning to the office, identifying & avoiding burnout, prioritizing self-care, showing empathy and kindness, and cultivating gratitude and happiness. These events have a holistic aspect, connecting mental wellness with the social, physical, nutritional, and creative aspects of wellness.

Social Wellness:

Almost 20% of employers choose to connect their teams socially through team building events, creative group activities, and happy hours with curated social mixers. This is vital for remote and hybrid teams to stay connected and engaged.

Financial Wellness:

Financial concerns can cause major disruptions and is an angle to stress and burnout that is not talked about very often. There is a growing interest for financial coaching tailored to particular life stages, going through grief or loss, managing credit & debt, as well as concerns for the future and retirement. It is also an area often taboo for many employers, but we have embraced the uncertainty with our teams and ensure they are well armed for financial success.

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?

We at garten have fully embraced the simple concept that productivity comes from rest. For decades this has been viewed as counter-intuitive, especially in the workforce, where the ability to push through illness, stress, & fatigue has been championed. Rather, I see the concept of “maximize rest to maximize productivity” as para-intuitive, and we are now seeing a culture correction shift that reflects this. People instinctively know that they are better human beings when they are rested, and they are most attracted to companies that are making room for this. From a place of rest, all the tenants of wellness mentioned above come into alignment. I think companies willing to invest in their employees by giving them this time will see a big return.

We do this at garten daily by taking time in the morning and afternoon to come together and rest. I call it g-Time and our ambassadors know that during these two times there will be no meetings, no calls, no deadlines. No matter where we are, what time zone we are in, whether we are in the office or working from home, we drop what we are doing and come together in quiet contemplation & meditation (and sometimes napping). We all sit there in silence, but it is truly an amazing, revitalizing experience.

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

It is harder than you think to take 30 minutes and step away from the busy-ness of business, especially if that is where you see your value come from. For us, it is not just part of a business plan, it is how we plan to change the world around us. garten aspires to be a force for good for generations to come, and that only occurs when you align with what is of lasting value, rather than what is temporary. That takes courage and a willingness to risk being different from the status quo. My task is to empower and release leadership to make decisions that are aligned with our values. It truly has to come from the top in order to have integrity throughout the rest of the organization. We place value on 5 areas:

  • Family & Fun — a commitment to our families and their needs — and not taking ourselves too seriously.
  • Openness — permission to be authentic and real, wherever you are at. It doesn’t serve anyone to be less than that, and it is within this environment that our most creative solutions come through.
  • Results — the only way we know we are going in the right direction is to pay attention to the data and feedback we receive along the way. We course correct swiftly to get back on track if we don’t see the results that lead to lasting impact.
  • Curiosity — I love this one, seeing all the possibilities and wondering what might happen… exploring the unknown, and always looking to improve and innovate. It takes a certain amount of bravery to say, “I don’t know; let’s find out.” It is in this space that fantastic things happen.
  • Empowerment — making sure everyone on the team gets the tools, support, and encouragement they need to be a true ambassador of garten and what we stand for (like CEO-approved naptimes).

You may notice that it spells FORCE, which is “cute”, I know. But it is also strong, the kind of strength that the world needs right now. Every time we have an all-hands meeting, I remind those on the call that this is what we value. Our mission is to be a force for good and we are working toward that.

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?

The actual action step will vary for everyone as each person is at a different point in their wellness journey but underlying it all is commitment. As leaders in this space, we must be an example and provide support for that commitment. Implementing things like starting the day with meditation can be a nice way to begin. Once a quarter, we gather as a family for a ½ day retreat to refresh our minds and bodies through breathwork, meditation, and yoga. This becomes a fresh start — a reset button that realigns our commitment to ourselves, our families, and our mission.

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

Ultimately, this connects back to the individual and their desire to orchestrate their life and environment to best support their wellness goals. Workplace wellness trends are reflecting this, and those implementing these changes are seeing great results in productivity and employee satisfaction. Based on what we are seeing from our client’s engagements:

  • Mental wellness and stress management will continue to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
  • Employers will be navigating through a hybrid workforce and will continue to find wellness solutions that are both in-person and virtual to connect teams across the globe.
  • Workplace adaptability. We have an untethered workforce now, which is an incredibly exciting place to be. It’s a fertile ground from which innovation grows. It’s not the strongest that survives, it’s the most adaptable, so it is up to us to make sure we have an adaptable workforce that will bend, not break.
  • Telemedicine will continue to be a great way to find resources and be seen without adding risk or additional time away from family or work.
  • Heightened awareness of the impact good nutrition has on our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing will continue to trend. We have seen the effect that simply becoming aware of what you are consuming (and making smarter choices as a result) can improve your productivity, your energy, and your outlook. More and more offices are rethinking their breakrooms, and vending machines as the employees are returning to the office.

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

As a business built around taking the guesswork out of wellness for companies small and large, we have our finger on the pulse of what’s happening now and can safely predict what will happen — or is likely to happen — in the future. What we see is that people are finally waking up and taking wellness more seriously, realizing it’s not just good for the business but for the employees AND the decision makers. Soon, workplace wellness will no longer be a choice. It will be a core part of any healthy business and that couldn’t make me more excited.

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?

You’re very welcome. They can visit garten (www.garten.co), connect with me on Linkedin and on Twitter

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

About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success from Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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