Corporate Wellness: The Hidden Strategy to Unlocking Your Culture’s Fullest Potential
A deep dive into the synergy of strategy and technology in holistic wellbeing.
The corporate world — specifically the corporate construct of America — has unequivocally become a place of segmented work-life balance, passionate in that of which maintains the status quo of sheepwalking.
In the forward words of Seth Godin, sheepwalking is “the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them a braindead job and enough fear to keep them in line.”
As a culture, we have removed not just the ethereal push for creativity in the workplace, but also stripped the opportunity for a synergistic lifestyle, failing to embrace the infinite potential of the people making up an organization.
A few alarming statistics on work-life balance in America:
- 33% of full-time employees work on an average Saturday, Sunday, or holiday.
- 66% say they don’t strongly believe they have a work-life balance.
- 57% of workers said technology has ruined the modern-day family dinner.
- 40% said it was OK to answer an urgent work email at the dinner table.
This scale creates a work-life imbalance with a direct effect on performance in the workplace:
- 60% experienced poor morale,
- 36% stated poor productivity and,
- 41% who said there was high turnover and burnout/fatigue.
Where do we go from here? The movement is overcoming the stages of industrialization into an advanced economy, embracing the potential for togetherness in work and personal. Perhaps this movement is best-termed life balance and a reinvention of tribes.
Life balance begins with rethinking technology in corporate wellness.
Examples of Corporate Wellness
Corporations have created solutions in the space of holistic wellbeing.
- Asana: Offers mentor programs that provide free executive coaching, along with monthly workshops with different health-themed focuses, such as a “Debunking Detox” workshop and an immunity workshop before flu season. Asana doesn’t hold meetings on Wednesdays. Daily yoga programs, free gym memberships, and in-house culinary experts.
- Draper: Offers onsite Zumba and Weight Watchers classes and holds annual health fairs filled with fun activities.
- Google: Offers an all-encompassing wellness program featuring onsite healthcare services, including physician, chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage services, as well as access to fitness centers, classes, and community bikes. You can even pick up new personal and professional skills by taking cooking classes, coding degree programs, or guitar lessons, to name a few of the cool classes Google offers.
And yet the execution and engagement falter.
“You are given everything you could ever want, but it costs you the only things that actually matter in the end…Basically, you end up spending the majority of your life eating Google food, with Google coworkers, wearing Google gear, talking in Google acronyms, sending Google emails on Google phones, and you eventually start to lose sight of what it’s like to be independent of the big G, and every corner of your life is set up to reinforce the idea that you would be absolutely insane to want to be anywhere else.”
Motivation to enhance wellness in the workplace exists. However, to do too much is wrong and to do too little is wrong. What hope exists for providing a true holistic employee experience?
Provide the platform for wellness, and nothing more, fostering empowerment over control.
Serena Oppenheim defines several innovators in corporate wellness strategy from facility designers to tailored digital content providers.
- Exubrancy: A corporate wellness consultancy agency, providing a blend of on-site fitness classes, meditation session, chair massage sessions, and special events like rescue puppy visits, pop-up smoothie bars, and Beyonce dance classes. In addition, Exubrancy works with clients to design, build, and staff wellness spaces like fitness centers and relaxation rooms for their offices.
- BurnAlong: Offers a more technology-oriented approach, providing company-wide fitness challenges and workout tutorials through a mobile app. Primarily serviced through curated digital content.
- BetterSpace: Offers a comprehensive recommendation and engagement engine for wellness, running 100-day mental health sprints with different companies as they are pre-launch they are achieving incredibly high metrics of an 80% engagement rate where the average Employee Assistance Program (EAP) falls well below 40%.
Each tool provides an element of wellness in the workplace done right. The combination of each leads to something brilliant.
Laying the Groundwork for Wellness: Netflix
1. Big data is powerful, but big data plus big ideas is transformational.
“Here’s how Reed Hastings explained it in 2005, when the company had just 3.5 million subscribers. ‘It’s possible to totally misunderstand Netflix,’ he told me. ‘The real problem we’re trying to solve is, How do you transform selection so that consumers can find a steady stream of [entertainment] they love? We give everyone a platform to broaden their tastes.’”
2. If you aim to disrupt an industry, you must be willing to disrupt yourself.
“Yet what’s truly remarkable about the company’s trajectory over the last two decades is how dramatically it has disrupted itself in service of its mission.”
3. Strategy is culture, culture is strategy.
“When it comes to who it hires and what it promises them, how it makes decisions and shares information, even what it does about vacations, Netflix has invented (and reinvented) a range of practices that are designed explicitly to connect what the company aims to achieve in the marketplace to how it organizes the workplace.”
Netflix has taken a problem: How do you transform selection so that consumers can find a steady stream of [entertainment] they love? Crafted a solution: We give everyone a platform to broaden their tastes. And executed through a combination of culture, technology, and disruption.
Problem. Solution. Execution.
Reed Hastings is on a mission to reinvent the perspective of pros doing pro work. This requires an extensive hiring and firing process, and yet the firing process even in itself is welcomed. On Netflix’s direct job site they state a brilliant balance between action and contemplation.
Collectively, they do not believe in hiring for “sheepwalking” jobs, but rather look for people dedicated to their values of judgment, communication, courage, curiosity, passion, selflessness, innovation, inclusion, integrity, and impact.
“A dream team is one in which all of your colleagues are extraordinary at what they do and are highly effective collaborators. The value and satisfaction of being on a dream team is tremendous.”
Their definition of family versus team culture.
“We model ourselves on being a team, not a family. A family is about unconditional love, despite, say, your siblings’ bad behavior. A dream team is about pushing yourself to be the best teammate you can be, caring intensely about your teammates, and knowing that you may not be on the team forever.”
And if things do not go well, they redirect the position until the right person is on the team.
“The unusual part is that we give adequate performers a generous severance package so that we can find a star for that position.”
While a culture such as this is beneficial, where does it tie into technology or strategy?
Strategy is culture, culture is strategy.
— Bill Taylor
Technology matters most when it is in the service of a compelling strategy.
Culture is strategy, and strategy has the opportunity to be executed by technology. Company products can be embraced, enhanced, and explored by appropriate strategic planning in culture initiatives — driven by technology in the industry.
Defining Your Wellness Program
4 points for defining your wellness program.
1. Your wellness program is not for everyone.
Netflix provides a framework far from a universal success program. It is tailored to their tribe — just as working for your organization is not for everyone (hence, Netflix’s severance policy).
2. Your wellness program should reflect your core values.
Are you a storyteller? Do you provide a convenience service? Entering into the entertainment industry? If your product is delivering a disruptive experience, connect this with the wellness experience you offer.
3. Your wellness program should consider employee engagement.
To offer a service is no longer enough. Bridge the experiential map by walking through the journey of what it means to join your organization. At what stage does an employee become an employee, embracing the full experience of the organization?
4. Your wellness program is the backbone to your business strategy.
Engage your Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) in the conversation. By abiding by air-tight integrity (start-to-finish consistency in a person, product, or organization), the product seen in the future-state of your wellness product should mirror the product seen in your core business.
Technology’s Place in Corporate Wellness
3 spaces begin the journey in technology towards corporate wellness.
1. Activity space.
Orangetheory directed its mission towards offering heart rate-based workouts, combining technology and science with community and accessibility for all. This introduced gamification into the space of fitness. Overall, the fitness industry is at a tipping point in digital transformation.
Technology and science with community and accessibility for all.
Build an activity platform, encouraging the use of your facilities or the facilities of a partner. Many fitness chains offer corporate reporting and may be willing to integrate with a 3rd-party API to deliver real-time your employee engagement.
Providing a free gym membership — whether onsite or offsite — is not enough.
2. Communications space.
Become aware of communication protocols. Slack has disrupted the world of corporate communication, but it comes with the expectation everyone is available all the time.
What is scheduled for a meeting can be often done in a conference call. What is said in a conference call can often be summarized in an email. What is summarized in an email can be sent in a Slack message.
And each iteration of your communication protocol should have set expectations. Perhaps it is better to send that Slack message in an email for quick reference later.
Reactive responses are often not — if ever — the optimal solution to a problem.
Take a pause. Incorporate frequent pauses in your operational day-to-day. Follow Asana and remove meetings on a specific day.
Communication on the day-to-day can be evolved in great ways.
- Open conference calls with a guided meditation session.
- Host your next in-person meeting as a walk near your campus.
- Promote the opportunity for ownership amongst meeting agendas.
- End meetings when the agenda is met — no need to prolong to fill up a timeslot.
This all can be scheduled through a centralized employee wellness platform.
3. Engagement space.
Encourage ownership over the new wellness. If you are a product-based organization, allow employees early access to beta product offerings if they go to a physical therapy session in March or book two outdoor conference centers in May.
Create tangible scores for quick reference. They should remain anonymous. Within the wellness platform, display this score. Align achievement marks with local business giveaways, product material, vacation days, or even a “get-out-of-meeting free” card.
At what stage does an employee become an employee, embracing the full experience of the organization? Craft a system incorporating this employee journey.
It’s not “drinking the koolaid”, it’s building a tribe: a group of pros working together for a common purpose.
Move into a culture of creativity and ownership. Embrace the mid-day pause. Encourage longer maternity and paternity leaves. If you are partnering with a fitness provider for your employee memberships, make data requests to review engagement in their facilities.
Having a good corporate wellness program is not executing corporate wellness. Define your values of wellness. Then, execute technologically in the activity, communications, and engagement spaces.
Foster your core values and encourage the idea of a strong incentivization program through an employee-facing platform.
Perhaps we can dawn the new area of revolution. Life-balance revolution. It will be interesting to see where it heads — and what new products and tribes foster from its development.