As human beings, we are wired to connect and build relationships. Naturally, relationships and human connections must also translate into the workplace, where we spend more awake hours than we do with our own families.
Companies that recognize this will retain the most productive, creative, and loyal employees, and invariably seize the competitive edge.
That's what Erica Keswin told me when I interviewed her for a recent episode of the Love in Action podcast. And she can back it up.
As a workplace strategist, executive coach, speaker, and author, Keswin has spent over 20 years working with top business leaders and executives to build successful organizations that honor relationships.
Her latest best-selling book, Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World, distills the key practices of the most human companies into applicable advice that any business leader can use to build a "human workplace."
Finding the Human Side of Wellness
To that end, I'm convinced that a human workplace cannot happen without employee well-being at work--the subject of one of Keswin's most impactful chapters in her book.
She cites compelling research published in Harvard Business Review, which states that organizations with highly-effective wellness programs "have a 9 percent turnover rate, while organizations with ineffective programs have a 15 percent turnover rate."
So what does that look like? More companies are moving toward a holistic approach to wellness that emphasizes a person's social, financial, mental, and even spiritual well-being. This is what Keswin defines as a highly effective wellness program.
One of the best case studies featured in her book is that of Vynamic, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm that specializes in health care. The goal of its CEO, Dan Calista, writes Keswin, is "to build the healthiest company in the world."
Calista is on the fast track to meet that goal, and he is doing it by honoring relationships in his total commitment to wellness.
Vynamic's people are expected to take care of themselves and others, and work is more than a job--it's pure joy. Here's what their employees experience regularly in their wellness culture.
1. Employees turn off emails to improve work-life balance.
One important protocol to offset the constant need of humans to be plugged into devices is the "zzzMail" policy. To help with fostering more work-life balance, employees are asked to refrain from sending emails to other employees between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, and all Vynamic holidays. When something urgent comes up, a text or call is preferred over email.
On the Vynamic website, the company lists three reasons that make zzzMail so successful:
- Telepressure is Real: Studies clearly show the adverse effects of constantly being connected and not allowing your body to recover from the activities of the day.
- A Healthier Workplace: Many companies unknowingly foster an environment where employees feel obligated to be constantly connected.
- Not a Curfew: Rather than a work curfew, all employees are encouraged to work when they want, yet refrain from the act of sending emails during certain hours.
2. Employees choose what they do and where they work.
Clearly, this is the most radical idea Calista came up with but it is also its most foundational strategy for well-being. Keswin writes that Vynamic consultants "choose their projects and their locations, instead of the more conventional 'go where the job is' and 'do what you're told' approach of most (if not all) consulting firms."
Calista wants goodwill and not resentment filtering through the veins of his employees. That's why they get a vote. "They don't have to go to Kentucky if they don't feel like it," writes Keswin.
This approach of letting employees have a say in picking their own projects has fostered more loyalty among Vynamic's employees. The company's attrition rate, writes Keswin, "is 10 percent as compared to between 15 and 20 percent for other comparable consultancies."
3. Employees work with a personal wellness coach.
Keswin writes that Calista was approached by one of his consultants about a career shift to one of her interests--wellness coaching. Honoring his relationship with that employee, he opened the door for consultant Laura Pappas to become a certified health coach.
Pappas ran with it and created Vynamic's very own "health and care" position, where she helps employees meet their personal goals--be they financial or emotional--through a customized coaching and empowerment program called "Be Your Best Self."
"If an employee wants to start practicing mindfulness, Pappas will help that person find a good program, pay for an introductory class, and then follow up on a regular basis," writes Keswin.
4. Employees get their own "Three Amigos."
As you would imagine in a company that honors relationships, communication is a Vynamic cultural value that has led to company approval ratings as high as 98 percent. Its "Three Amigos" supportive framework hooks up employees to three coaches/mentors, each with a distinctive role:
- The "Go-To" Amigo: A mentor who can answer practical questions about the job or project.
- The "Counselor" Amigo: Someone an employee can choose in a career-mentoring role.
- The "Account Manager" Amigo: A person who helps a consultant manage client relationships.
Clear communication guidelines are in place, and employees are "expected to spend a minimum of 30 minutes checking-in with his or her go-to every 30 days," writes Keswin. Additionally, all Three Amigos "contribute to employees' performance reviews."
My conclusion after having interviewed Keswin and read her book is this: A human company is real and genuine. Such companies connect people to each other, and their leaders display their humanity, instead of hiding it. Doing so is good for people and even better for business. This is the future of work!