Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Self-care as necessity. The pandemic has changed the way we work and live significantly, and it also showed us how vulnerable our mental health is. Therefore, I think that more and more companies will include the elements of well-being in their way of working. Currently, if they already are part of a company policy, a lot of well-being activities are optional, as a service to the employees, but I think more and more companies will structure this in a more professional way to evolve wellbeing.

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 Hans Scheffer.

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Hans Scheffer is the CEO and co-founder of Helloprint — the marketplace for customized print products. Helloprint brings local production and delivery to a global audience of entrepreneurs and e-commerce companies. Ultimately, this reduces cost, speed of delivery, and carbon footprint. With this approach, Helloprint has the ambition to become the world’s largest and most sustainable marketplace for customized print products.

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.

The year after I sold my previous company, I was working on designing the concept for my new company. Back then, I wasn’t sure what that company would do precisely, but the one thing I knew for sure was that the company must be structured around its fundamental differentiator: Its people.I remember quite vividly that I needed to draft a first labour contract for our first employee Nick, so I took a standard format from one of my previous companies and started to read it. As I was reading it, I started to realize how crazy the document was; A true testament of obligations, penalties, fines and processes, resulting in a distrustful situation right at the beginning of a long-lasting relationship. I started to wonder; How can that be? Shouldn’t a working relationship begin with trust, just like any other relationship? I asked myself how we could radically do this differently.I started to work on a new concept; Our “Collaboration Agreement”; A one-page agreement between a talented employee and an ambitious company, who wanted to work in complete trust and openness on great things. I skipped all the unnecessary obligations and brought trust back into the agreement. I skipped everything that was already arranged by law, and I removed all the additional stuff an employer would protect towards their employees, to create a balanced situation, like in a normal relationship. It resulted in a radical new way of cooperating between employer and employee, which gained a lot of national press attention back then.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

If you want to build a sustainable company, you should start with the well-being of your team as the most essential metric in your organization. At Helloprint, Employee Happiness is one of the four top company metrics, visible in every report and top of mind at the full team and our investors. By making this a top-line metric, we ensure that wellbeing is measured, improved, and recognized, just as we do with revenue development and margin. In my opinion, this is essential when you take well-being seriously.

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Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a good workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

Consistently over the past nine years, we’ve learned that there is a strong correlation between employee wellbeing and the performance of the company. That goes broader than only “productivity” and affects profitability. That is the case in the whole company; We see teams that are having high employee happiness perform much better in, for example, achieving their objectives and key results. We see the high employee happiness in our customer service teams leads to happy customers, which leads to a much higher return rate. And we see that a happy workforce leads to higher retention, higher attractiveness to new talent, and higher profitability.But it also has a huge effect on innovation power and thrives, the one thing that brings real value to a company. We believe that the one thing that drives innovation is the absolute freedom and trust of professional people to work in the way they think is most beneficial for the company and themselves. Giving this freedom leads to great ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and innovative approaches — exactly what thrives a company.

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?

Developing a healthy company culture starts with the belief that your people are the ones who are differentiating you from others. In my view, it’s easy to copy a business model, but it is impossible to copy DNA.Therefore, I would advise leaders to think about their team as the engine of the company. Everyone understands that the engine needs power, needs love, needs improvement, needs fuel, needs oil, needs treatment and needs rest to excel. Everyone understands that you need to keep investing in the engine, and so it is with your people. I’m convinced that investments in your team will always pay off, and it’s even possible to rationalize this with KPIs if you want data-driven proof of your investments. Come up with the right set of KPIs and start measuring, and you will be surprised by the results.But there is also a very good other reason to put your people at the central point of your company strategy. In the end, building a sustainable long-lasting business starts with taking good care of the environment. Being inclusive, diverse and trustworthy is the basis, creating an environment where everyone can thrive healthily is the next step.

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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?

Our company culture is always the basis for our recruitment process. Our culture is fully designed around a concept of “freedom and responsibility”. This means that we offer our team members a work environment where they can design their work in a way it suits their personal lives as well.For example, as long as you act in good faith, we don’t have a policy around where you work, when you work, how many holidays you take, how much time you can spend on social activities, and how much you can spend on designing yourself. This freedom leads to a much healthier balance for people, who don’t feel the pressure to fit in work in their private lives but just can give it the place that fits. This concept of freedom and responsibility is an important driver for our recruitment process, and it attracts people to the company that are appealed by this approach. But make no mistake: Although you would expect that this concept fits most people, in reality, that is not always the case. Many people thrive on a more-structured, less-free concept of work, which is fine. But for them, Helloprint might not be the best place to work.The aforementioned all comes down to the following: A company culture should align with the preferences of people. If those two are aligned, people experience well-being. I think one of the most common mistakes companies make is that their expectations are not upfront and clear and communication is not developed. This leads to uncertainty, mistrust and dissatisfaction — the biggest drivers for people who are experiencing a lack of well-being. Therefore, clear expectation management and a clear articulation of the company culture are essential very early in the talent recruitment and hiring process.

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.

At Helloprint, we try to put all aspects of well-being in place to keep developing the team. In terms of mental wellness, we’re introducing unlimited access to coaches and psychologists from next month onwards. On physical wellness, we’re introducing our Helloprint Vitality Weeks, where we encourage physical activities for many days of the week.In terms of social wellness, we are introducing our “giving back” program soon. This means that every Helloprint is requested to give back to society at least one day per week. This can be anything; From taking care of elderly people in our cities to being involved in a refugee program, to teaching in elementary schools, to volunteering in a project with kids with a distance to society. By doing this, we both give back to society and create a feeling of purpose for our people — something that is essential to fuel wellbeing.

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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?

Investing in your company culture and the well-being of your people will bring you a sustainable future, it’s as simple as that. Specifically, it will decrease your recruitment costs, not only in money but also in time. It will boost productivity since people are better prepared to perform. It will create more purpose, which leads to more involvement, more trust and better performance. And, very importantly, it brings more joy and fun to everyone in the company.

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

Building a strong company culture flows from the top. Therefore, the leaders in our company are the most important drivers of that culture. For our leadership team, “culture” is leading in every meeting. Our monthly employee pulse measure of well-being is on the agenda in the management team, and our Quarterly Employee Happiness Survey is the most important starting point for improvements. All of our leaders participate in the follow-up sessions that should improve specific elements of our culture, and we encourage our leaders to plan specific sessions with their teams to talk about culture in a very open and transparent way.

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?

Start reporting on your culture. Just as you do on performance with your profit and loss account, you can do the same with your culture. Start measuring and start a transparent reporting back. By acknowledging where you stand and creating a plan to improve, you can make a large impact. You don’t have to make huge leaps instantly, a culture evolves.

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

Family flexibility as the norm

We see that giving freedom to people is still a difficult topic for many employers. Yes, they try to coop with the new reality, but is it really smart to give away the control that they were familiar with for so many years? Still, I believe there’s one topic in this space that will become common: Family flexibility at the heart of the way of working. I think everyone now realizes that having your work planned without worrying about how to take care of your family hurts employee wellbeing and in the end company performance. This will become the new norm.

Context over control

Now the pandemic is at its end, I think we will see many more companies moving into a situation where they try to inspire their employees rather than control them. Speaking with Antoine de Saint Exupery (and stolen from our friends at Netflix by the way): “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for vast and endless sea”

The office as an innovative hub

In the past two years, we’ve learned that working from anywhere gives more freedom, and in most cases, higher productivity. But I think we will also learn that it’s quite hard to drive innovation remotely. That’s why I expect that the trend for innovative companies will be that they will return to the office for a large part of the week. We will see the office turning into an inspirational environment to trigger creativity rather than a place to boost productivity.

Self-care as necessity

The pandemic has changed the way we work and live significantly, and it also showed us how vulnerable our mental health is. Therefore, I think that more and more companies will include the elements of well-being in their way of working. Currently, if they already are part of a company policy, a lot of well-being activities are optional, as a service to the employees, but I think more and more companies will structure this in a more professional way to evolve wellbeing.

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

The pandemic accelerated the way companies look at the future of the workplace. I think it’s fair to say that without the pandemic, most companies would remain with the very old-fashioned concept of control over context, the way many leaders for many years developed their companies and teams.It makes me very enthusiastic when I see also some old-school companies moving in the right direction. I’m very sure we’re not there, not at all, but with the power of the current workplace switching from employer to employee, I think we will see a lot of improvements in the next interesting period.

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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?

All readers can contact me on Linkedin, or drop me an email at [email protected]. Our offices are open for culture tours and inspiration meetings, just reach out and visit us.Our Culture Book is free to download here and can also be ordered in hard copy for free on our website.

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

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