The focus of wellness programs used to be on reducing health risks, with the goal of reducing health care costs. Now we understand that the financial benefits of employee wellbeing are most impactful on a company's bottom line. No one knows this better than Workplace Researcher and Strategist, Leigh Stringer, of EYP Inc. In this interview, Leigh details the research and strategies used by top companies to compete for the top line as well as the bottom line through the use of employee wellbeing.
Interview with Leigh Stringer
Mari Ryan: Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Essentials Expert interview series. I’m very excited today to have my guest, Leigh Stringer, joining me for this conversation. Leigh is a workplace strategy expert and researcher. Leigh works for EYP an Architecture, Engineering, and Building Technology firm. She’s the author of the best-selling book, The Green Workplace: Sustainable Strategies that Benefit Employees Environment in the Bottom Line and her most recent book, The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Wellbeing of Your Employees and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line. You can see a few things that caught my attention when I was reading this. Leigh, welcome. I’m so excited to have you here today.
Leigh Stringer: Thanks so much for having me, Mari.
Mari Ryan: You come from the world of architecture. I’m curious, from your perspective and in your most recent book, you showed that it pays to invest into people’s wellbeing. What’s the payoff for employers?
Leigh Stringer: It’s a lot of different levels. There’s all kinds of research showing that companies that win health and wellness awards are outperforming other organizations on the S&P in the stock market. There’s all kinds of evidence showing that really good wellness programs more than pay for themselves. The chance of reducing chronic disease and improving smoking cessation and things like that obviously improves the health care cost. Companies that are starting to invest of the engagement of their employees are seeing incredible gross.
I think the growth to the sales numbers, the top line, not just the bottom line and it’s exciting to see that organizations are not just saving money but actually bolstering and exciting their employees to the extent that they’re able to do that. There are some things, in terms of a built environment, just to cover that real quickly, I can’t help myself. We’re seeing that buildings that actually offer health and wellness amenities are absorbed the real estate market faster which means they are being leased out more quickly, or saying that they also are able to capture a greater amount of rent or higher rents. It really is a competitive advantage now.
There are also all kinds of new buildings, or for a lack of a better word, rewards you can get, or ways of proving that your building is healthy. There’s a well building certification. There’s a new one called FitWel, which I’m really excited about. [indecipherable - 02:50] Which really, very simple things that you can do in your building that helps. It’s a plaque that helps companies differentiate themselves. Very exciting, we care about our employees.
There’s also an interesting way -- there’s an index called GRESB, G-R-E-S B index, which is really a financial vehicle for [indecipherable - 0:03:12.6] and our real estate investment trust and folks like that to really look at the performance of their building portfolio and one of the big criteria that’s come out in the go-round of these rates is looking at the healthy criteria of these buildings, which shows them how they’re evaluated. There’s definitely a win for thinking about health and wellness on all levels within the organization.
Mari Ryan: It sounds like they’re making a connection because they’re starting to really be able to measure the impact of this. Is that right?
Leigh Stringer: Yes. They’re measuring the impacts of the organizations and the impact on their employees, and their performance of their stock, as well as their ability to [indecipherable - 03:58] their building. If you’re a real estate developer or a building owner, you’re able to see higher value and higher rents by investing in these buildings.
Mari Ryan: It’s great to see it’s so measurable. That’s great. It makes a much better business case, much easier to sell.
Leigh Stringer: Well, at the end of the day, we have to do that. Business is about money. It’s about being able to sell things and being able to provide value to the market place and one way to bolster that value is improve the machine, i.e. the people and the wellbeing of the people who are running your company. If you can do that then you are much more likely to see a positive outcome.
Mari Ryan: Leigh, I curious. What do organizations need to do to invest into their work force?
Leigh Stringer: There are so many ways. One of the things that I like to talk about with organizations when they are first getting started … chances are that they probably already have started somewhere. There was someone that was really interested in meditation or, in our case, my company’s case, there’s someone really interested in teaching yoga. She just got her yogi license, so she can officially teach yoga and she’s like hey, I’ll just offer some classes at five o’clock on Mondays. We’ve got to come up with a schedule that works for everyone not just the instructor’s work schedule. It’s wonderful, number one, to have her be able to practice and become a better yoga instructor, but for all of us to benefit from the mindfulness and the health benefits there.
I think there are lots of other examples. One I’m thinking about, a woman who worked in Black Rock and started in mindful practice and was just basically, decided to do it in New York, she’s like my work’s a pretty stressful organization. I’m really interested in getting mindfulness certification and become a mindfulness coach, if you will. She got a bunch of people to go around the table thirty minutes over lunch, and basically in a conference room, did a mindfulness class. Then other cities were interested in doing it too, so they turned on the conference call and actually, you can call in, sitting in conference rooms across the country and have this thirty-minute mindfulness course. She started measuring it, everyone started saying that they were feeling better about their job, they were feeling less stress, they felt more productive, and it took off.
These are examples of bottom-up strategies but I think it comes from somebody in your organization who’s really interested in teaching a spin class or whatever the case may be, going on walks during a meeting, or whatever. I think that it’s a really wonderful place to start.
I think there are also great examples of leaders who have taken on the banner of health, and wellbeing, and productivity, and are really showcasing some awesome results. I’ve been very impressed with one of the companies that I read about in the book. It’s called Next Jump and there are many of leaders in the organization who [indecipherable - 07:11.8] take it to the next level. Not just health improvement, but really engaging their employees. They’re trying and experimenting with all kinds of crazy stuff with their employee’s health. I’m looking and measuring outcomes and they are very clear about [07:26.4] not too many things pay for itself, unless it’s [0:07:29.8]. We’re in the business of business. We’re not a health company or whatever. I think it’s pretty exciting to see some of the specific work that they’ve done and not like fools* or anyone that I write about in the book but there are lots of other examples of leaders around the world. Even my CEO is a huge biker and I’ve noticed when he does his announcements to the firm, the corporate announcements of the quarterly results or whatever, he often does it on a bike. He’s getting on a bike and he’s biking off and telling a story, it’s sounds like it’s an overlay, like it’s okay for me to do this. I’m the CEO of this company, you can do this too. That’s a wonderful message even if he’s not really riding a bike in the program. He’s sending a message that this is important.
Mari Ryan: That’s fabulous. Those leaders that are role models are so essential, to be able to show that they’re human and that they do this too, but also to be a role model within the organization so that other people will follow. I love your ideas about some of the more grass roots, bottom-up kinds of things, but really the low hanging food of the things that can easily be done at low cost and really be able to bring those forth in the organization. Those are really helpful ideas, Leigh. I highly recommend Leigh’s book. As you can see, it has lots of things that caught my attention in this, and Leigh, if people want to follow you or get on your mailing list, how can they find you?
Leigh Stringer: You can go to LeighStringer.com and you can find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m more than happy to talk and chat and share research or other things. I try also to put out a newsletter on a regular basis. Hey, here’s the latest thing happening and what I’m seeing could be influential to your business.
Mari Ryan: That’s great. I love receiving your newsletters. It’s always has things that I want to be able to learn more about. Thanks so much for being such a great resource and for contributing so much to the health of the world by creating great resources information, and of course, your great book. Thanks for being here, Leigh.
Leigh Stringer: Thank you for having me Mari, my pleasure.
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