Andrea Herron 00:02
Have you ever wondered how a company is able to offer unlimited time off or be a pet friendly office? Curious how HR leaders manage the well being of remote or essential workforces? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Hi, I’m Andrea heron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR scape. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces. Because well being isn’t a one size fits all approach.
Mitch Martens 00:36
But what we did discover when we said what do you still need, what can we do for you? The top three things that came up number one, work life balance. And guess what that although we probably couldn’t fully appreciate it. You know, we had a lot of people who were already working from home. And again, you brought up the great point about oh my god, I’m at home not just at home, you know, kicking back and you know, with my legs up, I’ve got my kids running around yelling and hollering and I’ve got a spouse who maybe is unemployed or also tried to work from home and yet we’re in a one bedroom apartment or whatever it might be. So work life balance was their number one pain point issue challenge. The second thing that they wanted most of all, besides work life balance was fun and lightheartedness. We would have never guessed that we would have thought, hey, I’m depressed, I’m frustrated. I’m, I’m losing my ability to cope, whatever. And that was the number two thing is, I want more fun and lightheartedness. Fortunately, that was one of our choices that we’d thrown in there. It wasn’t because they told us that, but that bubbled up to the top. And so as silly as it sounds, we just started doing distractors. We just started throwing out fun little games, you know, I mean, something as dumb as a crossword puzzle, or a little mystery game where we would create, you know, this fun little mystery of who stole the laptop, you know, and we would like do for directors, you know, and like, you know, and just kind of do these simple games that probably you did in grade school. People love them. I mean, you know, sometimes we would do like this, you know, like a silly like a $25, Amazon gift card or something like you know, and you know, for a drawing as a price. But that’s what we noticed. And I will tell you fun and and lightheartedness obviously can be interpreted differently by you versus me. And I know and again, I’m going to just stereotype HR can get really like, okay, you know, that funny joke, or that funny meme was hilarious to that person. But the other person sitting next to him was offended by it. So it is a delicate balance. And so we leaned more towards the game idea, versus Oh, everyone’s submit their funniest video, you know, and we’ll post a video, we didn’t go that route. I’m not saying you shouldn’t or couldn’t, but
Andrea Herron 02:56
more more potholes that way. Either you, pens or cat videos are fun little trivia. And I like that. And you are exactly right, that when we’re stressed, or in a bad spot, you don’t always know what you need. It’s kind of like when your, your neighbor just had a baby, don’t ask what they need. Just take them some food, right? I mean, just do the thing. And I mean, it’s also similarly, maybe you can’t relate. But you know, there have been times when I’m really hungry. And I make the mistake, do grocery shopping. And maybe I eat the m&ms in the car on the way home because it’s there and you do what’s easy, not what’s best. So by giving people options of things that you could actually deliver on, you know, I think even other organizations outside of health care could really take something from that and say, here’s a list of 15 things. What do you like, what do you want? And not everybody’s gonna like everything, but they know you did it. Even if they don’t participate? They know it was available. And you tried.
Mitch Martens 03:58
Yeah, yeah, I’ll tell you one of the things into so speaking to, you’re not always going to make everyone happy. So one of the things that we did during during this COVID time is that we gave or offered everyone once a week, a free lunch at the cafeteria. And I mean, and I will tell you, we have a pretty incredible cafeteria and I like to brag because we even have sushi there, which is pretty darn amazing. I mean, I love sushi, but so I know I’m biased. But I mean, you know you got a huge compliment and to know that every employee could come in and get a free lunch. Now. You know what you had people who were working off campus? Oh, what about us? That’s not fair. You know, and we know that we’re not always going to please everyone. But I will tell you when we did a survey that was the top satisfier and that that out top to the wait, we’re offering free counseling, you know, free succession counseling. We were we are actually still offering telehealth or I’m sorry, Tella Doc, you know, so you don’t have to go see a regular doctor if that’s not comfortable for you. You can do virtual With a tele doc and we will pay for it. I mean, so we did a lot of amazing things. And yet, despite a big list that I could give you the thing that was an I’m not even was even close like, Well, that was 25%. And this one was 35% blew out of the water, a $7. Once a week lunch was by far the most meaningful thing to these people who felt like, Oh, you do care about me. And obviously that that was our goal. We just wanted to say we’re trying, we’re not perfect. We know we’re not going to make everyone happy. But we’re trying,
Andrea Herron 05:32
you know, it starts with the elementary school pizza party, and it just continues through adulthood. We all love free food.
Mitch Martens 05:39
Right? Right. I mean, if I know that there’s gonna be you know, and I shouldn’t admit this, because I’m the wellness guy. But you know, if I know there’s gonna be free doughnuts it you know, okay, maybe I will get up early to show up to that eight o’clock meeting or whatever.
Andrea Herron 05:53
Nothing wrong with a donut. You know, I’m curious with all the data in this. I don’t even know what to call it. But just this influx of creativity and new ideas and adaptability that you’ve had in the past year, I’m wondering what you might keep? And what is, you know, a relic of this strange time? Or what might become a full part of the benefits and wellness package going forward?
Mitch Martens 06:20
Yeah. Yeah, you asked a great question. And I think I think the country the world is gonna, you know, is going to learn a lot of things, you know, you know, from what has happened. And I will tell you, there’s three things that I think they’re going to merge, you know, or merge and really into your point that we’re going to find a way to either continue to build in and nourish and watch and grow here. And the first one is this, this, this idea of autonomy, I think we’ve all known the power of autonomy, but you want you want to meet someone’s psychological need, give them autonomy, you know, kids want autonomy. I remember my nephew, you know, who wasn’t even like four years old, or whatever it was, and, you know, it’s like, oh, I want some milk or some like that, okay, I’ll walk to the, you know, I’m gonna walk to the refrigerator, I’m gonna get you the milk, and he pushes the refrigerator door shuts is no, I can open it. And it’s, you know, and so even at a young age, we really want autonomy, we, I can do it. So I think this whole idea of being able to work from home, I think there was a lot of belief, right or wrong, a lot of beliefs of, are we gonna get productivity out of them? Is this gonna really work? Are they guess what so far, and I’m not claiming to have a lot of data on this. But so far, it seems to be kind of okay and working. Now. Maybe it won’t. But But I think autonomy, finding ways to continue to to encourage, promote autonomy, I think we will see engagement, and I think we will see more wellness. It’s kind of like, if I trust you, guess what? You might actually then trust me. And that and that’s the basis of this whole idea that, can I can I, can I trust you enough and build you up enough that then you will just flourish? And guess what, then that will be given back to us in return. You know, it’s like, who’s going to extend the olive branch first, who’s going to offer trust first. So one of the things that this wellness program at this organization has been built on is all about trust. And what I mean by that is, those listeners out there who have a worksite wellness program, sometimes what we do is we say, first of all, we tell you what you need to do, you need to lose weight, you need to change your cholesterol, you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, bla bla bla bla bla. And what happens is we end up doing wellness to the individual, even if I could sit there on my on my proud little pedestal and say it’s evidence based. So I it’s right that I’m doing this, guess what we need to back off, we need to trust our employees and say, here’s a wellness platform, you carve your own path. Yes, maybe you do need to lose weight, maybe you do need to stop smoking. But if right now what you want to work on is relationships, because maybe you’re in an unhappy relationship, and you want to get into some counseling, or you’re lonely because you’re isolated, and you want to find some relationships and build some friendships. Great. If that’s what’s most important to you today, then that’s going to be important to us, too. And so it’s this idea of not only giving some autonomy to these individuals and saying, you create the path and we will walk with you down your path versus forcing them to walk down our path. And then knowing that they have the competence to do it, especially. And again, I don’t mean to downplay anyone else out there. But I’m going to I’m going to say that most people who work in healthcare already have the intellectual knowledge. So I don’t need to do another smoking campaign, for example, right? Oh,
Andrea Herron 09:55
you shouldn’t be smoking. Exactly. Okay, nobody’s like I’ve never heard this
I’m not supposed to smoke, I didn’t know that it looks so cool. So you know, so it’s about
Mitch Martens 10:06
autonomy. Number one, number two is competence and either believing in or building up people’s competence. And I think the third thing that that I would really argue for and I think needs to be built in is this concept of relationships. This this, this idea of relatedness, I think, so many people are craving connections. When I talk to my colleagues, or I’m sorry, my former colleagues, a, you know, back in Los Angeles, a lot of my friends back in Los Angeles, those who because a lot of them started working from home, they said, I never thought I would admit this. But I miss my co workers, they used to drive me crazy with their chopping of the gum or playing the music too loud, or their stupid joke, whatever it was. But now that they’ve been for better, like a word stuck at home, wow, they have really been missing connections, social connections, it doesn’t mean that the people at work are their best friends. But they have missed those social connections. And we’re and I, and, you know, I’ve got a couple of teacher friends who are now just starting to have to go back into the classroom. And they’re like, Oh, my God, I didn’t even know that so and so looked like that I had this image based on just seeing neck and above. And I had no idea that they were tall or short or whatever. And so I don’t know I I’m, I really think that that’s something we’re going to have to work on. And again, those those who are listening in the wellness, specifically focusing on wellness, I think we’ve put a lot of a lot of energy into things like nutritional Well, being emotional and mental well being physical well being. We all know that social well being is one of those components. But how many programs? How much stuff? Do we have this really devoted to social well being. And I really believe that’s something that we’re going to have to devote to more and more, because it’s become so obvious how much how much people are craving it.
Andrea Herron 12:02
I couldn’t agree with you more, actually. And I think, you know, a lot of the wellness started out more community based, right, like, we got our social interaction, our volunteer, our political advocacy, you know, all of those things, even nutrition and connection through community. And more and more, it’s shifting to an expectation of the employer. And so we’re in that gap now. And I think last year has pushed us forward significantly, because it’s become so obvious. But now the employers are having to catch up. And so having a dedicated wellness person, or even anybody thinking about it, or creating opportunities to connect even non work related, if it’s a trivia game, or just a zoom, lunchtime, let’s not talk about work, let’s talk about let’s do sports, I don’t whatever, you know, that’s going to be something that employers have to figure out if they want to keep people engaged,
Mitch Martens 12:56
correct. And especially if we’re going to continue to buy into this off site remote working, because it’s gonna give people there will be less chances for people to become engaged. And guess what if I’m not really emotionally mentally engaged with my company, well, guess what, then really just becomes about money. And if the company down the road, who also does remote, remote job, and they are going to pay me more money? Well, I’m not emotionally or mentally or socially connected here. I may as well just go over there because I still gonna get to sit in my house. And you know what I mean? So yeah, we really going to have to work on how do we get you socially, back engaged with us, which that’s where all the relationships I mean, I’m not in marketing, but I know that those people that are in sales, they usually have a money allotted to networking. Right, right, with the power of relationships. So I think it’s something we’re gonna probably have to learn from that industry who, who already knew that that’s how that worked. But we’re gonna have to figure out how to figure out how to do that internally.
Andrea Herron 14:01
Yeah, I agree. There’s no loyalty and there’s no real draw, if it’s just a pure job. Well, this. I mean, we could talk all day about, you know, maybe we will. Right. Right. But I do really think that, you know, you brought up some great points and you know, some good things to consider, and maybe some ideas people out there can implement in their own workplace. But before we go, I have to ask, something I ask of everyone to remind us that we are all people is, you know, maybe is there something that you could tell us about yourself that we may not know or something interesting that you want to share?
Mitch Martens 14:41
I never think of myself as an interesting person. But I will I the first two things that came to mind is when people go to my LinkedIn page, I actually have a picture of me rappelling off of a waterfall. You know, and I know, at least I’m told by the experts, that LinkedIn you know, is meant to be You’re a professional thing, and you should have professional pictures up there or whatever. But it’s but it’s my way of trying to communicate to you maybe to your point, your question is, hey, there’s a human behind the professional. There’s one who I have a sense of adventure, and I love doing things like rappelling off waterfalls. But I think the thing that probably, when I really look back at my life, I will tell you something that really influenced it probably most most people don’t know, except for my mother and some of my family is, when I was a senior in college, I got a very rare case of mano, now create your own stories about how I caught that. I, I got a very rare case of mono and it affected and went into what’s called your brachial plexus. And what it did is it paralyzed my right arm, and I am right handed, by the way, and it paralyzed my right arm. And they said, Oh, yeah, this is a very rare case of mono, it happens only for like 4%. But don’t worry, about 12 weeks, that paralysis will go away. Well, 16 weeks had gone by I had to drop out of school for at least a semester. And now Now I wasn’t going to graduate on time. So I was already panicking because Mitch had always been a good boy, hit always follow the rules did what everyone said, and my life was going to work out. And this honestly, except for my parents divorcing was the real first monkey wrench I had to deal with in my life. And then 16 weeks still, my arm was paralyzed, go to the doctor again. And they said, Well, what leads? What we didn’t tell you is there are some cases where the paralysis doesn’t go away. And my mind went from this, oh, I just have to wait another week to wait a minute. This could be permanent. I may, you know. And so I was determined, you know, they didn’t say it was impossible. And they did some test testing. And they said, Yeah, obviously, because your arms been immobilized for so long. It’s already atrophying, you know, you’re gonna have to basically will yourself back to health. And when he said, Will you so because I still had use of my hand. And so I had to start doing exercises where I would put my hand on the wall and like a spider, work my hand up the wall, just to get my arm to move. And they said, when you’re laying in bed with your the hand that does work, grab your arm and move it up and down. Just get it to start moving. And sure enough, after enough time, I got full function back, you know, and it was a scary point. But I think what it did is it it molded me emboldened me to believe in myself that Oh, okay. It isn’t all just fate in there, you know, yes, sometimes some things happen. But I do believe that there’s a combo of believing in a higher universe, as well as believing in yourself. And that probably say, you know, that was my senior year in college. And that reset myself and probably the, the attitude and the approach I took with my career.
Andrea Herron 17:58
Yeah, well, overcoming something like that. And really reshaping your perspective and rappelling off waterfalls. I mean, you’re no longer allowed to say you’re not interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever say that again.
Mitch Martens 18:10
You’re kind. Thank you. Thank you. That’s nice.
Andrea Herron 18:13
Thank you for sharing. Yeah, what, uh, you know, what a perspective changer, that would be
Mitch Martens 18:17
truly true. A tree. I mean, yeah, it truly was, you know, and it’s, I try not to forget it. And I try. I don’t know if my friends would call me humble. But I really do try to stay humble. Because I know, something, you know, something could happen again. You know, I mean, you know, any moment, you know, and so, I am grateful that I get to wake up once more. And I’m grateful that I get to have a conversation with someone like you. And I get to smile at someone or tell a loved one that I love them. And that’s, and that’s all I can ask for.
Andrea Herron 18:50
Yeah, that’s all any of us can ask for truly, especially, you know, I think we’ve all had our perspective shifted this past year. So,
Mitch Martens 18:57
boy, what, perfect, that’s a perfect way to bring it back around. You’re You’re absolutely right. I think we’ve all had a hopefully an opportunity to reflect and yeah, learn to either be better or better.
Andrea Herron 19:10
Very, let’s shoot for better. Yes. Well, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Mitch Martens 19:17
Likewise, thank you so much.
Andrea Herron 19:21
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