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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant. With me is my co-host JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered®” and “The JoyPowered® Family,” and soon to be “The JoyPowered® Team,” which I’m going to be one of the co-authors of.
Looking forward to it. Today our episode is about mindfulness in the workplace. Our special guest is Saundra Schrock, the CEO of Levelhead. Saundra has had a dynamic and successful career in the financial services industry, where she started as a bank teller, and JoDee, she rose all the way up to an executive vice president.
Yeah, she actually ended up leading a business with over 30,000 employees, which kind of makes your head hurt when you start to think about those HR issues, right?
She’s been inspiring, coaching, and mentoring leaders at all levels all these years. Saundra credits much of her success to embracing the main tenets and practices of mindfulness and has diligently researched these concepts for years. Her work inspired her to pursue her doctorate in psychology and create Levelhead.
Fantastic. We’re so happy to have you today, Saundra.
Thank you for the invitation. Looked forward to this. I need some joy today!
You’ve come to the right place. So, you may – some of our listeners may remember Saundra, because she was on episode 20, “Women Winning in the Workplace,” which aired initially on January 15, 2018. In the 14 months since that podcast, we have heard from many of you about your interest in promoting mindfulness in the workplace, so we asked Saundra if she would come back and let us focus an entire episode of The JoyPowered® Workspace on this growing movement. So thank you so much again, Saundra.
Yeah. So Saundra, tell us more about the company you founded, Levelhead. What is it and what led you to start it?
Well, what’s really interesting about it, after I… it’s funny when people say, “oh, when you retired from the company,” and I heard somebody say it the other way, “when I graduated from there,” and I kind of like that, right, it’s like you assumed to a different, a different level from the information that you’ve learned. I think it’s a good way to think about it. First of all, ladies, thank you very much to be here. You’re two of my favorite people and you do exclude that joy. I feel it, I can feel it over the thousands of miles we are away from each other. Well, what led me to start Levelhead was, it started when I was teaching mindful leadership at a graduate program at Arizona State University. And part of that process was helping future leaders develop a reflective practice, and of course, some of the leadership principles. And there were two really important things that I learned from that. One was, these bright young men and women were eager to live a more balanced life, were eager to learn how they can control their attention. But the most important part of that was they didn’t have the lifestyle or the willingness to dedicate 20 or 30 minutes a day to practice. They loved the thought of the benefits, but that was the real obstacle. And that led me to think about, well, is this – all the benefits from mindfulness, does it have to, does it really demand 20 or 30 minutes a day? And coincidentally, too, the work I was doing there, a lot of research was starting to emerge to talk about that frequency is more important than duration and the length that you practice. So that led to the idea, what if I were to come up with a series of micro-practices that people could actually do in the normal course of their day and do with their eyes open? And, and I actually tried out a lot of them actually, I taught this class for three years. And then, you know, it certainly was not necessarily a reflection of me, but it was an oversubscribed class, primarily because people really wanted the opportunity to learn these skills. So that was, like, the idea of it. So when Levelhead, which is now a digital program, can be delivered to anyone, anywhere, anytime. When I left, my first phase of it was a pile of paper. I could barely lift that pile of paper, it was so deep and thick. And as I was working with some executives on it, one of them said, “you know what, Saundra, this is great program, but this paper is killing me. You need to figure out another way to do this.” So that’s how we ended up with… which, some of the best ideas come from somebody saying this is not a good approach. And we listened to them and we, we turned Levelhead, the functional mindfulness program, into a digital program.
Love it, love it. Well, I’m really excited personally to hear about this micro approach, because I was fascinated in talking to you 14 months ago about this concept, but I have to tell you, it’s taken me a long time, really just in the past six weeks or so have I been trying to do more of this. Because I kept thinking, “Oh, I’m going to do this today when I have a spare 20 to 30 minutes,” right? And I’d go to bed at night and think, “hmm, that 20 to 30 minutes never came.” Right? So I’m excited to hear more about that as we talk.
And actually, in our first podcast with you, you had mentioned it could be as simple as when you’re riding in the car, turn off the radio…
I remember that.
…and really look around and listen. And I, and I’m doing that, I think, in those micro-moments, even if I’m in the car for five minutes, I’m, I think about, let’s use this time.
Well, I’m so glad to hear that, and that’s what we hear from a lot of our clients. We do a lot of analysis and statistics to figure out how much practice people need in order to see some of the results that we measure, and what’s interesting about that, Susan, is that once they learn some of these micro-practices, they don’t, no longer need the app to do it, which is awesome. And people say, “Well, how do you like that?” I said, “We don’t care if you use the app. If you’re actually practicing and learning something, and you’re changing the way you live, who cares?” And that actually is, is why we do what we do.
Small things can make a big difference. When you stand in line at the coffee shop, you know, standing there in line and observing the colors, smelling the coffee, all of those things, instead of more, you know, aimlessly worrying about something you’ve got to do in the course of the day. So glad to hear that.
Yes. So let’s talk a little bit how you could employ mindfulness in the world of work.
You know, it’s really – there are lots of different ways to do it. And I, a lot of the companies that we talk to these days are considering it. As a matter of fact, about 25% of the companies, according to a study that was done in late 2016, have already done something on mindfulness. Another 25% are considering it. And most of the companies that up until recently have been using on the ground programs that have people that are in a particular location can go and learn how to how to meditate, how to – perhaps even some of them learn some of the micro-practices, there are six to eight week programs. Well, I think there are two issues with that. One is it’s limited to the people who have the time and are at that location. And the other thing is not built for sustainability. So organizations… how to do it, I believe, is to have something that you can offer to everyone, every interested employee. And that’s the only way organizations are going to really see profound change in the organization, is if you get enough people practicing and start seeing the difference.
Yeah, I love it. And now, we have read a report that you produced entitled “Evaluating the Return on Investment of Levelhead and Other Wellness Programs,” and it talks about the cost of stress in the workplace and how staggering that might be. Could you share some of those numbers with our listeners?
All right, buckle in here. These numbers are staggering. And actually, when we’ve done our own analysis looking at stress levels, we see very similar things. As a matter of fact, we’ve launched with three universities in the past two weeks, and they’re all different levels, all the way from seniors to freshmen, and looking at their level of stress, it’s really amazingly high. But the statistics in the workplace, to your point, one is 60 to 70% of U.S. workers believe their workplace is a significant source of stress.
That’s pretty, that’s pretty startling. And 51% say that stress is a major obstacle to their productivity.
Yeah. That’s not..
Costing companies about $300 billion. And frankly, it’s probably much brighter than that, because stress is insidious. I mean, it goes all through every single thing. You just don’t know how much that it really attributes to the problems that we have. It’s the single greatest cause of absenteeism. 40% of turnover is attributed to stress. And these are all statistics that have come from the American Psychological Association, you know, from the National Health Association, the World… I mean, these are very reputable organizations that have been studying this, and they believe that it’s the 21st century epidemic, they think that this is going to be one of the biggest problems that’s going to have major downstream efforts. You can tell I’m passionate about this. I mean, it’s, it’s um, you know, you look at the health problems associated with it. Most of them are.
Yeah, so Saundra, here we are trying to help companies become more JoyPowered® and we got 75% of their employees are stressed out, right? We got to get them past that before they can think about being JoyPowered®.
Right. Absolutely. So, and that’s why, frankly, we focus on, although many of our, many of the practices we do, we have, we have a shared philosophy here, in terms of positive practices in the workplace. But if you don’t remove… actually, it’s kind of like a virtuous cycle of awkwardness. If you start practicing more positive things, you guys know this, I’m preaching to the choir here, that you actually reduce stress, right? And if you also start to reduce stress, then you start having more joy in the, in the workplace. So you really have to go at both things, I think, simultaneously to get the results. I think we’re all looking to see that work doesn’t have to be the kind of place that many of us dread to go into.
So in your career, I know, because you have managed over 30,000 people at one time, can you describe maybe any situations that you personally were – witnessed where it could have been the effect of stress that was causing some of the productivity, the lack of sales, anything that you were seeing manifest itself now that you reflect back on it?
You know, and I’m going to have to be full disclosure here. And the fact is that there were lots of times, and thinking about that question, I think about lots of times where I saw people who would say, “Hey, I’m so stressed.” And then I would look at that situation and go, “Well, what’s so stressful about that? I mean, there must be something wrong with this person, they don’t have the skill sets, are not tough enough. There’s something wrong with them, because the environment’s just fine. I think it’s fine.”
And I have to admit, I didn’t understand the concept of perceived stress. I didn’t get it.
And I really wish I had, because stress is personal.
What, what really would stress me out would energize somebody else. For example, the lack of work stresses me than too much work. And so one of the things that I think organizations, and I wish I’d done this, is that to help give the individual the tools they need to manage their own stress, because it is their, it is theirs. And organizations spend millions and millions of dollars changing the environment, changing their jobs, changing incentives and compensation, when in fact, maybe those things are all negative, perhaps, but small things can help change a big picture from the point of view. It’s like, this morning I was talking to somebody, they go, “I really don’t like what I see.” I said, “Well then change the way you see it.” They’re, like, looking at me like, “Oh, don’t give me that metaphysical thing.” It is true. The filters that we have and how we hear things, how we see things will impact our stress.
Right. You know, I love thinking about how you said that stress is personal. And I think back in the day, you know, we thought we could separate our personal lives from our work lives, and we felt like you needed to leave your personal life at the door. And I know I thought many times, “Get over it. We got work to get done,” right? And now, I mean, those are all so blended. We, we don’t leave our personal life at the door or our work life at the door, either, and we need to be able to, to work through those at all times of our lives. So, yeah.
You know, denying that we are emotional beings is like denying we need air to live. I saw organizations try to create these artificial environments where rationality prevails, when in fact, there is no such thing of emotional free decisions, right? It – they’re all, we’re all affected. It’s the recognition of it is the difference.
That’s right. That’s right. Well, and you know, companies have been focused on wellness for a while now. I know when I was in the corporate world in the early 2000s, we thought we were way ahead of the game on wellness compared to many other companies. But this concept of mindfulness is a bit more recent. Although I feel like I’m seeing it everywhere now, and I’m glad to be seeing it everywhere now. But what do you think has happened that companies seem to be waking up to this, the potential value of mindfulness?
Well, first of all, it is trendy. You know, and I, I, frankly, those of us who have what we believe scientifically based programs that are tested, and people say, somebody will call us up and say, “Hey, we want to buy from this program,” you know, and I go, “Well, why do you want that? Why do you think you need that?” I’m probably my worst salesperson, right? Why do you think you need that? And you start asking the questions, and they really don’t seem to know. Right? And so I think a lot of it is that, and I think the other thing is they think it’s a cure-all, that if you put it out there, you say you have one, let employees get it if they want, and you’re done. And so I think, think there is a lot of say, some of the more sophisticated and the people that have done work understand that not only does it reduce stress, it’ll improve creativity. And that’s the latest. We just did a a webinar, we had over 150 companies represented on the webinar.
And we were talking about this very subject. And so I did a poll, aren’t those things wonderful? We’ve got a bunch of people on there, right, and 31%… and this was consistent with other polls we’ve done, 31% said they were interested in mindfulness because of innovation and decision making, another 34% that they were interested in it because of wellness and reducing stress, another 20% were thinking about job satisfaction, and 6%, which I thought was awesome, were looking at it to help build leadership skills. So you know, I think that every organization has a different idea, but to simply answer your question, I think they’re looking at it from a health standpoint, first. It’s the first filter. And then they’re beginning to see that they can get other benefits as well.
So how exactly is work stress reduced with mindfulness?
Well, first of all, it, what it does is when you have a mindfulness practice, you’re able to identify something very important. One is, most of our stress comes from worrying about the past and thinking about the future, and making up all these stories in our mind about how we’re going to feel, what we have to do, or what happened, and all those things. When, in fact, you began to realize how much time you spend either in the past or the future, that is, like, the first step to reducing stress. Because once you take a moment say, “Ooh, everything’s just fine right now. Why is my heart racing? My heart racing is because I’m thinking about tomorrow. Well, in this moment, everything is fine.” And so way it, way it technically works, there’s two parts of mindfulness, and why it actually, the scientific answer to that is that first of all, it actually, when you practice being in the moment, it begins to rewire your brain so that the stress response to a situation is slowed down. Meaning when somebody pulls in front of you in the car, your immediate reaction is not to blow on the horn and feel your blood pressure go up, it’s, you go, “Hm, well, that was kind of rude,” you actually begin to say, you start seeing some small changes like that. It’s actually your brain rewiring. The other part of this is behaviorally. Behaviorally, what you do is you’ve learned to take that pause and start recognizing the fact that you’re acting out of automaticity. Like, for example, of grabbing something to eat when you’re stressed. So you begin to recognize and become aware, and that awareness allows you to see the stress levels go down. In our programs, we’ve seen within eight weeks, with very, very modest practice, their perceived stress has dropped by 16%. And it is, for people that had stress, some of the studies we did, were with neonatal nurses who had stress levels that were almost at the clinical level of needing help. And those – and they dropped. We’ve had people that have a moderate level of stress, and they reduced. So, again, it’s it’s not a cure-all, you can’t just do it. Like, it would be like thinking, “I went to the gym for six weeks, I’m good for the rest of my life.”
The unfortunate thing is, you got to keep going and practicing, and, and I think that’s the greatest obstacle and the biggest issue, I think, organization haven’t come to grips with yet, is that this is not a six week program that you put on your to do list and check it off and say my team is not stressed now.
That’s probably perhaps the, the greatest challenge that we’ll have with this, going forward basis.
Yeah. What are some industries that Levelhead is working with, and what have you learned from some of them?
So that’s a really great question. What’s really – I don’t mean to be cheeky when I say this, but when people say “Hey, what industry is best for mindfulness program?” and I’ll say “Any industry that has human beings that work there.”
Because, you know, this program, like, this affects the human nature. Every – we have a commonality and I think that as begin to people practice it. We’re so alike. We’re so much more alike than we are different. But to answer your question, the companies we’ve worked with, we’ve worked with nonprofits, and some of the nonprofits we worked at, we looked at the stress scores, particularly those that are animal-related, take care of… the Humane Society is one of our clients and they, you know, they take calls from injured animals and you didn’t think about what their stress levels must be like, and they were extremely high. We’ve worked with tech companies, and financial services companies, pharma. And actually, we’ve not seen anything… only thing different about them is that they have different strategies and different cultures. So it has to do with the implementation, the communication, rather than the program, if that makes sense.
It really does. So before you would implement a mindfulness program like Levelhead, what should a company consider, and are there some things they should definitely make sure they avoid?
That’s another great question. I think that the very first thing, I ask them to tell me their why and to get clear on their why they want to do it, which is another way of saying what are your objectives. Right? So once they give me their why, which generally stated, not as quantifiable or objectively as perhaps you need, but once you tell that, we can help them turn that into measurements and benchmarks, where they start and where they end. Then we go to work on what is the positioning in your company. Some companies will, will tell their why is to help overall well being. We had one company that wanted to increase happiness. And so we came up – that was a fun one to figure out, what the measures to do on that. Although, once we did the assessment on it, he kind of backed up, he says, “I think I have another problem before I go there.” That was a good one, it was a good one to get that. So we ended up, we haven’t done that happiness measure yet, so we’re working on the other measurement, but we have them work on what do they want to accomplish? We then say, ask them the question of, “Can you count on your leadership to be engaged and involved?” And if this is going to come at a side, you know, a side approach and not endorsed by at least the c-suite or the head of HR, it’s not likely to get any traction at all.
We have worked with, in some extremely large companies, a whole division, where you’ve got the whole team, you’ve got the CEO of the division, you got the head of HR, that, that is like the ideal situation, where everybody’s on the same page, and they start with the leadership team. The next thing is we work on execution just as hard as we do of anything else. Who are they going to introduce it to? How are they going to talk about it? Are they gonna go off with a little bit of a fun challenge? Are they not? What… We put together a complete communication plan, we actually set up that whole thing before we even send one notice out for anybody to do the app. So there’s a lot of work that happens to make this successful. You asked the question what not to do. It’s almost the flip of this. One is, don’t do it as a standalone program. If you do it as a standalone program, you’re going to be disappointed in the results. You will get some results in the short term. As a matter of fact, the one study I was telling you about that, and the neonatal nurses, it was a standalone program for this purpose, and they got the results and now they’re rolling it out and it wasn’t necessarily integrating anything else but they could have gotten so much more from it. The other thing is don’t expect behavior to change without consistent effort. Meaning, just because you put it out there, don’t expect people to keep practicing. If management loses focus and attention on it, if the messages aren’t reinforced and they don’t see anything changing there in the workplace because of it, you all know it’s, not much is gonna happen, right? So you really have to think about how you’re going to begin to weave this into the organization culture. In the example, one of the things that we find most helpful is to help, even at the team leader level, and sometimes there are junior level employees that are there to learn how to do things like classing nudges for people. They’ll see somebody stressed out and say, “Hey, you know what, it might be a good time for a walk,” and embrace that. Now that sounds, you know, how – when was the last time told you gently and kindly, “you need to take a little break,” instead of saying when you’re behind on something, “Stay after it,” chain them to the desk, make it work.
Very true. Where are you going? No bathroom break!
Teach them how to do those kinds of things. We also have a whole series called mindful moments, which is how to jumpstart a day, when perhaps the day yesterday was really bad, perhaps you you need to overcome a major obstacle. So we have a whole series of things that can be done in three to five minutes at the beginning of a shift. Some of our first responders use this when they’re, when they turn shifts over. How do they get things done? So, I think I probably over answered your question.
You mentioned earlier that you had a client who was interested in measuring happiness. What are some other key performance indicators that you might suggest that a company could measure to help with that sustainability?
Well, first of all, there are many other measurements like happiness, like – and those would be, when we do measurements, as I was talking about assessing happiness, we do something pre-program, we do something around 10 or 11 weeks to see how they’re progressing towards your long term goals, and then we do another one, probably about equal distance, three, four months out. And that allows us to make sure we’re moving towards our longer term goals. But the KPIs in the interim, there’s some really – our, what we have is a threaded portal that is available to whoever in the organization they want to have access to it. And it can go down to as small as a team level and an organization can set it up whatever way they want. And that, we suggest that they look at, initially, how many people have downloaded the app. And we know that once you’ve downloaded the app within a team, you need to see some activity in there in the first week. If you don’t, it’s not likely they’re ever going to do anything. So we have a whole series of things to look at there. Total number of practices on a weekly basis, how many employees and did at least 1 to 3 exercises that week? Which ones did they focus on? What are our favorites? And where… It’s really funny, when – we have something called stickers. And so we ask them to count the number of received, and by individual and by team, and what’s interesting, at the top of the house, these organizations can see teams that are performing, they’ll go, they’ll see a lot of activity and the leader’s really involved in sending these positive messages out. And I go, “Yeah, well, that makes sense, because Susan’s a great leader,” and then you go look over in another area, and they’re not doing anything. And guess what they’ll say, “Well, Joe needs some help.” Well, yeah, did you need the stickers to tell you that?Sometimes you just need a little data to go, you know what, I need to do something about this, right? So we have, we have a huge amounts of data, and depending on the organization, we might recommend which ones they highlight. And when they run challenges or other kinds of things, we actually pull the data for them and do the analysis. And frankly, we monitor all the organization’s performance, even though they can and should, we do it ourselves. And then we see something that’s really good or something is not working as well, we’ll send them a little tip, the person who’s in charge of the program, “Hey, we saw this, you know, this team who was doing well, what happened?” Like, actually, that happened today. And we go, “Well, the team leader’s on vacation.”
So it really serves a lot of different purposes other than just the mindfulness practices, because they begin to understand how they can, they can enrich the data that they know about their team, particularly some of the very large organizations.
Well, I know you said it’s important that, I mean, it’s not important, but it’s ideal if you can have leadership involved, HR involved, frontline supervisors, employees. Who do you think really should own it inside the organization? Who’s the one do you normally like to have as your partner?
You know what, I think to have ownership, meaning obviously, you want the C-suite to endorse, you know, it’s almost like everybody has a role. C-suite endorses and tells their personal story. That’s what I love is when we had an organization, the CEO told his personal story of how his health went down, down to a very bad place before he found a way to have a reflective practice, and he tells the story with honesty and urging people to take the initiative for their own health. Then we have the division managers and other people do the same. But the person we have found so far, is when the HR person, the head of HR, is the champion of this, and I say that for two reasons. One is, they’re typically the ones that are going to ensure that it is woven into other programs, and to make sure that it’s used for all the right reasons, meaning, you know, badgering somebody to practice is not exactly the ideal form.
No. My stress is going up if you’re gonna make me do it.
Typically… well, it’s funny, yeah, we had a, I had a guy say, tell me, he says, “If I tell them to do it, they’ll do it.” I go, “Well, yeah. But what good is that?”
And he goes, “I guess that really wasn’t in the spirit.” Well, no, probably not. But you know, I think that right now, Susan, I think that is the right place to have a champion. And if you don’t have the head of HR involved in it, you don’t ever get traction, because then it comes in from the sideways and then as line managers get busy, they lose interest. And it just, that’s been our experience.
Okay, makes sense.
And it sounds like, based on what you mentioned earlier about looking at the data and following up on the data, that you’re really helping the organizations on the communication pieces and follow through with them every step of the way to get it implemented, and then to help them sustain it as well.
We actually, early on we meet with, and even if it’s only – it generally is only 15 minutes with what we call “the champion,” the person that is really down into the program. We meet with them 15 minutes once a week, and we do that probably the first five to six weeks, and then we decide what the regular cadence ought to be for the meetings, and it goes maybe two weeks, then we go to a month, and then we go to quarterly, depending on how well the organization is doing. Because we’re monitoring on the back end, we send a little note if we – or if we have a good idea. A lot of times, we’ll pick up an idea from one company and we’ll say “Hey, they had a similar problem or similar issue, and they tried this and this is what they got.” People really like that, and they like it from other industries, which is interesting, because I don’t think that’s been our experience, too. A lot of industries don’t really get to talk to people in others. And nonprofits don’t get to talk to people who know for profit, and vice versa. So it’s kind of a nice way to to funnel those ideas.
I think you’re ready for a best practices conference, you can bring together all your users, a users conference!
There you go!
What a great idea.
And we should come.
That’s awesome. We get to pick the place, right?
So Saundra, since you started Levelhead, and you’ve really gotten great traction with a variety of industries, what has been the biggest surprise for you in with this business? Has there been anything that you just, you didn’t expect when you started that you are starting to see?
I speak from a personal standpoint, and I think that those of us who have always worked in a large organization, and I always thought I was creative and entrepreneurial within the world I lived in and I lived in that world my entire life. And I really was, I really didn’t expect the level of… particularly when you’re an entrepreneur out there paving the way, not only in technology, but also in a concept that can be squishy to a lot of people at this point, I didn’t anticipate the emotional rollercoaster that I would go through.
And because, you know, the – now that we’ve been offering this very actively beyond pilots for almost a year, which we’ve had a huge amount of success in that period of time, it was really amazing to me the feelings of when you, when it’s so logical, and a company should do it, it’s really, cost isn’t an obstacle, it can’t be any more affordable than it is, and they still don’t want to do it for their employees. So you know what, I would feel so frustrated, I’d want to say. “Don’t you get it, don’t you care about your employees?” And I think that that’s what I wasn’t prepared for. That surprised me the most, how disappointed I felt. Not because I didn’t get the sale or company didn’t get the business, but their employees weren’t given access or that their leadership didn’t care enough to take the extra effort. And I’d like to say it that’s rare, but it’s not. It’s still not, ladies, it’s, it’s still a point where, “Oh, that’s a lot of work,” or “We have this other priority,” or the one that really annoys me the most, which is why I wrote the ROI guide, was they didn’t want to go and try to sell it to the next higher level. They didn’t want to try to explain it. I go, “I’ll explain it!” So I think that was probably, perhaps not necessarily what you were asking, but I think that was… when you really believe in something strongly, and perhaps, ladies, you, you all have experienced this as well, you really know it will help and to feel the disappointment for the employees that their management’s not taking action.
Yeah. No, thank you for sharing.
And Saundra, does your program in particular make sense for any size company, or do you need a minimum number of employees?
No, we’re so affordable, and we did it that way so that a small organization can afford to do it. And… well, and it gets even cheaper as, the larger the organization it is. We found that, you know, we’ve, we’ve actually got a range of companies, I’ve got some that have 10, 12 people.
And I think that the great thing about that is most companies who have products like ours don’t want those clients. So where do they go? I mean, they try some amounts that no one can afford to do, like $7,000 a year, one company does. I’m like, that was their minimum. I go, “Well, it doesn’t cost you that. Why are you doing it?” But I think our philosophy at this point is to offer it to everybody and make it as affordable as possible.
That’s terrific, making the world better, and making the workplace better for sure.
Well, that’s why we did it. I mean, you know, why would somebody at my age want to go through all of this if you weren’t doing it for a greater purpose, right?
So that may sound too altruistic for people to believe, but it’s true.
I think it’s great. So what else do our listeners need to know, Saundra?
You know, I think that what listeners need to know is that… I said it before, but if they’re really interested in mindfulness, they really do need to ask themselves why. The second question is, how much are you and your organization willing to commit? Has nothing to do with dollars and cents, nothing. That’ll be the lowest price you’ll pay. The bigger cost to the organization is their commitment and time to make a change in the organization. So I just want people to think about that. And if they want to put something else on the shelf, I’m happy to provide them something just to stick out there on the shelf. But just know that they won’t get the benefits that they’re looking for.
Sure. They’re not gonna really change the culture or the lives of employees. Makes sense.
And Saundra, for our listeners who are interested in learning more, how can they reach out to you, or how can they find you?
Just saundra, S-A-U-N-D-R-A, at getlevelhead.com. And there’s a lot of information, and we do it on purpose, on getlevelhead.com there are tons of videos out there. We use animation, they’re two to three minutes. We know about the attention span of people, two to three minutes. There are mini-podcasts that are two to three minutes. There are, there are practices out there. We make as much as available as possible for people to see if this if this is something for them.
Yeah. And just while I was sitting here, Saundra, I went to download the app, which is Levelhead mindfulness app, and it asked me for an invitation code. So do people get that from their employer?
They do. They do. And that’s all they have to do. And and so our organization signs up, they send us, or actually they can load it on to their administrator portal, the list of employees they want to have, that the system automatically sends out a an email with a four digit code on it. They’re done. They’re ready to go.
All right, well, it sounds like Purple Ink is gonna have to talk to you about getting a code, because I want this app now.
I’d be happy to do that. Make sure you have that happen.
Alright. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been very enlightening, and I think you’ve got a good thing here.
Thank you so much, Saundra.
Well, thanks, ladies. It was my pleasure.
So our next guest is Sue Beranek. She’s the Director of Communications for Levelhead, and I would love to have Sue tell a little bit about her professional history, and then what we’re going to do is ask her a few questions about how and why mindfulness has really become important to her. So Sue, do you mind telling us a little bit about your background?
You bet. Thanks for having me today. I’ve been in communications and marketing most of my career, spent over 30 years in financial services, you know, kind of learning on the job and, and moving up to, my last position before I started working with Levelhead was a national position with a large financial institution, managing their sales, communications, and development for all of the branches nationally. So it’s been a fun career.
Yeah, terrific. Well, JoDee and I have both enjoyed exploring Levelhead and seeing the types of exercises that you offer. I’ve noticed a stickers functionality and a leaderboard. Can you tell us a little bit more about these components of your program?
You bet, and, you know, that’s… especially about the leaderboard, it’s kind of a frequently asked question, people kind of laugh and say, “Ooh, you guys are doing competitive mindfulness.” You know, it kind of becomes a joke. So I’ll start with the leaderboard a little bit. You know, as as Levelhead was being created, you know, we looked at, and we know behavior change is so hard, and we were trying to look at all the different ways we could just support and encourage our community. And we started looking at tools that other people use to change behavior, for, like, exercise programs or weight loss. You know, I don’t know about you guys, but when I have a friend going on walks with me and holding me accountable, I’m more likely to do that behavior change. And so that’s really how the leaderboard started. We knew that it would be helpful for people to see that others are on the journey with them. We knew that it would help people, you know, be accountable, stay focused, and hopefully motivate and inspire them so that they knew that they weren’t alone. It really wasn’t about competing. It was about providing support and motivation and camaraderie and, and that’s really where the stickers then came in. It’s sort of part science, part behavioral. Science comes in, you know, the American Psychological Association does surveys regularly on employee engagement and well being, and year after year, they see that over half of the employees say they don’t feel appreciated at work, either by their colleagues or their manager, and that snowballs into all sorts of trouble, lower productivity and turnover. And so we just wanted to create a fun way for people to show appreciation very quickly. It’s quick, it’s easy. It’s real time. And you know, who doesn’t love to receive a sticker? You guys would be surprised at some of the senior level executives and how excited they get when they see that they got a sticker. We were just talking to some university students to who said “Hey, you should create a sticker that has a gold star on it.” So you know, it runs all age levels. Everybody loves to be appreciated, and the stickers function really helps, you know, kind of with that support and teamwork building and appreciation.
It is funny, isn’t it? There’s so many things in our lives today, different apps or games that I’ve seen myself and so many other, you know, professionals I know that are like, “Oh, I got a sticker today,” or “I got a new badge,” or “I hit a gold star,” or “I closed my rings on my fitness app,” you know, whatever it is, it’s a… kind of silly little things that keep us motivated to do it. So I love it.
For me with Candy Crush, I got to that next level.
Yeah, so true. So Sue, as the Director of Communications for Levelhead, what do you see as the keys to sustainability from a communications perspective?
There’s a number of areas that I would say. The first and foremost is just having it. And I know Saundra said this before, too, really when it comes to communications, having them leader led, having the leader involved and sharing their success stories, their testimonials, their favorite exercise, what they’re working on, what their purpose is for practicing mindfulness, you know, the more they can lead and talk about mindfulness in meetings, sending those stickers to show appreciation and pay attention to it, that really helps. The second thing I would say for sustainability is to integrate it wherever possible into the culture. You know, it can’t be a standalone, it can’t be the, you know, something off to the side, you know, as much as it can be incorporated into meetings and training and one-on-one coaching and people using the language, having that common language. You know, we heard it from someone who said, “It was so nice. I was transitioning between a meeting to another meeting and somebody tried to catch me in the hall for that hallway quick meeting, you know, how a lot of people do that, and I was able to say, I just need a minute before I can, you know, kind of transition to my next meeting. Can we talk about this later?” And having that permission and that language has really helped sustain it in a lot of our successful companies. And then the last thing I’ll say, is it’s all about repetition. And, you know, so many times communications professionals like to think, well, I wrote that memo and I sent it off, and now everybody’s doing it. And we know that not to be true, you have to know that people need to hear messages over and over again. So we try to customize communications for companies in a lot of different ways. We have, you know, fun challenges, we do posters, we do blogs, mini-podcasts, infographics, success stories, you know, you name it, we try to hit the message a number of different ways to get people to kind of hear the various pieces and see what works for them. But you need to do that regularly. You can’t just do it once and done. It’s sort of a cycle of just, you know, repeating communications, and it really does help. We need that repetition in our lives, don’t we?
Sue, what changes have you seen both personally and professionally because of your work with Levelhead?
Oh my gosh, I’ve seen so many, you know, and it’s hard to really designate between what’s personal what’s professional, because they’re all so intertwined, you know, as we know. I guess what first convinced me to really try Levelhead and, and, you know, give this whole mindfulness idea a try is that it’s really brief and practical. You know, so many of us are so busy. And you know, I needed something that I could do, as Saundra says, with your eyes open, integrate it into my day. And so that really helped me to at least even begin to explore some of the concepts and I would say, you know, there’s a couple things I could share. Probably my biggest aha one is that I am a worrier. I worry a lot. I think about all the things I have to do. It’s constantly churning in my mind. My to dos and all the things, all that clutter up there. And, you know, one of the exercises is called “Your Wandering Mind,” and it really teaches you how to, you know, clear the clutter, if you will, and and try not to, you know, worry about the future or the past, but really zeroing in on what’s important right now. And, you know, that’s helped me both personally and professionally, for sure.
And then the other one, which I love to tell kind of a fun story about is about setting an intention for the day. I think we’ve all probably experienced in our work lives, you know, either the night before a day or the morning of, thinking, “Oh my gosh, this day is gonna be horrible. I have so much to do. I’m never going to get it all done. It’s going to be a rough day,” or “My boss is not going to like that. I can’t….” You know, whatever. We get into this trap of thinking and sort of setting the course for our day to be a rough day. And I’ve seen where you can change this, you know, we have an exercise called “Be the Architect of Your Day,” and the funny story is, you know, I was, I was traveling to meet some family with my husband last summer and it’s family on his side that I had never met before. And Susan, you know this about me a little bit. I’m kind of an introvert, and going into new situations with people I don’t know can give me, you know, some anxiety, and I remember that morning thinking, “Oh, this trip is gonna be just long and difficult and hard and what if they don’t like me,” and, you know, all these horrible things that you can think about. And I kind of did a little clunk to my forehead and said, “No, you crazy person, you can change how you look at your day. You can determine what your intention will be.” And for me, that day, I decided my intention would be to learn something new. To listen to people, to ask questions, and to learn something new. Kind of switching the focus from me to them. And of course, you know, the day was awesome. We had lots of laughter and fun and learning new things. And, and, you know, being able to set your intention for the day has really impacted me and it can impact anybody, you can set all sorts of different intentions, whether it’s to have a calm day, a productive day, you know, a fun day, you know, whatever it may be, learning something new. Those are all just positive things that you can train your brain, which obviously impacts your behavior and your actions and the outcome. And that’s really made a big difference.
I just love that, be the architect of your day.
Oh, I know. It’s so powerful. I was so excited this year to ask my team to select a word for the year, and the thought of selecting an intention by day, oh my gosh, I love it. Like, how powerful is that?
Saundra mentioned to me that you do a lot of one-on-one interviews with top Levelhead users. What have they said about it?
Oh, boy. Yes, I, it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job is talking to people about their experiences. And both men and women, you know, it’s sort of one of those things, people don’t think men do mindfulness, but they absolutely do as well. You know, I will share just a couple stories. One, and probably the most surprising for me as I heard this over and over, we were working with a large international financial services company, and so I did probably eight to 10 interviews, and this theme kept coming up, and what they all said, and they used the word “refreshing,” they all said, “It’s refreshing to have the senior team show concern for mental health, my individual well being, and it’s given me permission to focus on how I feel and how I relate to others.” And it just it surprised me, you know, so much, so many times as employees we think, oh, our bosses are only thinking about our output, or, you know, the work that we do. And by having mindfulness as part of the company, they were saying, “Wow, isn’t this cool that that the management team recognizes that the work and the person are intertwined, and they impact each other.” And that was just really inspiring to me to hear, you know, when a senior level manager is is talking to their employees about this, what a difference it makes in the team.
You know, the other thing I would say, obviously, there’s always health, wonderful health improvement stories. One woman had high blood pressure, chest pains, all sorts of issues, insomnia, just as she was starting to use Levelhead, and within a few weeks, she said, “I realized that my, you know, I was causing a lot of this stress in my own brain, and by, you know, in a few weeks, I was able to reduce my blood pressure medication,” and she’s feeling…
…better and she’s less judgmental. I mean, it was, it was… it brought tears to my eyes just how powerful It was for her life change. And then the last thing I would just say, you know, the other common theme in all of the stories is that the power of mindfulness is really about awareness. Right? No matter what situation employees are in, they’re coming back from vacation and they’re stressed out or whatever it may be, beginning to have that awareness about how you’re reacting to a situation and knowing that you can choose how you react to it. You know, there are so many success stories of people saying, “Well, I stopped and I went, I don’t have to be stressed out even though I’m back from vacation. What’s most important right now? And I’m gonna go zero in on that, not worry about, you know, the hundreds of emails that are in my inbox,” but you know, that awareness has been really powerful, too. It’s just, it’s been so much fun talking with people about their personal stories.
Well, thank you so much for sharing and for sharing your story, too.
Sue, thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate it.
You got it. Thanks for having me.
Susan, we have a question from one of our listeners who completed a SHRM credit evaluation form after listening to one of our other podcasts. The question was, “I am an HR professional that wants to work part time. My company isn’t open to a part time HR person. And I wonder what suggestions you have on how I could identify a new part time HR role?”
Great question. I do hear from a lot of people as their life needs change, that they sometimes want to work less than a full time schedule. And so I think I would… I know that your employer has said they’re not open to a part timer, but I think I would step away and I would build out a business case as to the advantages for the organization if they would keep you but maybe keep you on a part time flexible schedule. You know, there’s different ways you could come at it in this business case. I would come up with, you know, all the value that I bring to this organization, what I do know, the projects I have in play, things like that, but I would also then come up with alternatives as to how I could work. Maybe one day a week remotely, perhaps I job share, maybe there’s someone else in the organization who would be a good candidate that you could help develop so you get a greater bench strength. So before I would look for a new part time HR job, I would, I wouldn’t walk out of my place until I really put together a business case and presented it. Okay, but if that doesn’t work, yes, you need to be on the hunt. And JoDee, I’d love any of your ideas. But I think the local SHRM chapter wherever you live is a great place to start, because many employers will go there to post their positions. And I do see part time positions come up periodically. Some communities have Facebook groups with HR people, what a great place to let people know you’re, you’re open to it. And then of course, all of our normal job boards, indeed.com. I would definitely, on LinkedIn, flip my little toggle to that I was open for opportunities on the job section. What are the other ideas you might have?
Right, well, first off, I agree with you that to try internally first, I think many times employers are more open to a part time position when you’ve already been working there and adding value, and the thought of losing you altogether, that they would rather keep you when you’re doing a good job, than lose you all together. I also – this can be a little bit longer route, but we recommend to people to even go ahead and apply to some full time positions, and don’t, don’t wait to get too far down the line before you tell them you’re looking for a part time, but sometimes organizations will consider a role to be part time even if they thought they initially wanted full time.
That’s great. Well, good luck to you. Hope it works out. We’d love to hear from you if you get a part time job.
Yes, thank you.
We do have a best practice sharing today. We got a letter from one of our listeners, Janice Chaka, who runs the firm called The Career Introvert. She weighed in after our networking podcast, episode number 50. Let me read her letter. “Hello JoDee and Susan, I love what you’re doing on your show. I’m a career coach for introverts, and one of the things that people hate is all the small talk and being pigeonholed by your job title. We are all human and enjoy many things in life, not just our jobs. Having networking events with small intimate tables is far better than a table of 12 where you have to shout to be heard, or naturally only talk to the person next to you. Having a set topic to talk about per table so that you’re not just repeating yourself time and time again is useful. As for the personal things I do,” Janice said she volunteers to help at the event. That way, she gets to meet everyone there, and there’s no pressure on networking and she has an excuse to talk with people afterwards. “No one says you have to stay for the whole event. Research beforehand who you want to talk to you and if you no longer want to stay after talking to them, then you have permission to leave and go do something that you really enjoy.” She wraps it up with, “don’t go to an event to sell, or to go solve problems. Ask people what keeps them up at night in their business. It’s really a much better question than ‘what do you do,’ and will lead to deeper conversations.” She says people put too much pressure on themselves feeling they have to talk to everyone and be seen. You need to get what you want out of each and every event. So Janice, thank you so much. I really appreciate your sharing, and we’re always interested in any listener best practices you would like to send us.
Finally, in the news. Glassdoor recently released a statistical reference guide for recruiters entitled “50 HR and Recruiting Stats for 2019.” Some of their findings that we found particularly interesting were, first, regarding job seekers, how candidates are looking for jobs. 51% of people are actively using job boards to find that next job. 45% are using referrals by a friend and 35% say that they also use company career sites. And then secondly, the top two pieces of information that workers and job seekers look for when researching company or looking at jobs ads are salaries. 67% of people want to see salaries out there on job postings, and benefit information, 63% asked for that. Strangely enough, a lot of – most employers don’t put salary out there on the job postings, but just know that is what people want. And then Glassdoor said for candidate experience, the aspects of the job application process that job seekers say makes a positive candidate experience were regular communication, 58% said that, clear expectations, 53% said that, and finally, feedback regarding rejection, 51%. And as we’ve talked about before, a lot of employers aren’t getting back to candidates, and please note, more than half of the people, I would think all, but more than half want to hear back as to if they were rejected why they were rejected. What are the things that make poor candidate experience? Well, it’s lack of information about pay and benefits, interview schedule changes, untimely responses, and a lack of information about job responsibilities. 62% said that they would like a process that is complete in less than two weeks. My motto always has been if you don’t quickly hire the best, you’re going to end up hiring the rest. So if it’s taking more than two weeks for you to fill your jobs, it’s a good idea to go back and look at your process. And then finally, diversity, inclusion, and belonging was some stats that were included in this Glassdoor report for 2019. They said that 20% of millennials ages 18 to 34 identify as LGBTQ. It’s a notable increase from 12% of Gen Xers, which are today ages 35 to 53, and 7% of the baby boomer generation, ages 52 to 71.
Please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you’ve missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free on iTunes, Google Play, Podbean, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you like our podcast, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming episodes. And we’d love for you to rate and review us on iTunes. It helps people find our show. If you have any questions on any HR topics, you can leave us a voicemail at 317-688-1613 or email us at email@example.com. We’re also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.