When superlatives were being announced during my senior year of high school, I was so excited to maybe win “best smile” or “best laugh.” Unfortunately, when the winners were announced, the superlative I ended up winning was “biggest stress case.”
I wish I could say it wasn’t true, but it was actually painfully accurate.
Turning over a new leaf
In high school, I was what you would call “grade-obsessed.” I hosted calculus study parties to make sure I got 100%, was the treasurer of the swing club, was a cheerleader and song leader over the years, and spent time doing all the “right” things to get into a great university. Luckily I loved all of those things, including calculus. When I got to USC, I promised myself that I’d be different. I promised myself I’d never stress out again as I had in high school (or at least stress much less) because I was scared it would negatively affect my health.
Since college, I’ve focused my energy on healthier habits and living a better life. As a yoga instructor, a meditator, and someone who practices gratitude, I’ve become someone I’m proud to be. At Blend, my role is now to create an amazing employee experience for others to be their best selves and do their best work — something I’m proud to do, too. I’m still a slight perfectionist (virgo!), but over the years I’ve practiced easing up on myself, zooming out, and reminding myself that life is short and to really enjoy every moment.
My philosophy of work
I have built my own philosophy of work and life throughout my career, but one person’s words stand out to me as articulating the core of what I believe best. A former coworker and dear friend of mine, Lyle Skolnick, lived his life with the purpose of “doing good work with good people.”
This to me is the best philosophy of work.
I love the simplicity of it, and it’s helped guide me through life’s ups and downs. I now recognize that when my motivation is low in a particular role or company, it’s my job to either say something and work to fix it or move on to a new opportunity. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to live that philosophy and choose where I want to be, who I want to spend my time with, and what I want to do.
That’s why I’m so excited to be at Blend and have the express mission of creating an atmosphere where others want to be, do their best work, and build a future for themselves.
How we define employee experience at Blend
At Blend, my job is to delight employees, create a happy, healthy, and inclusive environment, and drive productivity across the organization so people love coming to work.
Employee experience is broadly defined at Blend, but one of my core areas that our people operations team has been focused on is employee wellness.
In a meeting midway through last year, where our Head of People and I dug into our pulse survey data, it was clear that the wellness score was the lowest in employee experience — specifically, the stress employees were experiencing was dragging the wellness score down. We came to the conclusion that we have a relatively young workforce that may not know how to manage stress and take care of themselves as well, which could decrease productivity. Therefore Blend has a role to play in improving employee wellness to increase productivity and output.
It goes without saying that we care deeply about every individual on a human level, but we also realize there is a business connection and that productivity suffers when people are less happy or more stressed.
The solution was to create a robust wellness program that would offer convenient classes, workshops, and access to stress-reducing activities, and automatically nudge employees to consider participating.
What we’ve learned from building a wellness program at work
Wellness is a lot more than doing yoga once a week. It encompasses mental and physical well-being and includes everything from financial wellness to nutritious food options, psychological safety at work and home, access to mental health care, strong human connection, learning and development opportunities, and so much more.
At Blend, I do my best to craft programs that trigger employees to step away from their desks and take time for themselves, whether that’s a fitness class, meditation session, meeting with members of an employee resource group who share and understand what they’re going through in life, a lunch with friends, or a massage.
Our current wellness program includes a food bot that tells employees when lunch is ready, calendar invites to fitness classes (yoga or a cardio core boot camp) and meditation sessions on the fifth floor, healthy meal and snack options, monthly massages, and quarterly workshops on topics like ergonomics, snacking, and sleep.
We beta tested this program during Q1 in our SF headquarters, and look forward to expanding the program to all offices and add a financial wellness program and more meditation classes over the next few months.
What’s ahead for employee experience at Blend
Yoga and physical fitness are two important parts of my own personal wellness routines because they keep my stress levels low and help me stay grounded, but I know they’re not for everyone — and I know they’re far from the full definition of a wellness program.
That’s why I’m continuously listening to feedback and sending out surveys to understand how employees think we can improve the program and how we can create an environment where it’s okay and encouraged to step away for wellness — especially when it comes to crafting more accessible options for groups of people like parents, who may have extra responsibilities like picking up kids after school, or those with adjusted work hours like the sales team, who work with folks on the East Coast and need to come in extra early.
Continuing to grow our community while driving productivity
I love that I can bring my full self to work and inspire others to do the same. While startups can be fast-paced and stressful places, I’m confident that offering a wellness program creates community, builds empathy, and drives productivity.
While we can’t force people to take vacation time off or change their Slack habits to get more sleep, we can and will provide tools to help employees manage stress, bring wellness into the heartbeat of the office, and educate and empower managers to create a safe, inclusive, and healthy environment where employees can do their best work.
And I, of course, still stress out. But knowing that Blend cares about my well-being and that I can take a break to pause and breathe means the world to me. I want to bring my best self to work so I can be a part of moving this company forward. I love that the rest of Blendkind can do the same, and I can’t wait to see what the future of the wellness program holds.
If you’re looking for a new opportunity and want to do good work with good people, check out our careers page, we’re hiring across all teams!
Photo Credit: Kaitlin Sullivan