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#013 – Wellness and the Evolution of the HR Leader (with Special Guest Michelle Berg)


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Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Working Well Podcast. I’m Tim Borys CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group. This show explores the diverse aspects of workplace health and personal performance. On the Working Well Podcast we dive into the foundations of what makes wellness work in workplaces around the world. We connect with corporate leaders, executives, and industry experts who are helping make life more awesome at work and home.

Join us to learn workplace wellness, best practices, personal performance tips, and access resources to jumpstart your personal and corporate programs.


Michelle Berg is the Chief Visionary Officer at Elevated HR and employee experience agency located in Calgary, Alberta. Since 2010, Michelle and her team of nine have supported over 500 companies internationally with various people and culture program initiatives. Michelle is currently pursuing her master’s degree in counseling psychology, with the desire to help organizations sort out their issues in a group therapy setting.

And if she’s learned anything from this pandemic organizations are certainly struggling with communication. She is a disc certified facilitator and has held her charter professional in human resources designation since 2005, she facilitates and develops course curriculum in both employee experience and leadership development with the goal of making work suck less.


Welcome to the show Michelle. It’s so great to have you on the, on the episode and to see you again. So a question I ask everyone, what has the last we’ll call it 15 months now looked like for you.

I think nothing short of a roller coaster. I, I, I think that’s probably the easiest way to describe what the last 15 months our our highs have been so incredibly high. And the unfortunate part is our lows have been so low that there were times we weren’t sure if we were going to survive. But here we are and we’re surviving. I think my team would even venture to say we’re thriving at this point. And just so very excited to be in a position hopefully shortly, yet still want to be safe, but that we’ll be together soon as well. I am. I’m definitely. Looking forward to that. I’m not even sure if I know how to communicate very well in person anymore. So yeah, I am ready to get off this ride if you will, and maybe start a new one.

Well, and that’s a great point. The changes inevitable, it’s always happening now. The last 15 months, the change has been exponentially faster than normal, but you know, you started elevated HR around what’s almost 11 years ago. Now coming up in August, things have changed dramatically since you started it particularly in the last year. So tell me a little bit about that journey.

Yeah. I, I, you know, we didn’t necessarily shift a ton in the last year other than well, you know, we’ve always been a results only work environment, and I’ve always been a proponent that you don’t need to be at your desk or in your office to be productive. Not that we were as remote as we are today, but we’ve always had remote workers. So for us, I think as elevated the shift wasn’t nearly as difficult as what some of the other organizations that we were supporting, or, but even during the time when I really reflected, you know, where my thoughts were on, on what you need to do, if you’re going to be a fully remote organization versus what you need to do today, that certainly has shifted.

I was listening to podcasts or even webinars that I had started. You know, back in March of of the pandemic of March 2020 and going, Nope. Nope. That was not advice that I would listen to today. And, and, and so we certainly have shifted in just terms of accountability, productivity those kinds of things, but, but for us, We really, as elevated, we’ve continued to operate in our, in our unique little bubble, recognizing that again, results are all about product, what it is that you say you’re going to do.

And then following through on that. And that’s kind of what we were able to stick with during this journey. Yeah, so. We still offer the same consultative services. I think probably the benefits are that our, our reach now is further than it’s ever been because people are better with remote as well. So now we’re, we’re helping people from super east where we kind of always shied away from just with time changes, et cetera, but it actually works.

And so we’re finding just, yeah, just that, that our reach, our, our, I guess the other major shift. Training and development. For example, we, we run a leadership leadership essentials course, and we, and then we lead an employee experience course, and now people from all over north America are joining us, whereas they used to come only if they were in Calgary.

So that would be a major shift. Yeah, there’s, I mean, there’s little things, I guess when I reflect, but at the same time for us, I think, I think we’ve just continued to continue our journey.

That’s great. And yeah, they’re, they’re always bright spots in, in any change, no matter how challenging it is and being able to see those and capitalize on it is a huge part of success coming out of the pandemic.


Tell me a little bit about how you think HR has shifted in the last year. What’s the role of HR now? And. And you said you’re still providing the same services, but they’re being, I guess, delivered in a different way, but has there a different focus, I guess you would say you would have.

I don’t want to speak for other HR professionals necessarily, but I know for us a much bigger focus has been on wellness and psychological safety over the last 15 months.

And I think so many things happen during the pandemic when you even think about just, you know, what happened with George Floyd, for example, and there is this new. Requirement. I think of being mindful. And, and when, when I say it’s a requirement, I say that intentionally HR people were typically tend to be tone police.

We write policies for the sake of policies sometimes, and now when we needed a new lens around psychological safety, we needed a new lens around wellness. We needed a new lens around to see them microaggressions. It’s really flipped the script and how we show up and how do we really build an inclusive environment that promotes belonging that has been, I mean, we were always on a trajectory, but that’s just gone exponential in terms of the needs and the skillsets that HR people need to have now, nevermind.

The fact that people have stopped. I don’t know if they stopped knowing how to do it, but communication has taken between departments between people has taken a significant dive we’ve noticed as well. And so really being able to maneuver and even mediate, I guess, between people that’s a new skill too, that we’ve adopted at a, at a, in a much quicker trajectory that we’ve required anyways, to help organizations to just to continue.

To survive. And, and realistically, a lot of organizations are asking us about how do we, how do we make this better? How do we, how do we learn to communicate differently? But we’re all going through our own journeys right now, specifically as it relates to wellness. And so it’s really remembering to shift into pivot based on who the other person is. And so for us, I think that’s been probably the hardest, the biggest change and shift is this mindfulness of, of where people are at in their own journey during the pandemic.

That’s a really great point too. And one of the other guests we had on I was talking on the leadership side and how it being able to take care of yourself. And boost your energy and your, your own mindset helps you be a better leader. And while on the flip side of it too, when we’re. Talking to someone it’s, you’re not picking up as many of the call it nonverbal cues, particularly with so many people having cameras off and you’re talking to a team’s bubble or a, an initial or something on the screen. And so that’s, that’s harder to pick up those nuances that you might in person. Yeah. So I love the fact that you say we have to be aware of what other people are going through, and also placed that in, in our own context.

I’m curious to see hear what you say about the communication between departments and well, I, I don’t have as much experience with that on the various departments side. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they actually have a lot more connection with executive leadership now, because there are a lot more. Communications going out from the executive team than they were before, maybe with all the things going on. Is that something you would agree with or what have you seen that.

I think it’s company specific. I think a lot of executives that I’ve worked with are struggling with their own journeys as well and where they at one time had to be stoic. And you know, and we’re used to that as the role. This has just taken a whole new tool. And so they’ve actually, I was just in a meeting yesterday and one of the commonalities of the phrases that I use as well.

What would you have done in person? Is this something that you would have chosen to communicate or, or, or not communicate if you were there with everyone? And, and it’s this again? I think, I think it’s so easy to slip into our own, our own wormhole inside that we forget about what it’s like to show up for everyone else, because again, you’re right, we only have to show up maybe some of the time, it’s not like people are watching us with the same eyes. So it’s certainly one of the recommendations that we’ve made is that you cannot over communicate during the pandemic. And the more you can put yourself out there, the better. We also obviously see it in the research that says, you know, something like there’s 52% more meetings happening in a calendar month now than there were prior because nobody’s driving or walking or, you know, you quite literally, my, my steps today say I have moved, you know, all of 300 because it’s been zoom to zoom, to zoom, to zoom.

And, and, and I think. That. So there’s the ability to be in more meetings and to connect more. And again, if, if there’s those executives that really want to connect, because it is important, it is meaningful. I do see it. I can’t say it’s a trend though that I’m seeing in all the organizations we work with anyways, but it is the top organizations are certainly reaching out more and communicating in a, in a much different, much better light for sure.

Yeah. And I guess that goes to how people are dealing with their own personal circumstances. Right. If the executive team is feeling overwhelmed and struggling, and they may not have the support, it’s hard to be that positive reach out and that connection to, to the rest of the organization.

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Yeah, you spoke to it a little bit and this is as business owners, I guess we have a different perspective than than some other executives or leaders at companies is that we might be consulting and working with clients on certain issues. But we also have that to deal with internally. And you mentioned about the you’ve always had a, you know, I guess. Work or results-based organization. Tell me what the, how that shift did a little bit or how you’ve stepped up as a leader yourself in your own organization to, to help your team through some of these challenge.

Well, I, think first of all, I have an incredible team and I have not been the greatest leader during this. I have certainly hit my own burnout peaks and You know, have not always been as motivated as I was pre pandemic. And so I think just knowing that I could be vulnerable with my team and I could ask them for help when help was required gave me the space and the need to kind of just, you know, okay reset reconfigure and move forward. You know, we’re, we’re easier to track productivity than most organizations, because if we’re not at a client we’re not getting paid. And so, I mean, our, our product is our hours, so we know exactly. You know, if we’re writing a handbook for example, and it took someone 22 hours and it normally takes someone 16 hours, you know, we know exactly where productivity is taking a dip versus if you’re actually going ahead or, or, or making gains on it.

So we have a little bit. Again, people, people, our product and our time, it’s the time that we sell. So it’s been a little bit different, but, but I’ve noticed, you know, what, we used to be 80%, you know, we would look for 80% billable. For example, we’ve dropped that. Because it just became this too much of a focus and people were losing themselves again in, in terms of the tracking. And I can’t tell you necessarily why. It it, but it was across the board that we had to make that shift. And I just said, you know what we’re going to do. What’s right for the client now, too. And so we still track our time, still track our hours. What I would suggest now is a little bit different is that I don’t, I don’t, you know, necessarily say, well, why are your hours at 60?

This, this, you know, this month when they should have been in X that’s, that’s been a major change, I guess, for us in that. But because we know what our results are, we’ve always tracked what our results are. I still know we’re doing. You know, X percent better than we were beforehand. And that’s still something that I, that I pay attention to, but I’d be nowhere if I didn’t have my team, if I was doing this by myself I don’t think elevated would, would be here today at all.

Well, and that perfect example is that no business would be there where they are without people. And, and you’re a solo. If at that point and yeah, or just a standalone consultant then, and really businesses thrive based on the teams and what you said earlier about not necessarily being a, a great leader throughout that.

I would say what you mentioned is actually an example of great leadership. It’s all you pat yourself on the back, being vulnerable with your team, you know?

Right. It’s, it’s hard to, it’s hard to admit that you don’t have all the answers and, and, and that you don’t just want to do it. And that was kind of it though. It was that aha moment for me. That’s that I could be a solo preneur. I could have just, you know, it could just be a me shop. I could say goodbye. We could, we could just do it. And yeah. I learned though that I don’t like doing this without my team. That’s the other side that’s there is this I don’t, I don’t mind working remotely. I like being at home. I like collecting my thoughts and I’m an introverted extrovert. There’s no question. And so I it’s not like I’m missing my people all the time, but I. The team and I just can’t I’m in awesome times when I think about how they’ve rallied together with me and for me and by me.

And I, I don’t want to do this alone. That’s what I know now after the pandemic 100%.

Yeah. And not everyone’s good at everything. And so we have what we’re best at. And then we, we have hire people and have teams that help us with the things that we’re not best at and that they’re even better at.


So that’s, yeah, that’s part of the process and what I, you know, I’d love to dive a little bit more into what you see some of the biggest challenges that companies are facing. You’ve mentioned mental health and stress and uncertainty is really high. What are the things you’re seeing in your clients right now that maybe are much more heightened compared to where they were before the pandemic?

Well, before. I I’m not sure. I think everything is pretty pandemic related. I would say that the biggest issue right now is twofold. One is the debate on vaccinations, I would say is it’s the number one question we’re getting asked right now? Can I make them mandatory? Should I make them mandatory? Is the other side we’ve got you know, some lawyers and human rights activists saying absolutely not. And then you’ve got the other side saying absolutely. It’s the only way to keep the population safe. So it’s this constant debate of, of what should we do? What should we mandate? And that’s adding additional stuff. And barriers for employees as well.

But the second part of this now is we were in such a panic at pandemic when everyone had to shut down, I am seeing the same panic of the pandemic post pandemic now happening in terms of. Well, you know, when do we communicate when we’re opening? Are we opening? Are we flexible? Are we not flexible and organizations making a decision right now to go 100%? We’re right back to where we were. To me, that’s probably the most dangerous decision that they’re communicating right now. Competition is very real. Canadians are losing two American companies left right and center right now who have figured out the remote work life. So now they’re making more money working for an American company.

And, and that’s just one of it, but competition in general, we’re seeing, and again, Even, I think Forbes just wrote that article, that when, when companies are mandating you to come back, 25% of staff are saying, no, I’m not coming back. I liked this. I want choice in flexibility. And then of course we know the research with burnout also says that if you want to reduce burnout, you got to give control back to people and control is over where they’re working. So this is by far the biggest stress that most organizations are facing as, as well. Can they mandate which days then should they be Mondays and Fridays? And I just think too many going from a world of where we really got to choose how we show up to a world of rules and regulations and frameworks that I had are you didn’t really work that well, pre pandemic either. And now you’re suddenly trying to go back to once was I think it’s a big mistake and that’s the debate that we are consistently having in many of the organizations that we work with.

Absolutely. Yeah. I would even say the 25% is a, is low. I saw a couple of studies. One was out of Australia and I think it was a couple of thousand people. It was like 50% said that they would at least want a hybrid.

Well, they definitely want it 25% are quitting on the spot though.

Right. Okay. Okay. That makes more sense .

And, and the projection in north America this year is a 40%, like on average will be a 40% turnover rate. And that’s primarily because nobody really voluntarily left in, in 2020 because of the instability factor. But anyone that was kind of thinking about it pre-pandemic. Did stayed now, they’re really thinking about it. Is this the place that I want to be? So it’s just going to go up exponentially because it’s time to make a change and add on the demands of coming back full time. Well, that’s an easy decision because there will be other roles that I can find that will give that flexibility. They’re the ones that are gonna win in the end. I, I fully believe that that companies that continue to embrace the flexibility.

I agree this this past 15 months has showed us that most work can be done anywhere, anytime.

And the assumption of. Somewhat bad. We always, you know, it’s so easy for us to talk about it. That’s, that’s the professional office setting, obviously the frontline workers and those people that continued to give their lives for us during the pandemic and put themselves at risk during the pandemic. I am so thankful to them. And of course they can’t do that, but they are too. I, I, you know, I am hopeful that we’re going to see higher wages in those kinds of roles because of what they’ve done and what they did and what they sacrificed for the majority of us to continue to live our lives, you know, but yes, in the professional settings, for sure. That’s, that’s the conversation that we’re having.

Yeah. Yeah. Short of the, the frontline workers that have to be there, but there, I know quite a few doctors that you know, some GPS, for example, They’re doing a huge percentage of their, their business over telemedicine right now. And I’ve the ones I’ve talked to are loving it. Yeah. Some of them, for some things, but they, they said, yeah, they’re, they’re going to go back into the clinic or the office for a certain day. Not everyone. And even when they’re in the office, some of the times they’re in there, some of the patients they see may not be in the office because you don’t have to go down to the doctor’s office for a lot of things these days.

Yeah, no, I think, again, that’s such a huge silver lining is that they totally expedited telemedicine. And I think that is it’s so good. Same with psychology. Yeah. You know, the, the ability now to reach a psychologist and the use of things like better help on a more regular basis where you can be anywhere, saves a commute, it saves time and people still get the support that they need. And so for me, again, I love how much has been accelerated during the pandemic. I just wish it didn’t take the whole world to stop to figure that out first.

Well, the, yeah, the, the, the use of technology, the comfort with technology and the ability to use it, to solve some of the problems we were facing is outstanding. I really, truly hope why I even have to hope. I would imagine that that’s going to continue accelerating even when much more physical interaction happens and people go back to the office, whatever that looks like, or people are. More businesses are open. I think there’s still going to be that use of technology.

And I just have to think of the health and fitness industry too, for that slowly online fitness is not going anywhere.


Even when people go back to fitness classes and the gym and things like that.

Yeah. Yeah.

And with I guess the, the barriers that companies are facing now, the based on what you’re saying, would you agree that it’s a big part of it’s mindset with certain organizations or the culture in an organization? Or how do you, how do you speak to it?

Yeah, it’s definitely mindset. I think, you know, whether this is a, or not as another is another question, but I know a lot of the ones where I’m struggling, they’ll admit, they’re like, well, maybe I’m just too old or I’m a boomer. And I, and I just expect work to be done in certain way. Maybe I’m too old fashion, you know, that comes up quite regularly in conversation about the desire and the need to have a back. And, and I keep just pushing back saying, but you’ve learned how to do that. You’ve survived. You, you know, you’re here now. Yeah, there’s just this, I, I think, you know, once you’ve done something for so long, even 15 months doesn’t necessarily change your mind.

And, and so I think that’s just, people are stuck in that’s the way it is. And yet again, I’ve always been a proponent. I’ve always said that the best work does not necessarily happen from nine till five, that is not measure success or productivity and the water cooler. And the gossip talk did not necessarily add to your culture either. You know? So you’ve got it’s it’s, it’s, it’s weighing the pros and the cons during the whole thing. And again, I think. The, the big thing around the offices. I’m not saying to abandon it, but what I am saying is that, you know, the workplace is now going to become the culture space. It’s going to be the place for innovation.

It’s going to be the place for education and collaboration. And then. Why you still need an office to bring people together. It’s just not the thing that you need every single day, all day long, and certainly not measured by button seats in front of a computer. That’s not the measure of success. So challenge yourself to look beyond that is what is the conversation that we’re having, but you nailed it. It’s mindset and it’s making a commitment that, yeah, just because we’ve made the 15 last 15 months work. You know, don’t necessarily go back to the old ways or the old habits, but they weren’t necessarily that successful for you look to be innovative now, how can you be different? How can you know? That’s we all had to pivot that way. Let’s not pivot back that’s that’s where I sit anyways. ]

Yeah. And that’s a huge part of the mindset is that people that are, I think that I’ve seen at least from the coaching and consulting have done is that those who are seeing this as a change has happened, but they’re waiting for it to go back to quote normal are really struggling because normal doesn’t exist anymore. There’s call it a new normal if you want, but that, I I’ve always say the next normal, because it’s going to change again, may not change as fast, but being able to take what’s working continue. And adapt to, to change things that haven’t been working, I guess you would say. And so on that note co clients that you’ve worked with and companies that you’ve worked with that are actually doing well and thriving and have pivoted properly or effectively, what, what types of things do they do?

Well, they’re still keeping culture top of mind, whether it was wellness checks that we would do with each individual, they would actually contract us to call just to make sure everyone was okay. Having those one-on-one conversations. That was big, their own connection time. Like you said, you know, the executives that really do reach out and try. It’s not just about zoom bingo anymore. I mean, that was the big in the beginning where everyone would be doing that. I think people are tired of zoom, but I was really impressed. Like one of our clients would send, you know, they, they used to have, they would all go out and they would party. So they would send, you know, whether it was a they did a wine testing, so they would tell you which stores to go get the wines from. And then they would bring someone in to do one wine tasting from that perspective or beer tasting. And then they would also do something that I thought was really smart from an inclusivity perspective. They also had a mocktail night, so they would set it and, you know, set up these times and set up these dates where they were sharing.

We we’ve certainly brought it. Far more speakers on fitness and motor keeping motivated. There’s been lots more investment in resilience training things like that sharing. But even, you know, prior to this last little bit of a lockdown, there was lots of times where they would meet small groups in the park outside you know, too. And they would support all of those things too. So just getting creative with how can we still connect? How can we still meet while being cognizant of what the rules are and still trying to keep people safe. They, they would try things like breakfast together. They would do MTV tours of houses to get, you know, like the cribs, MTV cribs, you know, they would take people on house tours.

And so, yeah, it was just really about getting creative and innovative. In different and unique ways. And those that thrived continued it even past the zoom. Like, you know, when we started to notice zoom fatigue, and that was the big word, they kept pushing through that too, because what’s the alternative is zero connection. And so. Switch it up, you know, now people are allowed a little bit more often to turn off their videos and they were in the beginning and that’s just because it is hard to look at your face the whole time. You know, and, and switching it up between phone versus video, we don’t always need to be on video that’s okay. And so, again, it’s just looking for more ways to be flexible. Those are the organizations that I see that continue to thrive. And then of course, keeping the conversation around mental health. Alive and well on a regular basis, those companies that started the conversation early in the pandemic, but have continued the conversation have just allowed for better and more authentic conversations as well at work, which again, lends itself to higher productivity and efficiency.

Yeah, awesome. I love those those ideas too. And yeah, it goes back to communication, caring connection, being able to facilitate that and. Well, you know, zoom, bingo may have worked for a little bit it’s adapting and, you know, the, even the, bring your pet to meeting thing like that and have introduce your kids and all of these different things that are happening. I know my, my wife, she’s working upstairs right now and you know, my kids, when they were at home from school, there, they happen to be in the same on the bonus room with them. We’ve got three desks set up and. And I won the lottery and get the, the office right now. So, but that, those types of things are happening all the time.

You know, my daughter’s doing a science presentation and my wife’s in a meeting and everyone on the meeting gets to hear about the four-eyed fish in her science class. So. There are always things like that happening, but I feel there that that has been a connection that helps people realize that, Hey, everyone’s in the same boat and we’re, we’re all rowing in the same direction, I guess you would say we’re still supporting each other. And I was doing a corporate presentation the other day and my cat fights with the neighbor’s cat through the window, outside the window of my office. And there was this. Cat fight, literally outside my window. And I was, you know, 40, 50 people on the, on the presentation. I’m like, Hey, that’s not something I can plan for really.

Sorry about that. Everyone had a good laugh and we just kept going, but that’s something that it’s happened so often to different people in different ways that people are good with it. And I think that’s a positive thing that we can carry carry forward from. This is the reality or the humanity of life and what. That we don’t have to be so buttoned up and serious in the workplace.

Yeah. Yeah. And I know too, there’s boundaries that some of us have and, and, and want to maintain and keep, you know, I think that’s been a challenge too, is that certainly there are some team members that would like to keep working life separate, but, you know, that’s one of the things the pandemic kind of forced upon us is that’s not an option anymore. And, and so it just depended on how open or available people were to take off their armor and show up fully as who they were. But. You know, when they would, or when they did in my experience anyways, everyone was fully, you know, fully accepted. You know, that was never an issue. Maybe, maybe barring, you know, in the beginning, people were taking their laptops to the bathroom with them, forgetting that they had, you know, taking their laptops with them and that they were still on screen.

You know, I’m glad to have those lessons are over and done with now. You don’t hear about those things anymore, or that my favorite was like, The lawyer with the cat filter on during zoom and didn’t know how to get that one off. I mean, even that was completely endearing and, and, you know, there, the judge just kept going. So it’s clear, you can, you know, no matter what happens, you can, you can make it through and keep going. And, and I think. You know, again, there are so many positives, we just tend to focus a lot of times on the negatives because we’re just in it and retired of it. And, you know, some of us are feeling very trapped as well. And and, and so it is important to look at what’s coming, but again, not forget the important and awesome lessons and, and the opportunities that we got during this time.

Yeah, and we, you alluded to it a little bit, but in a, in your mind, in a perfect world, moving forward in terms of how businesses adapt to the vaccines and the opening back up, what does that look like to you from from a corporate culture and business standpoint?

Yeah. You know, the decision that I’ve made along with many of our clients is, you know, say things, continue on the path, the positive path that they’re on right now, we’re seeing most organizations not make anything mandatory until after the long weekend in September. Just recognizing that even. People with children, getting them back to school and what that’s going to look like now, what that new routine is going to be like with also coming back to work, but still really recognizing that vaccinations are a personal decision. As much as you know, we’re seeing a lot of people being pushed into it and so on and so forth, it is still a personal decision. So being respectful of that. I think, you know, in order to keep people safe you know, one of the things we didn’t have this year really was the flu. And so, you know, even things like that of not being a murder anymore, coming to work sick, like you’re not going to be allowed to.

And so is that 50 50? And how does that look? All of these things are still really at the forefront. But again, it’s choice and hybrid model is what’s really, I think gonna make people. That that’s, that’s the ideal. And again, like you say, most people are not asking real returns until I, until September. And when teams hear that they go, oh, okay. I can plan. I can plan. Like maybe I can go work from a Soyuz for the summer then, or I can go visit my parents, my folks who I haven’t seen in so long, but I can work from. Manitoba, for example, for a couple of weeks, that’s just, again, it gives them more control and especially coming into it. Now you can ease back in into what work, the old work life, a little bit of the old work-life make that transition simpler rather than just like a faucet being turned on or off. I think those are, that’s what I’m hearing primarily. And it’s the same choice that I’ve made as well at Elevated.

Excellent. Yeah. And great insight. The one thing that is, I guess, related to that a bit the mental health, the wellbeing is vacation time. And I know there are a lot of people who have haven’t taken vacations, they’ve canceled trips. They’ve just been working all the way through. A lot of people aren’t getting the breaks that they’ve needed. And once things open up, how do you see that playing out from a vacation time standpoint?

Oh, it’s going to be, it’s going to be a panic. There’s no, there’s no question. I mean, it was part of the reason at Elevated too. I actually started mandating everyone takes one week off per quarter. Because people weren’t taking the time off and for us, we used to have an unlimited vacation time anyways, but when you have unlimited vacation or you’re not going anywhere, it really isn’t that great of a benefit. Right. They’re not even keeping the cash anymore, realistically. And we always closed down at Christmas time for two weeks. So that’s, that was irrelevant, but it was. No other time is being taken off. And if you don’t plan to take time off, it never happens. So we just said, you know, take it off now. And then when you can really take some time off as well, we’ll, we’ll coordinate it. But staycations were really important to us. Even if they weren’t going anywhere because that, and the other thing that we do is we, we mandate a total disconnect from work.

Like stop looking at your emails, take it off your phone, that kind of a thing. And organizations are definitely struggling already. Like the sheer amount of volume of liability that they have on the books, because people just didn’t take it. And so planning, communicating you know, doing all the same things that you needed to, that you used to have to do getting ahead of it. Now that’s really going to be the trick. And then of course, You know, I’ve already read to some organizations are making the decision about like, Hey, look, we’re going to allow you to carry forward, but do what you can this summer. So again, it’s that, it’s that openness to the flexibility of the conversation that that’s important.

But yeah, I worry. I mean, I worried for my team perspective to the point. Yeah. Actually, if they take, not only do they have to take the week off, I also give one wellness day a week or one wellness day, a month off as well. And if they take both plus the week, I give them an additional 1% bonus at the end of the year, too, because that’s how much I want them to take the time off for them. But it’s, it’s looking for new ways to incentivize because yeah, people just weren’t doing it. They were like, well, if I’m at home, I might as well be on the laptop. Yeah. No, you gotta disconnect. You gotta, you gotta shut down from work occasionally. That’s my belief anyways.

Yeah, absolutely. And our coaches are constantly talking to her corporate clients about that.

That is that disconnect. When they’re, you’re working from home, they’re there, the it blurs the lines and it’s just easy to just, you know, open up the laptop or flip to on the phone and. Yeah. Being able to set that, that hard stop to the workday is even if it’s a psychological, like things like the psychological commute where you just walk around the block and come back home done.

Yeah. So that’s good. That’s good to hear. And I think more organizations should take your lead on. On the vacation side.

And again, I’m not taking anything away from them. I’m just encouraging them to do it and, and to follow through and incentivizing.

Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned earlier about companies, Canadian companies getting employees going to work for us companies because they can work from home. What’s the solution to that other than allowing people to work remotely when you, all of a sudden they’re competing on a global basis, how, how is that impacting Canadian Canadian business from your perspective?

Well specifically where we’re seeing it. Hardcore is in the tech side of business right now. That’s, that’s the greatest competition. And especially companies when you’ve got like Amazon shop, well in Shopify as a Canadian company, but they were the biggest thorn in my side earlier on in the back in the pandemic because their growth was exponential this year. And yeah, they’re taking all our great developers out of the city. You know, it is it’s, it’s the same thing though, that it’s always been where you got to make sure that people are paid fairly and that, you know, can live their lives. So that’s number one. I don’t, I don’t know if I necessarily subscribe to overly generous paid, but certainly gotta pay them. You can’t be, you can’t be sitting at the 25th to 50th percentile anymore.

You gotta, you gotta put your money where your mouth is, but then you do have to focus on career growth. And so the number one reason why people are leaving organizations specifically the study I saw about the 40% turnover was due to the fact that there was no more career growth that they weren’t having the conversations about that that there wasn’t a purpose.

And so really being mindful again, of purpose and trajectory and where do people want to go and how do they want to get there, supporting them through conversations through that is super important. And then again, just really making sure that your purpose is aligned with them. That’ll keep people, I’m seeing it, keep it while I work, I work at several small tech or work with several small tech companies and they are managing to hang on to their talent. And, but it’s transparency and vulnerability, you know, and, and really an environment that’s built on trust. That’s what keeps people, ultimately, as long as again, they’re paid, they’re, they’re paid at that base, but I can’t say you can underpay anymore. But you certainly. You know, there’s reasons why people don’t want to join the big conglomerates either because they get lost.

There are a number. So if you can make people still feel like there’s someone and that they mean something, you’ll be able to keep people too. Yeah. And I think that goes, regardless of what’s happening in the economy is people want to be where they feel valued and there’s a purpose and they have a vision of where they can go and grow and learn.

Yeah. Yeah, very cool. So we’ve talked about a lot of different topics today. Where, what haven’t I asked about that you’re like, we need to talk about this, but what’s another hot hot button or hot topic in your, your sphere or an HR business that you want to talk.

Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if we’ve missed anything. I think again, psychological safety is probably what it is versus what it isn’t. Right. I think. People are using psychologically just like psychological safety, because there has been some big boundaries, especially during the pandemic that have been crossed. But on the flip side, I sometimes see psychological safety is also being used as armor by some employees too. It almost like advocates them from accountability and that’s not psychological safety to me. Psychological safety is really just about being clear as being kind. I’m a big proponent of Bernay brown for sure. And, and setting out what, what it is that people are expect to do. And I, I find these conversations that we have around communication is because people aren’t being clear.

And, and, and you said it earlier, you know, from a tone and a body language perspective, it’s certainly is harder to either see it through a zoom, a zoom lens, or even through email or slack messages. And so, again, People are, are, are reading into messages sometimes, but at the same time, others are not being mindful of how their message is being received either. And we talk so much about it, intention, but intention only goes so far because it’s the impact that we’ve gotta be worrying about, but impact again, is about results and is about accountability. And I think that’s probably one of the bigger stressors too, is how do I still hold people accountable when we’re not in the same room anymore?

And, and I want them to know that I’m being nice and that I care for them, but again, being nice doesn’t mean that you’re letting them get away with everything and they’re allowed to do whatever they want being nice means that you’re being clear with your intention, being clear with your expectations and holding people accountable, and that they’re getting the same consistent experience from you each and every time. That’s what really meets the psychological safety is. Who you are is who I’m going to get each and every time as a leader. And so it’s, again, it’s being mindful of that, of how I’m showing up, how I’m showing up for my, for others. I would say that that honestly is probably the biggest issue that people have not been able to fully figure out yet during the pandemic.

And I am very curious to see how this is going to land post pandemic as well. When we’re back in the office, does it get worse or does it get better? That’s definitely the next, you know, that that’s kind of where we’re at with things right now.

Well, a lot of the psychological safety side that you talked about goes back to what you said earlier is people are dealing with their own stuff and who they’re talking to, that person is dealing with their own stuff. And until we can see, and I guess comprehend what we’re dealing with and what the other person is dealing with and how our communication might be impacted by that. That that creates some, I know, even just in my marriage it’s talking to me, my wife, when, you know, when I’m triggered about something and she’s got something else going on and we’re trying to have a conversation, it rarely goes well until we can look at it through the lens of, okay.

Yeah. I was probably on edge because of this. And I can see that. Yes, he’s happy going through this and then being able to have that conversation. Without those other distracting factors makes life so much easier, whether it’s in a marriage or at work.

Yeah, no, totally. I get that.

Yeah. Oh, that’s and I hadn’t, I actually hadn’t connected the, that type of communication with the psychological safety. So thank you for that. I learned something new today. That’s awesome. And all right, so I know we could keep chatting forever, but let’s wrap. Any final thoughts that you want to say before, before we wrap up?

Well, first of all, thank you just for having me on your show today. I do appreciate it. Similar, just even getting just a chance to really reflect on on the last 15 months, I think is such a gift. You know, it is all about go, go, go all the time and what’s next. And so having this opportunity to really, to really dig into that. Those great lessons again certainly has just lent itself again to such a positive mindset. And I, I feel certainly energized and I, and I think sometimes that’s what we forget to do too. Right. It’s it’s, it’s acknowledging and recognizing the moment that we’re in, where we, where we came from and where we’ve gotten to is, is something that we have to remember to, to reflect upon as well. And so, so for me, it’s taking the time for you to. Especially during this period to say, Hey, giving yourself that space and that grace, and to say, holy crap, we’re still here. We’re still surviving. And we’re going to be okay. And, and just sitting in that moment and, and, you know, appreciating it. So thank you for the opportunity today. That that’s really my final words.

My pleasure. And this whole 15 months has been building our resilience muscle.

Right. Absolutely.

And all right, so where, where can people find you?

Well, I, you know is our website. We are on all social media platforms. You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m pretty vocal on LinkedIn, just under Michelle Berg as well. You know, I like to share on a, on a regular basis kind of like experiences that I’m having a, it’s kind of like a journaling moment for me as well. I kind of use LinkedIn as a business journal and and I like learning from others there too. So yeah. So pretty much anywhere you can find we’re we’re out there. And let’s just say that.

Awesome. And one area we didn’t get into and we might to save this for a whole other whole other episode is disrupt HR. You helped get that going. And you’ve been, I, yeah, it’s been, it’s an amazing organization. And so any HR people out there looking for really cool ideas, check out, disrupt HR.

We’re hoping to be back. We’re hoping to be back. Do you know, as soon as again, that we’re able to have some events a little bit more spread out as well still, but you know, we’re great friends with Alberta Jubilee. And so we’re hoping even, you know, but can, I don’t know, it can house like 2000 people. So if we have 200 and in a place that can house 2000, then I think everyone will still be safe and we still get to share ideas. But yeah, disrupt HR just a phenomenal place to meet people like yourself and with new ideas, new thoughts and just a really great way to innovate the people and culture space.

I, I sure do hope that we’re back as, as again, as soon as it’s safe to do so we thought about the zoom, but again, we were are ourselves resumed fatigued, and so we decided not to do it. And we were just going to wait to have a really great event. When we could and when it was safe to do so. So thanks for this, for that plug too.

Fantastic. Well, I look forward to the next event and I will definitely be there.


Awesome. All right, well, thank you again so much. It’s been an honor to have you on the show and I hope everyone got tremendous value from the insights you shared. And I know. I look forward to catching up again, hopefully in person sometime.

Definitely. We’ll we’ll we’ll see you very soon.

Okay. Thank you. Bye.


Thank you for listening to the Working Well Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don’t forget to rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your experiences and how you’ve applied tips from the show to your daily life.

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We’ll see you on the next episode.

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