If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that a thriving workplace culture isn’t limited to a pseudo-modern company that offers beer and ping pong. No, it’s that thriving workplaces actually don’t even start in a place.

They start with the individual worker. They start with you. They start with us.

As businesses big and small look past the current pandemic era of remote work and lean into reimagined possibilities of the future of work in a post-pandemic world, they are thinking about much larger issues than what’s on tap in the breakroom.

Employee Well-Being

They are looking deeper at issues such as emotional health and employee well-being, burnout and work-life integration. In fact, in a recent interview with Work Wisdom, LLC’s President, Kedren Crosby, she laid out how The Great Resignation isn’t merely a knee-jerk reaction to something that’s happening now. Rather, it’s been a slow-brewing issue that’s been simmering beneath the surface for some time.

Now that it’s boiling over, companies, brands and businesses are finally taking note — and making changes that have been a long time coming.

“People are leaving organizations that aren’t flexible and relational,” she says. “They are moving towards organizations where they feel valued, can be whole people and where they have a sense of belonging. It’s the largest factor.”

In fact, she cites a recent McKinsey study that points out that:

  • 54% of people leaving their jobs say it’s because they don’t feel valued by the organization.
  • 52% say they left their job because they didn’t feel valued by their manager.
  • 37% said that they left their job because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging.

Suffice to say, while where we work has likely changed permanently, what we want out of work has as well.

So Long, Hustle Culture

The “Work Hard, Play Hard” culture glorified by Hollywood movies and Wall Street seems to have met its bitter end in March 2020. When people began migrating to work from home for 14 days to “slow the spread,” and then six weeks, and then indefinitely, a shift began happening within the walls at home.

Without commutes and draining, conflict-filled interactions, Crosby points out that workers began to realize the “workplace has become transactional. People want relational. It’s the difference between management and leadership, supervision and coaching.”

The companies that win in the coming era — and that already are winning — are those that abandon the so-called “hustle culture” and begin embracing what Crosby has dubbed “work-life integration.”

Work-Life Balance?

Let’s face it, everyone is likely feeling like our work life and home life have blended in ways we didn’t expect prior to 2020. Yet, while several companies are maintaining a hard line that the 9-5 office life will return, most people are hesitant to get back on the proverbial hamster wheel.

Instead, Crosby says there’s a better way. As the early 2000s ushered in Blackberrys and technology that made us connected 24/7, she realized how she formerly viewed work-life balance had to change.

“You couldn’t just segment your work life over here and your other life over here,” she says. “Now that technology was everywhere, I needed to learn how to integrate the two and stay sane. So, that’s when I started sort of using that phrase of work-life integration and trying to find healthy practices.”

What are those healthy practices?

Crosby found they are rooted in creating purpose. “I can weave all the parts of my life together so that I could have joy and achievement.”

Specifically, she starts with asking two questions:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What am I supposed to be accomplishing?

The next step in integrating work and life is to make sure that all you are doing supports this overarching purpose of why you are here and what you are doing to make money holds up to that ultimately.

The end result may be that you work at night sometimes without guilt because you are also taking walks during the day without guilt. Or that you are raising children or volunteering to meet your purpose-driven needs.

It all works together to achieve what workers feel is their overarching purpose, which releases them from the endless cycle of burnout trying to keep emotionally connected parts of their lives separate.

Flourishing Workers = Flourishing Workplace

While none of us has a crystal ball to predict tomorrow, we do have enough understanding of workers’ emotional needs to know the past certainly was not working.

As companies, brands, and businesses embrace what the workplace looks like in the months and years ahead, making sure employees are thriving not only professionally, but emotionally, is what’s going to widen the gap between the victims of The Great Resignation and the winners of The Great Retention.

Ultimately, brands must embrace that culture is not a plaque on the wall. Culture is what brands actually do, not what they say they do. It’s the reality of how workers feel every day. It’s lived out with “healthy, clear culture and fantastic communication,” as Crosby says. It’s unseen. Yet, it’s massively important if you want to be a high-performing organization filled with healthy workers. We must embrace seeing and treating workers as emotional people who want a more relational — and less transactional — way of work and life.

When we embrace this, the answer is a workplace that thrives and workers who flourish.

“We just want to keep you flourishing,” Crosby says. “And your workplace wants to keep you flourishing. Your home life wants to keep you flourishing.”