If you knock on the front door of GroundFloor Media | CenterTable on a Monday morning, any time before 11 am, you will not get an answer. This is no mistake; it is standard protocol. The company’s “zero-entry Mondays” practice is one facet of its intentional design to support the well-being of workers.
GroundFloor Media, an integrated marketing and communications firm based in Denver, Colorado, is the 2021 winner of the Health Links™ Dedication in Small Business Award, which is awarded annually to one currently Certified Healthy Workplace™ with less than 50 employees that has demonstrated improvement in workplace health, safety, and well-being over the past year. While the employee health and safety policies have morphed over time, GFM | CenterTable has been supportive of its team members, especially those who are primary caregivers, from the start.
“When I started the agency, I was actually pregnant with my oldest child, and so there really wasn't another option that I even considered other than to make it a family-friendly workplace,” said Laura Love, founder, and chief cultural officer. In the early 2000s, Love had started to realize that many PR professionals like herself were exiting the workforce when they had children because agencies were not set up to provide what she likes to call a work-life blend. She decided she wanted to do it differently.
A primary way GFM | CenterTable makes itself family-friendly is with working hour flexibility. Not only is the company flexible with working hours, but it also has policies that allow for flexible hour-per-week commitments. At any point, but often after having children, or becoming caregivers for aging parents, team members can return to work at 50% or 75% capacity if they are not ready to return full-time. Many formerly-full-time team members choose to come back strictly as 1099 consultants.
Love and the rest of the staff at GFM | CenterTable have long since adopted the flexible work schedules companies are beginning to see as ubiquitous. “I always like to say if your hair grows at work, go get it cut at work,” said Love. “That's more to represent we don't need to babysit how people spend their time, if they need to take care of personal needs during work hours that’s fine, as long as they get their work done.”
“We were on a team-building overnight with Outward Bound and getting feedback from everybody about the hardest parts of their workweeks,” said Love, “and a lot of working parents – especially – talked about how their lives were so full that they couldn't go to the grocery store, or get laundry done, or check personal email and would come into work really burned out on Monday morning.” This realization is what led to the zero-entry Monday policy where team members are not expected to be in the office until 11 am on Mondays, allowing them to tackle their personal needs before the workweek starts.
Already having the ability to work from home, GFM | CenterTable felt fairly prepared to handle the transition to at-home work at the beginning of COVID. “When the pandemic hit, it was interesting to watch my husband, who was in a different work environment, and how much they were not as prepared for working from home. I felt like our transition was fairly smooth,” said Amy Moynihan, vice president at GFM | CenterTable.
This type of flexibility is a known benefit that helps support team members who are caregivers and helps stave off employee burnout, which has become a workplace crisis in the last year. The lines between work life and home life have blurred beyond recognition for many, and with the continued delay of employees returning to the office, Love and the agency leadership team noticed their team members experiencing burnout.
“As leaders, we have to continue to innovate and meet people where they're at,” said Love. “One thing we noticed is that while we’ve basically had an unlimited PTO policy, we're finding that because there isn't really a separation between work life and home life during the pandemic, people aren't taking as much time off.” The leadership team recently decided to pilot a mental health day policy so that every full-time employee is required to take one mental health Friday off in the month of February. They will most likely continue this benefit throughout the rest of the year.
Leadership support is a key factor in creating a culture of Total Worker Health® (where employee health, safety, and well-being are intertwined) – a concept that GFM | CenterTable embodies well. Love took last summer off as part of the company’s sabbatical program (which happens after employees’ 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-year work anniversaries). “As leaders, you have to walk the talk to give people permission to truly step away from the office,” said Love. “Everything is blended together right now and so our sabbatical program and the mental health Fridays are just examples of a few things we do to help us all take that breath and pause for the betterment of our own health.”
For employers in the Health Links network, they know that there is a business case for prioritizing employee well-being, and GFM | CenterTable is a poster child for it. “Our attrition rate hovers around 3 or 4% which is really low for an agency, where I think the average is around 24%,” said Moynihan. “We're excited about having people who are in it together and I think it starts with the leadership team.”
Small businesses like GFM | CenterTable are typically the last groups to dedicate resources (time or money) to employee health, safety, and well-being programs. When asked what advice they would give a business looking to create a more supportive and family-friendly environment for their employees, Love recommends involving employees in decision-making and discovering what they need. This aligns with Workplace Assessment, one of the six pillars of the Health Links program.
“Health Links helps organizations make small tweaks to greatly improve their policies and programs,” said Kristina Reilly, VP of business operations. “Their team also helps guide you to areas of improvement or suggests programs you should consider implementing. They meet you where you are as an organization to tackle what you can and provide guidance for how to move forward.”
Written by Laura Veith, communications and media manager at Health Links and the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.