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Return-to-Office Series: A Conversation with Rex Miller

When coDesign spoke with Rex Miller, workplace expert, and employee wellness advocate, we hoped he’d answer the question: What can employers do to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees? Rex answered this and more!

According to Rex, COVID has not caused a substantial shift in how companies are viewing employee health and wellness. “I think there’s a lot of rhetoric surrounding [employee health] and a lot of marginal programs…but what’s not being addressed is the iceberg. We’re just addressing the tip…” Rex implied that it would take a lot more than the occasional day off of work to address the mental health issues that the global pandemic has magnified. Our team couldn’t agree more.

The solution to the mental health crisis lies in reducing employees’ stress, which among many things, means adjusting the way that we currently do hybrid and remote work. Impactful adjustments include capping meetings and pairing them with scheduled breaks, implementing digital sunsets, and shutting off your email at the end-of-day on Friday.

Rex recommended making adjustments to the physical workplace to better support employee health and wellness. For example, consider the day-to-day experience of employees as they design future workplaces. Rex shared, “…Imagine the client journey, their day-in-the-life, and every point that they experience along the way: driving in, in the parking lot, checking in. Those are all touchpoints, and they either add stress, are neutral, or are a positive engagement.” In his view, every “touchpoint,” or “transition zone” that an employee experiences should be pleasant and leave them feeling good.

It’s one thing to create a fun space in your office and another to change the culture around using the office. For example, by placing a relaxation area most prominently in the space, employers encourage its usage and “create experiences for people that help them get a boost of energy.” Spaces like these should not be hidden away, as having a moment to breathe and chat with a friend should be encouraged, not shunned.

Unfortunately, changing policies and the physical workplace won’t be enough to fully resolve the health and wellness challenges that employees are currently facing. Instead, Rex feels that employers must completely transform the way they think about mental health and the way they operate. With our team, he shared, “The people who were in the office before the pandemic are not the same people coming back….You can’t take people who are [changed by COVID], with different experiences, stressors, and stories, and throw them back into [their old] environment, even if you’ve got policy change. That’s not human. Policy is not a human approach to the deep kind of need [that people are experiencing]. It’s going to take a fundamentally different kind of leadership.”

Rex had many great thoughts to share, and while it certainly seems that employers have a lot of work ahead of them, these insights left our team feeling energized and excited for the next chapter of the workplace!


Interested in hearing the thoughts of other workplace experts? Check out the following:

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