Finding Zen in the Workplace

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finding zen in the workplace

Leading companies have known for decades that investing in employee experience is critical for attracting and retaining employees. 

And these efforts have looked different at different times, with perhaps the most memorable shift occurring In the early 2000s with Silicon Valley’s embrace of on-site ping pong tables, napping areas, and cafeterias. 

Now, in the early 2020s amid the Great Resignation, we’re in the middle of another major shift. Instead of giving employees as little reason to leave the office as possible, companies that want to retain employees are emphasizing remote work, flexible hours, and investing in emotional fulfillment rather than fancy perks and shiny toys. 

Not to brag, but Zen has been focused on that since our founding more than a decade ago. Here’s what we’ve learned about creating the kind of company that employees want to stay with (and return to!). 

Letting employees work remote is now a must

Let’s start with one of the most visible shifts we’ve seen from the pandemic: the massive, mainstream embrace of remote work. 

Countless companies that had never gone remote—and never intended to—were forced into the position in 2020, as we all know. For many, the change to remote worked better than they predicted—and many employees loved it, too.

Now that employees are able to go back into the office, lots of them don’t actually want to (although some, it should be noted, very much do). 

And among those who do not want to go into the office every day, the desire for flexibility is strong. According to the Future Forum Pulse Survey released in January 2022, 72% of workers who are dissatisfied with their current level of flexibility at work say they are likely to look for a new job in the next year.

What this means is that executives may need a reality check. If they expect to be able to bring their staff back in-office full-time, without a drop in morale or employee motivation, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise. 

Zen Media was founded as a fully-remote company long before remote work was the norm. It’s worked because our founder, Shama Hyder, and our President, Stephanie Chavez, are deeply focused on employee happiness and wellbeing. This takes extra effort, certainly, but it’s worth it. 

Just how “worth it”? That was recently quantified by a large-scale, five-year study of more than 1 million U.S. Army service members that tracked whether happiness influenced the likelihood that a service member would earn an award based on job performance. 

The researchers found that the soldiers who rated themselves the happiest earned four times as many rewards as those who rated themselves the unhappiest. This was true across the 190 different job types, from combat soldiers to cooks and mechanics. 

So, when it comes to employee happiness, employers shouldn’t gamble. 

Employers need to use PR and marketing to attract talent, not just clients

The current employer-employee dynamic is one in which much of the power that used to reside in the hands of the company is now in the hands of the employees. 

This means that brands need to compete for workers—and to do that, they need to market themselves not only to their customers but to potential employees as well.

Amplify what your employees are already saying

One of the most effective PR strategies is to amplify the great things your own current employees are saying about you. 

After all, they’re on social media sharing content, following industry leaders, and starting conversations.

One easy, immediate step you can take to boost your PR efforts is to follow employees who are already advocating for you online and share and respond to what they’re saying.

You can also encourage employees to share what they like about working with you through social media. One way to do this is to do regular employee spotlight posts, in which you choose an employee (ask first, of course!) to be featured on your social media. You can ask them a few questions about themselves, including what they like about their job, and then share widely. 

At Zen, we do this through sharing our leadership profiles, “From A to Zen” (You can check out one of them, about our fabulous director of client relations Kayla Morrison, here!) on LinkedIn, along with making posts about successes and events, and tagging relevant employees.  

Invest in thought leadership

People who are or want to become leaders in their fields naturally want to work with companies that are also leaders—and that’s where thought leadership comes in. 

By elevating your executives to thought leaders, you help ensure your brand stays top of mind with both customers and potential employees. 

When your leadership team is discussing major trends, writing columns in major publications, and sharing valuable insights regularly, the best workers in your industry are much more likely to look deeper into your brand. 

Related reading: The Ultimate Guide to Thought Leadership

You’ve almost certainly already got a thought leader in your organization, even if you’re not aware of it. Who is constantly on top of what’s happening in your industry? Who’s writing the most insightful blog posts on your company blog? Who’s being quoted in industry publications? 

Once you’ve identified your thought leaders, you can start your PR efforts with either your in-house team or an agency—pitching, identifying outlets, hosting live streams, etc. 

Build your reputation and boost your image

PR exposure in any format—thought leadership, quotes in articles, being featured in video series, and more—helps build your company’s reputation and credibility, both of which are critical in attracting talent. 

With so many companies offering perks like remote working days, unlimited vacation, continuing education allowance, and more, it takes more than just great benefits to really stand out. 

Your brand needs to be out there in front, telling your story and sharing your values. It’s that authenticity that will attract future top employees (along, of course, with those valuable benefits!). 

Becoming a sought-after workplace in 2022 requires not just embracing the values and needs of today’s employees but getting your message out in front of them through targeted PR efforts. If you’d like some help getting started, get in touch

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