July 27, 2023
CEO and Founder, Ellie Mental Health
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
While most businesses are familiar with hybrid and remote work, optimizing the workplace for these models can be difficult. For licensed marriage and family therapist Erin Pash, CEO and founder of Minnesota-based mental health franchise Ellie Mental Health, creating a workplace centered around flexibility and individuality has led to great success.
In this installment of the CO— Strategy Studio series, Optimizing Hybrid Work, CO— Editor-in-Chief Jeanette Mulvey sat down with Pash to discuss how small business owners can streamline operations, increase productivity, and improve relationships and collaboration among employees by optimizing hybrid work.
Avoid a 'One-Size-Fits-All' Approach to Cater to Employees' Needs
In its eight years of operation, Ellie Mental Health has grown to have over 550 locations across 40 states. During this time, Pash has learned that taking a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for large-scale teams the way it may for smaller ones — in fact, this approach can even lead to isolation or a lack of support for employees.
“[With] groups of 150 people or larger, you can no longer… steer that ship exactly the way you want because there [are]… certain aspects and elements that are out of your control,” Pash said. “So instead of fighting that as a business, we leaned in… We supported and really nurtured our leaders to be the cultivators of their location and their site, and make sure that they're the ones who are making it a priority to create and shift the culture that they want.”
Providing individualized support to each team requires a leader who understands the business’s culture and the benefits their staff wants most, according to Pash.
“Some of our clinics might… [want a] budget to go and have a… group event, and others might... [prefer] a couple more bucks in [their] paycheck[s].’” Pash explained. “But that can be driven by the culture of the clinic, so it's not this one size fits all… We make sure that… it's equitable based off of the feedback that our leaders are getting from the people that they lead."
Find Ways to Develop a Connection Across In-Person and Remote Teams
Strengthening bonds across both remote and in-person teams can pose a challenge for businesses unfamiliar with a hybrid setup. Pash recommends leaders provide remote employees the chance to share concerns or challenges they’ve encountered and acknowledge the social struggles of remote work life.
“[The remote experience] can really be isolating,” Pash said. “A lot of times, people feel like they're missing out, so we're constantly trying to do things to make sure that both our remote and hybrid workers, who are a little bit further removed from a physical location, are still feeling like they can access each other.”
Through strategic scheduling efforts, sponsored events, and company-wide meetups, Pash has found creative ways to bring her team together in person when timing allows while offering policies that suit each employee's needs.
“People really crave flexibility,” Pash said. “We create policies that are broad, while also making sure we're working with folks on an individual level [to] make sure … their needs are being met for themselves and their families.”
Expect Challenges When Optimizing a Hybrid Work Environment
Throughout its transition to a hybrid work environment, Ellie Mental Health wasn’t immune to challenges. However, being aware of the warning signs and taking swift action allowed Pash and her team to correct course.
“We were starting to see people who were less happy in their jobs or higher attrition,” Pash said. “So we really leaned into strong leadership and making sure… [to] utilize creativity and assess the cultural needs of specific areas, and then really nurture that.”
For businesses looking to create an ideal a hybrid workplace, Pash advised considering the needs of employees in both directions.
“We have some folks who want to come in five days a week and … [want] a dedicated office,” said Pash. “On the flip side … there are a lot of people, especially in this day and age, who really need the flexibility to keep up with what's going on in … their personal lives.”