The cannabis industry is associated with providing wellness and compassion. But some of those dispensing that compassion have more work on their plates than ever before. While there is a real risk of burnout for employees in the cannabis space, there are some things companies can do to help alleviate work stress—even as we continue to work in remote environments. For this month’s “successful cannabis executives” column, we spoke with Papa & Barkley Co-founder Guy Rocourt, MATTIO Communications Chief Cultural Officer Nicole Walsh, Jane Technologies Chief Executive Officer Socrates Rosenfeld, and Zach Schreier, director of marketing at Lume Cannabis Co. to learn more about promoting healthy work environments.
The shift to remote work during COVID-19 seems to have blurred the balance between work and life. Americans are leaving more vacation time on the table than ever before. To help his team restore work/life balance, Rocourt sought new ways to ensure his team takes much-needed time off.
“After realizing many employees weren’t using their vacation time, the company decided to reallocate some hours to extra sick and wellness days, as well as implementing quarterly five-day weekends,” he explained. “During these ‘Unplugged Weekends,’ all company offices and facilities are closed and employees are encouraged to refrain from all work-related correspondence.”
But Rocourt is not only concerned with helping his team when they are not at their desks. Papa & Barkley members also have the opportunity to find balance during work hours.
“Papa & Barkley provides wellness resources during working hours by leading guided virtual stretching and breath work sessions before and after meetings and by exploring wellness topics like yoga and skincare during company happy hours,” Rocourt said.
MATTIO is dedicated to ensuring its company culture stays positive. To reach that goal, Walsh serves as the company’s chief cultural officer. From the outset of the country’s social distancing mandates, she knew there would be challenges to remote work during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We wanted to maintain the powerful sense of cohesion and collaboration that runs throughout the MATTIO team despite being apart for months at a time,” she said. “We immediately provided, and continue to offer, access to a designated licensed therapist for anyone to use at any time. There is no limit on the number of sessions for any employee. Each session is kept confidential with costs covered by the company.”
Walsh also focuses on team bonding, even if that looks a bit different in a virtual environment.
“We tried to overcome the tyranny of distance imposed by COVID-19,” she said. “We scheduled virtual wellness activities for the whole team to enjoy together such as workout classes, guided breath work meditations, music sessions, sound baths and painting parties. To bring the wider team together we host monthly virtual happy hours where everyone can catch up over a drink.
“Yet we understood the limits to virtual connections,” Walsh added. “We organized a four-day team retreat in upstate New York, centered around a charity bike ride in support of Last Prisoner Project. Everyone was tested for COVID-19 prior to attending.”
Lume’s Schreier also is concerned about his team’s work/life balance and emotional health. To give employees a break from job-related stress, he implemented changes to their weekly routines.
“Given the heightened levels of anxiety and stress that everyone is experiencing during remote work, we have instituted a ‘no meetings’ policy on Friday afternoons to allow our team to practice bettering their mental and physical health,” Schreier said. “We’ve seen such positive results since implementing this policy, that we decided to go a step further and partnered with a well-known local yoga brand that’s been teaching classes virtually throughout the pandemic.”
For Rosenfeld, one key to maintaining a positive environment is to remember there still are reasons to be thankful, even though the pandemic is upsetting our normal way of life. These days, it may be difficult to get team members to put aside work conversations and focus on their personal lives.
“Each week we share what we’re feeling most grateful for at that time,” he said. “The opportunity to share and hear what others identify as their source of gratitude is a unique way to get to know and understand each other beyond transactional conversation.”
While we all are looking forward to a post-COVID-19 world, Rosenfeld is taking some lessons he learned managing his team during the pandemic and plans to keep them around.
“As another bonding activity to bring the team together during quarantine, we started hosting weekly virtual trivia events which have now become so popular and ingrained in our culture that they’ll continue as a Jane tradition for a long time to come,” he said.