“Maximize Flexibility”, Logan Mallory of Motivosity and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Maximize Flexibility: Right out of college I worked for a high intensity startup. The hours were strict and went from 8 AM to 6 PM, though frankly most of us stayed later than that. On Fridays I would take an hour long lunch, but normally it was just a 30 minute break. I consistently worked […]

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Maximize Flexibility: Right out of college I worked for a high intensity startup. The hours were strict and went from 8 AM to 6 PM, though frankly most of us stayed later than that. On Fridays I would take an hour long lunch, but normally it was just a 30 minute break. I consistently worked for a few hours in the morning each Saturday. I very specifically remember feeling stressed about my 6 month dentist checkups, knowing it would be uncomfortable to be away from the office for an extra hour twice a year

As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Logan Mallory.

Logan Mallory is the Vice President of Marketing at Motivosity and writes on Marketing, HR, Leadership, and Culture. He earned an MBA and BA in Communications from Brigham Young University and previously held marketing positions at LogMeIn, Jive, Workfront, and Deseret Book. He has been an adjunct professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business in Marketing Strategy. Logan is originally from Michigan, has lived in Texas and Seattle, and now resides in Utah with his family. Logan is a sucker for the Mission Impossible movies, Broadway shows, and the Utah Jazz.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Growing up people frequently told me things like, “Logan, you would be great at sales!” That influenced a young me to start my career in sales and it took me some time to understand that what they really meant was, “Logan, you’re great at talking to people.” Being great at talking to people and loving sales is not the same thing. I certainly have success stories from that part of my career, but I didn’t find the fulfilment I expected.

While working in Seattle, I was asked to take on a side project and to research an email service provider that the company could use for their marketing efforts. That was my first exposure to digital marketing and I immediately realized it was the career I was supposed to be in. I leveraged that single project (and a decent network) into a role where I managed a 10M dollars e-commerce website. I then shifted into B2B tech and SaaS marketing, where I’ve spent the last several years. It’s a wonderful career and I’m never bored!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I shared this story on LinkedIn recently and I think it’s powerful. I worked for a wonderful company early in my career. It was a family run organization and it truly felt like a family where we worked together and everyone was pushing together. They gave me more responsibility quickly, treated me like someone with potential and I worked hard to earn their confidence. I spent a few years there and am absolutely better because of it.

One November afternoon I had a meeting with the owner of the company. We were discussing the business and I made a comment about a topic where (at best) I had very little experience and (at worst) was ignorant. It was, unintentionally, a hurtful comment. I didn’t intend it that way, but was young, inexperienced and probably not very tactful.

Later that day I was fired. I was surprised because I sincerely didn’t mean any harm in my comments. That was one of the hardest experiences of my professional and personal life because I had lost a job, a sense of purpose and a work community that I loved. I sent a letter apologizing and taking responsibility even though I wasn’t intentionally being malicious.

A week later they asked me if I would be willing to come back to the company. I immediately said yes and we moved forward despite the painful situation. I continued to work there for some time and recognize that experience as a key part of my career. I continue to have positive feelings for the company, individuals and that part of my life.

Being “un-fired” wouldn’t have been possible if I had made an angry social media post or if they had emotionally kicked me on the way out. If we would have yelled and overreacted, it would have truly been the end. Kindness kept the situation from getting worse. Kindness allowed for hurt feelings to be resolved. Kindness made it better for both parties in the end.

There’s not enough kindness in 2020 — I think we’d all do better if it was a bigger focus when we interact with others.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

The best marketers are as focused on revenue as their sales counterparts are. If you want to thrive, create a deep and meaningful partnership with the sales team. Win when they win. Lose when they lose. Marketing leaders will thrive with this approach because most companies are accustomed to a “sales vs. marketing” situation, someone who takes the opposite approach will stand out.

This approach also helps avoid burnout. If you’re not in sales or marketing, you may not know that once a month or once a quarter there’s a battle between the two teams if the company doesn’t hit quota. Sales blames marketing for not providing enough or good enough leads. Marketing blames sales for not doing enough with what they provided. If you can avoid that incessant battle by being a true partner, you can spend your time exploring, testing, optimizing and those are the efforts that keep you from burning out. You get to allocate your resources into playing offense (fun) instead of defense (demoralizing).

Another tip for avoiding burnout: Our company, Motivosity, implements “Essentialism Days”. It is a day, once a quarter, where employees are encouraged to leave the office, disconnect, find some isolation and consider the priorities in their life. There’s power in taking time away to think about your professional, personal, spiritual, and relational wellbeing. It has been a reenergizing experience for many employees and something we consider crucial for our team. It’s an easy solution to implement and everyone is better as a result.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

If you study positive psychology in the workplace, there are fundamentals that are consistent across the best employers. First, great employers help their team members to be part of the work community. Second, they ensure that team members feel recognized and appreciated for their ongoing efforts. Lastly, they enable managers to have meaningful relationships with their team members. If Executive and HR teams focused on these three pillars they would increase employee NPS, reduce turnover and have a fantastic work culture.

Most employers focus on the wrong things and try to fill a bottomless pit of employee wants and needs. Community, recognition, and the relationship between manager and team members…those are the topics that will drive the culture needle.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I recently found a quote by Mary Holloway. She said, “Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up.”

It’s not much of a story, but I find power in knowing I’m the one that can best solve my own problems. It’s made me think about my finances in a certain way. It changes how I take responsibility for success and failures at work. Recently I’ve thought about this in regards to my mental and physical health. Similar to what I mentioned earlier about sales and marketing, if we spend our time finding solutions rather than whining and blaming, we’ll have better outcomes. If I can instill one practical/emotional skill into my children, I hope it is around this topic of self reliance and self sufficiency.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

1- Create Inviting Communities: Mental wellness is directly connected with our sense of belonging and inclusion. When we are, or feel, alone it can impact almost every element of our health. Google Scholar Louise Hawkley “points to evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.”

What kind of communities could you create that would help reduce the mental health issues associated with feeling alone? Certainly you have to start with your work community. Are your managers short, rude, or demeaning? Is it a “cut throat” environment where people will step on one another to better their own careers? Are the bulldogs of your team rewarded?

If so, you stand little chance of creating a place where people have the luxury of improving their mental health.

If you already have a positive working culture, then start to consider the next layer of communities that you can add. Maybe that’s a program where mentors meet with and train other employees. Or perhaps it’s a family friendly environment where you have activities and events with spouses, children and significant others. Do you have a large group of people who are interested in mountain biking, yoga, or softball? Build a community around the areas where you have employee interest and you’ll see mental health improve. A sense of community and inclusion is a key part of being happy at work.

2 — Maximize Flexibility: Right out of college I worked for a high intensity startup. The hours were strict and went from 8 AM to 6 PM, though frankly most of us stayed later than that. On Fridays I would take an hour long lunch, but normally it was just a 30 minute break. I consistently worked for a few hours in the morning each Saturday. I very specifically remember feeling stressed about my 6 month dentist checkups, knowing it would be uncomfortable to be away from the office for an extra hour twice a year…

Working 55+ hours per week, you’d think we were making decent money at some sort of a financial or legal firm, but that definitely wasn’t the case.This was a job where I made 35,000 dollars and had to pay 500 dollars in monthly health insurance premiums. (Let’s just say my career has come a long way since then!) The lack of flexibility was extremely painful and I didn’t have any kids at that point, which would have made it worse. It led to emotional and physical health issues and since then I have always prioritized flexibility while evaluating new employers.

Flexibility from an employer can come in many forms. It definitely should include choosing when to work, as long as it’s within reason. Personally, I can get more work done between 9:00 and 10:30 PM than I can in half a day at the office. The evening is when my head is clear and I have an intense focus. I expect that, as long as I’m being honest with my employer, attending meetings where I’m needed and meeting expectations, that I can “get to work” whenever I see fit.

Flexibility could also include where someone works, the projects they are working on, caregiving flexibility, etc. However you implement it, let your employees have a say in how they work and what they work on.

3 — Day to Day Appreciation and Recognition: Recognition programs are now essential. You can’t say “thank you” in the elevator or in the breakroom anymore. People are working harder than ever, but are being recognized less because there are fewer face to face interactions. In a recent Forbes article it states, “Three-quarters of the remote workers said their mental health would likely improve if they had more appreciation and recognition. And seven in 10 confessed the appreciation meant the most from a manager or executive.” Managers have so much more power to impact mental health than they know. A simple thank you makes a massive impact on employees who want to be recognized for their day to day contributions. An annual review is insufficient.

But managers aren’t the only people who should be expressing appreciation. Peer to peer recognition programs allow gratitude to be a core part of company culture. Motivosity has found that peer to peer recognition can increase employee net promoter scores by as much as 52%.

If you’re not expressing thanks to your team, it will lead to mental health issues, and employee turnover.

4 — Improve the Physical Environment: I once worked in an office with the best coworkers you could ask for. They were energetic, reliable and talented. But they liked the lights to be dim…and sometimes practically off, which made the office dark. I struggle when there isn’t enough light. I sometimes came to work early so I could set the lights for the day. If I wasn’t the first one there I tried passive aggressive comments. Sometimes I tried not so passive aggressive comments. Other times I’d find a conference room where I could control the lights.

Physical environment really matters and impacts mental health. Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell studied how natural light changed office environments. The study found that:

  • Office workers with natural light had an 84% drop in symptoms such as headaches, eye strain or blurred vision.
  • Drowsiness decreased by 10% when workers had access to natural light via smart glass.

If your team doesn’t have the right lighting, invest in skylighting, a different office setup or (in extreme cases) a different office all together.

There’s research (and now I’ve seen everything) on how plants improve office workplaces in many ways. Offices with plants report increased productivity, and reduced stress. The air is cleaner when plants are present, absence rates decrease and they even help absorb noise throughout the office. Plants for the win!

Lastly, have you made it easy for your employees to get up for a walk either inside or out? Is the office clean and uncluttered? If you want to improve mental health, take a good look around at the office space and make some key changes.

5 — Empower Your Managers To Help: There are multiple ways your managers can help with mental health. I’d like to address two: First, the quality of a manager has a very direct impact on mental health. If you don’t have a meaningful relationship with your boss, work can be a treacherous place. A study found that 58% of employees trusted a stranger more than their own boss…how could you possibly enjoy work if you are working for someone you don’t trust? Managers build trust, confidence and the mental health of their employees when they meet with them consistently, provide ongoing direction regarding priorities and (as mentioned above) recognize them for their efforts.

Second, managers need to be human. As long as it stays appropropriate, managers need to be able to engage and counsel their team members if those team members ask for help. I once worked for a large, publicly traded company and managed a relatively large team there. I remember being in multiple HR training sessions where I was told that, “As soon as health or mental health is brought up by an employee, you need to stop the conversation and point the employee to meet with HR.” I understand the legal implications there, but it also completely stripped me as a manager of any ability to help. Over the years I’ve managed people that experienced mental health issues because of family deaths, sickness, mental health issues, losses of pets, financial issues, etc. We can’t be therapists of course, but companies should train managers to help their teams through some of life’s common struggles. For some, a manager at work may be the closest relationship they have.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

We’re on a really good trajectory with increasing the awareness of mental health issues. Even in my career there is a night and day difference from when I started. Still, not all employers have caught up to the current level of awareness and there’s still plenty of progress to make.

Talking about mental health is difficult. It’s personal, and can create feelings of shame or embarrassment. Breaking the stigma is, and will be, key. There are people who are confident and want to drive change who are speaking up and I respect them for their vulnerability. Elisa Garn, a VP at GBS Benefits, recently made a stirring post on LinkedIn about her struggles, and how she was starting a new medication to address her mental health. She finished the post with “Change the narrative. Work human.” It is trailblazers like Elisa that will help us find better solutions for addressing “mental health at work”.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?

The Mayo clinic has a series of suggestions that I think were very powerful. When a friend or family member has depression or anxiety, they recommend 5 steps in helping them move towards a positive solution:

1-Talk to the person, explaining what you’ve noticed and why it is concerning

2-Explain that depression is an actual medical condition, not a weakness

3-Suggest they seek help from a professional

4-Offer to help prepare a list of questions to cover in the appointment with the doctor or mental health provider

5-Express willingness to help, whether that be by setting up appointments, giving them a ride, etc.

That is some really hands on support, but depression makes even simple things difficult. Your friend or family member may not be able to muster the energy or desire to call and schedule an appointment. Finding someone covered by health insurance may just be too much for them to handle. They may be afraid of talking to someone. Your kind and gentle support may make the difference between finding a solution and living in a state of depression for the rest of their life.

Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?

If you haven’t watched this Ted Talk by Shawn Achor on “The Happy Secret to Better Work”, then you should stop right now and invest 12 minutes in yourself by watching it. His advice is funny, quick and powerful. He talks about “rewiring your brain” to work more optimistically in 21 days by spending two minutes writing down three new things each day that you’re grateful for. He also recommends journaling, exercise, meditation and random acts of kindness.

Often people will use alcohol (or drugs) to self medicate for mental health issues. I don’t drink, but the University of Michigan states that “in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.” Turning to exercise, new hobbies, or recreational activities in place of substances is an important “exchange” of habits.

Finally, I think that your habits and mental wellness is a direct result of who you spend your time with. Loneliness is contagious. “Studies have shown that (non-lonely) people who hang out with lonely people are more likely to become lonely themselves. So loneliness is contagious, just as happiness is — when you hang out with happy people, you are more likely to become happy.” Find social groups where you’re uplifted, encouraged, and cheered. That may mean breaking some long standing relationships, but your mental health may only improve as you reevaluate your peers and make changes if necessary.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

I’ve fallen out of the habit, but had a period of time where breathing exercises saved my mental health. Inhale for six seconds, hold for four and exhale for four. Then repeat. And repeat again. And again.

I also frequently did a mindfulness exercise that focused on all of the five senses. I would find five things I could see, four I could touch, three I could hear, two I could smell and one I could taste (always have a mint on hand!). I spent time examining each of the items I saw (or touched or heard, etc.) and really thinking about them in detail. It helps calm me down and I can do it without saying a word and therefore can do it discreetly regardless of where I am.

Finally, I have used the iOS app “Meditation”. It has a series of verbal meditations that come in multiple time lengths. Sometimes it’s nice to have a brief 7 minute meditation and other times the 21 minutes hit the spot. Their app focuses on sleep, concentration, forgiveness, and body scans. On occasion I have even played those meditations on my phone with my kids to try to help teach them about self mastery and control.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Will anyone think less of me if I reference a fiction title? When I was in the 7th grade my brother gave me a used copy of “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card for Christmas. Admittedly, I wasn’t too excited about a used book, but decided to read per his recommendation. It’s science fiction and (spoiler alert), the main character is a child prodigy/strategist that leads a team of his peers as they unknowingly save the world from aliens. (Is that the first time aliens have been referenced in Authority Magazine?) It sounds juvenile, but that book taught me to think about leadership, self reliance, and strategy. It was impactful to see the hero be someone I could…or wanted to…relate to.

Or, if you’d like a more adult answer — I love “How Will you Measure Your Life?”, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, and “Never Eat Alone”. Most of the answers people are looking for about happiness and success can be found between those three wonderful books.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My family has been impacted by cancer for the last few years — it’s unbelievably devastating. I’m reminded of the horrible impact of cancer again as this week I lost a friend and mentor who suffered through treatment for 16 years. Have you ever heard of MiracleFlights? They coordinate flights on corporate jets for young, sick children who can’t get the medical care they need in their community. You should hear the story about how “Make a Wish” was founded. I love “5 for the Fight”, an organization connected to Qualtrics and the Utah Jazz, that uses small contributions (5 dollars) from many to support cancer research. It seems like everyone has a story of sickness or loss from cancer and

any movement that addresses this disease, cares for the sick or supports the families is meaningful to me.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

LinkedIn is where I publish most of my content, express my thoughts and engage with others. I’d love for the readers to reach out and connect: https://www.linkedin.com/in/loganmallory/

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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