Candid conversation with Limeade CEO on the revolution of well-being at work
By: Dominique Davison
Since the dark days of the pandemic, the term “holistic well-being” is everywhere. When Henry Albrecht founded Limeade in 2006 it was a small idea that turned into a high-growth, immersive well-being company that serves some of the greatest companies in the world. Since its inception, Henry has focused on making Limeade a place where great people want to come and do their best work. Fast forward 16 years later, and Henry is a pioneer in this industry with loads of knowledge on where well-being in the workplace stands now and where it’s going next.
The revolution of well-being at work
Dominique: You have been in the business of well-being since 2006 and are considered one of the founders of our industry. How did you discover holistic well-being in the workplace and what does it mean to you?
Henry: I worked at this amazing company called Intuit, and they had a great listening culture. It was innovative — they empowered people, had great teamwork, and it had a very values-driven culture. I loved and respected the culture that Scott Cook, the founder of Inuit, helped foster. He was a mentor of mine, and I looked up to him. Being around Scott, and learning from him, made me feel like someday I could start my own company.
It all started with an idea: if Intuit could measure people’s financial well-being, what if you could measure someone’s overall well-being? All my friends thought it was a terrible idea, but my mind couldn’t let it go. Around that time my wife got pregnant with our second child, and we moved from San Francisco to Seattle. I accepted a job at a venture capital enterprise software company where I was VP of Product — and it was the opposite of Intuit in almost every way. It was missing an inspiring, joyful CEO fueled by curiosity who wanted to empower people to be their best. I was surrounded by people obsessed with being rich.
I started to see how that lack of spark impacted me as a human. I was short with my wife (we were arguing more than usual), and I’d look in the mirror and not recognize myself. I was a shell of my former self. So, I decided to leave. At this point, I understood it was time for me to turn my idea into reality.
I started a company aimed at improving and measuring well-being, which was a holistic concept that wasn’t only focused on healthcare. At the time, I didn’t know anything about benefits and how companies bought and created benefits packages. However, I did know that a person’s physical, emotional, social, financial, and work health were all related and interconnected. I put my marketer hat on and got to work on understanding potential markets and analyzing existing systems for holistic well-being. I asked my network if they knew of a psychometrician. Luckily, I was put into contact with Laura Hamill, a Director of People Research. Once we met and started learning about each other, I believed we were experiencing the same pain: being burned out, fried, and not happy. We immediately got started on creating the world’s first holistic well-being assessment.
The assessment asked questions about life at work, like employee engagement and job satisfaction, as well as standard health questions regarding diabetes and high blood pressure. Next, we added the improvement component, which consisted of social support and preventive care. We wanted to shift mindsets and influence norms in the community.
As you can imagine in 2006, we got laughed out of many rooms because nobody wanted to hear about a “fluffy feel-good idea”. They cared about health costs and health risk reduction. They didn’t understand that they needed to win the hearts and minds of their people, and to do so, you must have great software for humans as individuals. It’s about influencing the culture around employees. This was one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in our work on organizational support for well-being; it must be a cultural commitment, not just some clinical punitive “do this or else” thing. That’s why I believe Limeade is a pioneer in the industry of well-being.
Dominique: Wow — such an inspiring story. What are some of the main ways Limeade invests in the well-being of employees?
Henry: First, it starts with intentional culture at the forefront — intentional cultures always outperform unintentional cultures. Our intentional culture is rooted in our compass, which is our purpose and our values. It’s not just words on a wall, but true integration that rolls into onboarding, manager reviews, promotions, and how we give recognition in our systems. We walk the talk of our science with organizational support, and we hire and invest in caring, empathetic managers and leaders. We measure engagement and inclusion, and we try to build a culture where diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are part of everything we do. Unfortunately, we’ve burned people out and some people have quit due to various reasons. We are by no means perfect at this; we try to show up every day with resilience and aim to be a little bit better than we were the day before.
Dominique: How has Limeade adapted and evolved through the pandemic and hybrid work to expand offerings to meet employees where they are?
Henry: We have found a way to infuse well-being into work. We don’t view wellness or wellness programs as some third-party place that requires you to pivot between taking care of your well-being and then switch back to business per usual. It’s about making a cultural commitment to well-being in the workplace, which means it must be infused into everyday work interactions. This is different than the rest of the industry.
First, we try to hear more. We acquired a listening company to enhance our own well-being listening capabilities to hear the heartbeat of the company with our science-based surveys, polls and quizzes. Second, we’ll know more. After we listen to our people to hear their needs, we’ll get real-time insights into the health of our employee experience. Leaders use our dashboards to discover hot spots around burnout and turnover to provide data to uncover the root cause. This helps us reduce burnout and deal with the real issue. And lastly, we can do more. If there are a few people on your team with young kids expecting parents, they need to know what resources are available. Driving the right resource to the right person at the right time is super essential.
Dominique: I couldn’t agree more. So, then what’s next for well-being at work?
Henry: We’ve been waiting for companies to realize that this isn’t a health cost issue. CEOs are freaked out. In every article you read, people are either leaving or thinking of leaving for someplace where they feel better at work and can live with purpose. I’ve been waiting for C-Suite to care about employee well-being. Thankfully, it’s moving away, slowly, from being a benefits-only discussion. Sometimes, evolutions happen this way: Someone creates something cool, and it happens in a little small community, but it starts evolving. As it’s growing, we try things, we fail, we fluctuate, and we keep going. The revolution happens when that curve starts moving and causes the C-Suite to say, “oh wow, it’s been staring at me in the face this whole time – I’ve been doing it wrong”. That’s what’s next, a continued focus on listening to the needs of our customers to evolve our product.
The workplace will continue to evolve
The revolution of well-being at work continues. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring as it relates to workplace — we’re still learning how to support employees to be their best despite the ever-changing demands of life. For over 15 years, companies have partnered with Limeade to help make well-being a priority for their employees. And we’ve learned that creating a culture that cares for people is also good for business. Limeade remains committed to making well-being the heart of the employee experience.