Mind over matter – how flexible working boosts well-being

Getting to know you: Well-being

You’ll remember the viral story of Palo Alto CEO, Ben Congleton who praised his employee Madalyn Parker for first, taking a sick day to focus on her mental health and second, being vocal about it. In his eyes:

“We’re paid to bring our brains to work to help solve problems, when we’re unable to do that….that’s a reason why sick days are created in the first place.”  

And in the UK several big companies like HSBC, Linklaters and KPMG are following suit. This is especially necessary because two-fifths of employers reported an increase in mental-health related sick days in 2016. Plus, with senior executive roles ranking as the seventh most stressful job, burnout is becoming increasingly common.

Being able to take time to proactively boost their mental health and well-being is key for workers, both flexible and non-flexible. The knock-on effect to employers is better performance and engagement, which leads to lower employee turnover, increased productivity and profit.

To explore this further, Juggle talked to one of our newer (and recently placed) ‘jugglers’, Rachel Murray, – a lawyer-turned-journalist – who talks us through her experience and how flexible working ensures that her well-being no longer suffers.

  • Name: Rachel Murray
  • Age: 31
  • Occupation: Freelance writer / editor

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I was born in London… and somehow never left. I love my hometown so chose to stay for university; it’s the epicentre of the legal world and so when I had Ally McBeal-induced dreams of becoming a lawyer, it made sense to remain here. I have made up for it by travelling regularly though.

Aside from that, I am a skiing-obsessed, fashion addict, who designs stationery in my spare time.

When did you begin working flexibly?

Just over a year ago when I left my career as a lawyer and moved into the world of online publishing and journalism.

What type of flexible working do you engage in?

Earlier this year, I worked full-time for a fashion magazine and freelanced during the evening and at weekends, but I am now entirely freelance.

During the course of the week, I work on several projects and largely set my own hours. I also choose where I work, whether it’s from a company’s office or a public working space.

What does flexible working allow you to do?

It allows me to prioritise my physical and mental health by taking time out when I need to.

Tell us more about the things you do to improve your well-being – what do you get from it on a personal level?

I used to work in a very high-pressured, emotive area of law and this, coupled with the long hours, left little room for anything else. Although I loved my job in the beginning and was very ambitious, the more senior I became, the worse my health became and eventually I burned out.

Taking a step back allowed me to recover, manage my stress and anxiety levels, and although it sounds clichéd, reassess what I wanted from life. Now, I exercise regularly (I swim most mornings) and if I’ve had a particularly hard day or am overly anxious, I will go to a yoga or Pilates class and stretch it out. I’m also pretty militant about scheduling downtime whether it’s an evening in to read or just relax, and I try my best to have technology-free hours by turning my phone / laptop off between 10pm and 8am on weekdays.

What have you learned from this that feeds back into your work?

That I could cope with a lot, but I can cope even better when I’ve had some head-space. As a result, I’m more realistic about my limits and expectations, which makes me more communicative with clients. Plus, when I’m fresh-minded, I’m focused and therefore productive, which is beneficial for everyone.

How do you think the companies you work with have benefited from your extra-curricular activities?

I write a lot about the ‘human’ side of business, the issues surrounding work / well-being – and how to obtain balance – so my experience feeds into that quite well. Write what you know as they say!

How important do you think well-being is in the workplace. What, in your opinion, can companies do better to accommodate this?

So important. And flexible working is not necessarily the silver bullet – remote working can be quite isolating, which is why I choose to work in more communal spaces rather than at home. Being provided with various location options is great.

There also used to be this notion that ‘work is work’ and ‘home is home’; you almost had to be two different people, but, there is a positive move towards treating employees as a ‘whole person’ with feelings and emotions. Companies that are willing to recognise the non-work related needs (health and otherwise) of their staff and incorporate this into their company values, are rewarded with increased engagement, productivity and loyalty. It’s a no-brainer.

Would you return to a more traditional working pattern?

Not any time soon, but I’ll never say never. There are things I like about standard office-based jobs – routine for one. But, it would have to be a really progressive company with a flexible working policy and a job that I just couldn’t say no to. Oh, and lots of money would be a bonus too.  Don’t want much, really!

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Part of the new ‘Getting to know you’ series – Follow us to be kept up-to-date on the next segment and other articles from Juggle Jobs

Juggle Jobs is a digital platform that connects businesses with high-quality vetted professionals looking to work flexibly. If you want more information about how we can help you, please email us at info@jugglejobs.co.uk

Juggle Jobs is listed as one of Recruiter.com’s “Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups”: Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups (Recruiter.com)

 

Article Reference Links

  1. https://moneyish.com/ish/ceo-tells-moneyish-why-he-thanked-worker-in-viral-note-for-taking-a-mental-health-day/
  2. https://www.mind.org.uk/media/2222919/mind_gla_report_web.pdf
  3. https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/absence-management_2016_tcm18-16360.pdf
  4. http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/most-stressful-jobs-2017
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2016/jan/21/spot-the-signs-of-burnout-before-it-hits-you
  6. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/management/2017/05/04/the-business-case-for-prioritising-employee-mental-health/