Perspectives

Episode #35: How do we create work that’s good for our wellbeing?

The Green Room by Deloitte podcast

Hybrid working. It sounds like the shiny solution to what the future of work is going to look like. It’s all over the news. People are sharing their personal hacks on LinkedIn. But we wouldn’t blame you if you felt part excited, part wondering how it’s all going to work.

The past 18 months or so have been challenging. We don’t need to remind you of the days you commuted from the bedroom to the kitchen. But hey, we’ve learnt some valuable lessons about what we really want from work. And while we don’t have all the answers just yet, we know we want things to be a bit different than before.

Next stop: taking those positives to create workplaces, whether they’re virtual or physical, that work for all of us.

As with any change, it’s exciting to build something new. But it’s going to take some trial and error to get things right. Some days, we’re falling in love with commuting again while listening to our favourite podcast (cough). Other days, let’s be honest, balance is pretty hard to find.

Set office days. Home alone days. Walking meetings. In person meetings – finally! Half on Zoom, half in person meetings.

[Pause for effect. You’re doing great.]

So where do we go from here in a way that’s sustainable, inclusive and, most importantly, kind to ourselves and others?

We have so many questions. What’s working life like right now for people? What are the small things that are working well? What are others struggling with?

Looking forward, how do we make hybrid working work? Can we create work that’s actually good for our wellbeing? What are the big things employers need to think about? Could we really have the best of both worlds?

And above all, how can we make sure that taking care of ourselves and each other are at the heart of it all?

Tune in to find out...

  • How many days George used to spend on a train every year
  • What Jackie’s current work routine looks like
  • About the impact of what Jolawn calls the ‘silent pandemic’
  • Why wellbeing is about much more than just sitting cross-legged

Jackie Henry

Based in Belfast, Jackie is the UK Managing Partner for People and Purpose and the Deloitte Northern Ireland Office Senior Partner. She started her career with Deloitte in Belfast 31 years ago and for the past seven years has been lead Partner in Northern Ireland. This has included setting up the Belfast Delivery Centre, which included the creation of Deloitte’s BrightStart Degree and Graduate academy programmes.

Jackie also served as people and purpose lead for Deloitte’s UK consulting business for two years before taking on the role of people and purpose lead for the UK business. Her commitment to diversity, inclusion and social mobility has been a focus throughout her career, and in particular her efforts in building skills and providing access to education for people across Northern Ireland.

Jackie was awarded an MBE for services to the Northern Ireland economy. Additionally, she’s a Visiting Professor at Ulster University, where she shares her expertise on apprenticeships and the skills agenda and is an Honorary Fellow of Belfast Metropolitan College.

Jolawn Victor

Jolawn is the Chief International Officer at Headspace, based out of the company’s UK office where she leads operations including sales, marketing and partnerships around the world (excluding the US and Canada). Prior to Headspace she led Emerging Markets and Global Expansion for Intuit, where she was responsible for business in over 150 countries outside of the US.

Jolawn previously worked at PepsiCo, where she led the potato chip innovation business on the $3.5B Lay’s brand. Before that, Jolawn shoveled Cheerios and stirred Progresso soup for General Mills. She worked as a project engineer, managing small to medium capital projects driving innovation and productivity.

A native of Minneapolis, Jolawn attended Spelman College and Georgia Tech where she graduated from a dual-degree program with BS degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering. Jolawn attended NYU Stern’s School of Business, where she graduated with an MBA with a Marketing concentration in 2009.

Attendees
George Parrett, Interviewer
Ethan Worth, Interviewer
Jolawn Victor, Interviewee
Jackie Henry, Interviewee

George Parrett
Hello and welcome to The Green Room, by Deloitte. This is a podcast which asks the tricky questions about the world around us. I’m George and today we’re asking: how do we create work that’s good for our wellbeing? Thank you so much for downloading this episode of The Green Room. It’s a brand-new season of loads of fantastic episodes which we’ve been busy planning, which will come out over the next few weeks and months. If you want to listen to our previous episodes, they’re all available on our website, which is deloitte.co.uk/greenroompodcast or wherever you get your podcasts. And today, yeah, I said we’re kicking off a brand-new season. We’re going to talk about wellbeing and work, and someone who always improves my own person wellbeing is my good friend and colleague, Ethan Worth. How are you, Ethan?

Ethan Worth
I’m good, George. I’m excited to be here on International Podcast Day. I’m also feeling quite zen because we’ve been doing some mindfulness exercises in the build-up to this, and it’s got me really focused and ready to go.

George Parrett
Yeah, I am absolutely with you. I think one major learning which I’m sure we’ll touch on quite a lot is that, over the last year and a half or so, wellbeing is right on the top of the agenda, and we’re going to talk about that in the context of redesigning how we work as well. But even – we’re very, very knowledgeable people. We’re not nearly as knowledgeable as our guests today who are going to help us talk us through this. So who have we got in the studio?

Ethan Worth
Yeah, we have two fantastic guests today, George. Our first guest is Jolawn Victor, who is the Chief International Officer of Headspace. She oversees the company’s international operations and expansion based in their London office. Her previous experience includes senior roles at organisations like Intuit, QuickBooks, and Pepsi Co. Welcome, Jolawn.

Jolawn Victor
Hi. Thank you for having me here.

Ethan Worth
Thank you for coming. And we’re also joined by Jackie Henry, who is the UK Managing Partner for People and Purpose at Deloitte. She’s also our Northern Ireland office Senior Partner based in Belfast. Jackie was previously the People and Purpose lead for our consulting business and she’s been awarded an MBE for services to the Northern Ireland economy. Welcome, Jackie.

Jackie Henry
Hey. Hi, everybody. Thanks for having me.

Ethan Worth
Hi, Jackie. And what we usually do here is an icebreaker, and one has just popped up on my screen. Okay, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Jolawn Victor
Easy. Yeah, I’ll dive in.

Ethan Worth
Easy? Okay.

Jolawn Victor
Yeah, definitely a potato. You can have it for breakfast, you can do a hash brown, you could do a baked potato, you could do it for lunch, you could get varieties – you could do sweet potato, regular potato, so many potatoes, chips, French fries, yes.

Jackie Henry
I love the potato theme. It is so Irish, as well. We love our potatoes over here and, my goodness, we love to eat them all those ways every single day, so I am all in with the potato, but I’m going to go for porridge, actually. In my daily routine, I eat a lot of porridge every single day, yeah. Porridge and granola, porridge and fruit, porridge and… So it’s maybe another potato version.

George Parrett
I had porridge this morning. It’s getting a bit wintery now, so it’s the ideal start to the day at the moment, isn’t it?

Ethan Worth
I think I’m going to stick with the breakfast theme and, as regular listeners will know, I love cereal, and I think my favourite of all is chocolate Weetos, so I don’t think I’d get sick of them. I could eat them all day, every day.

George Parrett
That’s Ethan plugging for a sponsorship opportunity there, I think. That’s good. Yeah, it feels – a meal, I’d say canapés is sort of my meal of choice. I could have constant different canapés all the time, but one thing I’ve definitely learned since the pandemic started is I have a slightly unhealthy addiction to biscuits of all sorts of varieties, really, I think judging by some of the suit trousers which I no longer fit into, but yeah, probably a nice selection of biscuits just to keep the day going. Because you can go savoury, you can go sweet. There’s things you can play with there, so...

Jackie Henry
And maybe easier got than canapés just landing every so often, George.

George Parrett
Ideal. Yeah, brilliant, yeah. This is good. Perhaps this could be the future of work we’re talking about here. Well, Jolawn, Jackie, thank you so much for coming. I think this is going to be a really interesting discussion. We’re talking about wellbeing and work; how do we create work that’s good for our wellbeing? But I think to dive right into this, it’ll be probably useful for our listeners if perhaps you can talk about your work routines at the moment, just to help our listeners get to know you a bit better. What’s your current work situation like, Jackie?

Jackie Henry
Well, September, there’s been a big shift, actually. So before September I was mainly working from home, but now it’s an interesting mix – interesting to me, perhaps. Hopefully to the listeners as well. So a couple of days working from home, and then, in the last few weeks as well, a day in the office. I’m in the Belfast office today. And then a couple of days the last few weeks actually over to London. So last week we had the first face-to-face of Deloitte’s UK executive in 18 months. It was so exciting. We run it in hybrid.

George Parrett
Jolawn, how about you? What’s your typical working day like at the moment?

Jolawn Victor
I’m still working from home. So I’ve had the privilege of working in lockdown across many markets at this point, in Australia, in London, and so I’m enjoying drawing those not-clear boundary lines between the start and end of your day, between home and personal life, between what I call being on television all day and having to be basically a TV host in coordinating, if you would, hosting shows, AKA meetings. So, as London is starting to open up, I’ve appreciated lunches here and there, and in fact had the team over this morning for a work session, so able to squeeze in-person interaction in, which I’m craving.

Ethan Worth
Yeah, I’ve managed to go into the office twice this week, which has been a very nice relief from the Zoom calls. And as we kind of shift into that change, what are you most looking forward to, and is there anything that you’re a bit apprehensive first?

Jackie Henry
So maybe if I lift first, then? So looking forward to, and what’s been brilliant the last few weeks, Ethan, has been – it is that connection and it’s just seeing people. It’s, I guess, the catch-up around the edges of some of those face-to-face meetings, finding out a bit better probably how people are, I think, and what they’re doing. And I guess, as well, planning out – getting some good planning sessions in for future. So those are the great bits.

I think apprehension, then, it’s that blend for me. It’s keeping the boundaries. There’s been some real benefits for me in COVID lockdown of seeing more of my family and, as well, I absolutely hear what you’re saying – the big boundaryless day of sitting in the rectangle can be quite draining, but actually then coming out of your rectangle and, I guess, being able to see your family just like this is part of the benefits for me, and really different. So apprehensive of probably seeing them a bit less, but so far so good, actually. The blend is good.

Ethan Worth
Great, and how about you, Jolawn?

Jolawn Victor
So, throughout this experience, I’ve observed that the stronger relationships have strengthened and the weaker ones have weakened, and so I’m most concerned about going back to work in this hybrid environment. So return to work for Headspace will be optional if you want to come into the office, and I anticipate we’re going to be in a world of a blend where there will be people 100% remote, 100% in the office, and probably the majority of the team somewhere in-between, and so, as a result, as we know, physical proximity increases intimacy in relationship-building, and so for those that are in the room and for those that are in the box, how do you strengthen those ties that are already strong and how do you strengthen the ones that have weakened over these past 18 to 24 months? So that is top of mind for me. What are those hybrid communication norms that we are going to adopt and hopefully maintain and evolve and strengthen over this next season?

George Parrett
And that’s really interesting, Jolawn, because, actually, earlier in the summer we announced at Deloitte ‘Deloitte Works’, which is our hybrid working programme, which Jackie’s been heavily involved with. Jackie, could you perhaps chat about how that came about, perhaps, and where we are in the stage of it?

Jackie Henry
Yeah, George, I’d love to. You’re right – so we announced the commitment to our people, I think it was about the start of July, but building up to that was us listening really carefully to our people, and it was incredible, actually. We put a survey out, 18,000 of our people responded and, within that, it was super clear – 96% of our people told us that they want the freedom to choose how flexibly they would work in the future, and then, alongside that, 81% said, ‘Actually, do you know? I want to be in a Deloitte office two days or less.’ So super-clear from our people, and that’s what we have delivered on in the commitment under Deloitte Works. It’s a hybrid work model. It sits as our model for the future of work in Deloitte. It’s a model that trusts our people, puts that trust in our people, and gives our people that flexibility that they’ve asked for and the choice of when, where and how they’re going to deliver their best work for our clients and alongside the project teams. Our clients are in there because clearly that’s a massively important part of our business, and actually why our people are here to deliver to our clients.

So that’s what we have committed to, and now we are very, very focused on making that real, and then making it real, Jolawn, to your point, actually, the thing that I am super clear and focused on is making sure that no one is left behind, because the thing we learnt in COVID, again loud and clear, is that it’s different for everyone depending on age, background, circumstances, their role. Everybody had a different experience and everybody has a different view of the positives. I absolutely expect that to be exactly the same in hybrid, and what we need to make sure is that we deliver on a hybrid that allows everybody and supports everyone to do their best work, thrive and delivers on what we’ve set out.

Jolawn Victor
I love that, Jackie. I love that it’s employee-led. We see organisations that make decisions all across the spectrum, and rightly so. I think you’ll see engagement in wellbeing remain high when employees feel like their voice is heard.

Ethan Worth
And I think it’s interesting that both Headspace and Deloitte have gone for that 100% flexible model. Have you had any learnings over the past month that perhaps you weren’t expecting or have needed to respond to, or has it been kind of as expected so far?

Jolawn Victor
I think these past several months have been – what I’ve observed, and we’ve done surveys and focus groups and gathered the data ‒ about 75% of our team outside of the US is wanting to have some type of hybrid return-to-work scenario, and what I’ve observed is, for our employees that fall in that millennial age group, have a higher need for the face-to-face interaction, and so, as we’ve come out of lockdown, at least in the City of London, but our business isn’t returning to office yet, people are seeing friends and spouses going back and there’s a feeling of being left behind, and so that – I think the duration of our lockdown was obviously really intense, but it felt like we were all in it together, and so as different corporations are at different paces in sequencing of their next steps, that’s the part now that’s been really, really tough for the team. And so I empathise. I definitely empathise with that, because especially if you’re single ‒ and I have the benefit of having a family and several children, so I’m never bored. There is always somebody to talk to, but that’s not the same situation for every household.

Jackie Henry
To build on that, I think that what’s happened for the learning for me in the last weeks and maybe over the summer as we got ready to land Deloitte Works and open our offices when the regulations sort of allowed us to do that was, first up, the commitment landed really well to our people, but it was then that really making sure that we were ready to execute on that, and, as we know, we have an eclectic mix of brilliant people in Deloitte as there is across rest of UK-World, and people have all of those different needs and requirements and interpretations of what that means for them.

So I guess what’s been really important is, as we got ready to make it real, is to cater for different needs there in trying to bring it to life, so that’s what we’ve been trying to do, and from putting in place guidelines and top tips and things to think about for those who want to come into the office, how our people could feel safe and secure and know that it was a good, clean, safe environment to come in, for those of our colleagues who are vulnerable and aren’t at this place in a position to join those returners to the office, that they also felt that that’s okay, and we really do mean that. If you’re not ready to come in at all, that’s okay, too. So guidelines, tools in place, and of course we know just the importance of leaders role-modelling and showing that this really is okay and what we mean.

I had a big issue over the summer, actually – my son was really sick over the summer, suddenly, suddenly really sick, which was awful, but what I did, which I hope all of our people would do, was to take the time out, and I disappeared for two weeks and sat bedside in the hospital. The good news is he is good now, so I’m not sharing a really awful story, but the important point in that for me is that then all of our people feel that they can do that and set their boundaries, and take the time they need, whatever their circumstances, whatever their role.

Jolawn Victor
I love that, Jackie. As you shared your story, one thing that’s super important to Headspace, of course, is that people feel safe and healthy to return to work. Our mission is improving the health and happiness of the world, so we absolutely have to start with our own employees in doing that. And it’s easy to get caught up in the fact that vaccination levels are high and masks aren’t required, but social anxiety is still very, very high, especially for individuals that are immunosuppressed or immuno-challenged, and my father was ill earlier in the year – I travelled home to the States to visit him in hospital and, while I was there, Texas – I was in Texas – all of the bans had lifted. It was almost like travelling to a different planet because we were in the midst of the peak of the lockdown, and then here, full capacity at restaurants with no mask. I mean, I felt like I had just literally gone to Jupiter.

And so, as I was seeing people, the first question that I had when I would see them get out of the car or come in the door was, ‘How are we going to greet? How are they going to touch me? How do I say hello to you in a warm way without you being offended?’ Because I had to have a negative COVID test in order to get on the plane to come back home, and my daughter started crying when I left because she said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to be able to come back. I don’t know if the US is going to be put on the red list.’ And so the fact that a nine-year-old’s world was so tuned into the ability and the safety of travelling in and out of a country, and obviously the story isn’t about me, but it’s about the fact that there’s social anxieties that exist now – just a handshake, just a hug, just a finger dab that can make or break somebody’s health experience.

George Parrett
I think both of those stories are – they’re true case studies of what we’ve all had to come through over the last couple of years, really, and we’re talking about this opportunity to change how we go about doing work, but, actually, the pandemic has really changed the way how we talk about our own health and wellbeing, I think, and obviously that drives it. To have a nine-year-old who’s so in tune with the travel restrictions and all the rest of it, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it? And I think it’s about acknowledging that everyone is different and it is going to take a lot of time to kind of work out how things are going to land and that expectations management about, ‘How do we all get comfortable with acknowledging that some people want to go back to work in different ways to others?’ And it’s that ‒ I think you mentioned it, Jolawn ‒ that sort of fear of missing out challenge depending on where you are in your career and things, but how do we get comfortable with the differences of feeling and opinion there?

Jackie Henry
Maybe if I could lift, George, on that one first, because I’d mentioned some of the work we’ve done so far in helping our people on this. So one of the things that I really love is a very simple tool that we’ve developed to support everyone, I guess, being ready to introduce themselves, their circumstances, and then take that through to the conversation with their team. So we have a tool. It’s super simple, which is good for me and my super simple brain; it’s called the Inclusion and Wellbeing Ways of Working Framework. So we launched it firm-wide just there at the start of September, and it does just that. It’s two stages: one, we ask everyone to set out, really, what we call the Manual of Me; what they’re all about, what their circumstances are, and set it out in the context of the project, so what they want from the project, but, importantly, how they like to work, and then sharing any circumstances with the team that are important to know in terms of, say, school drop-offs or caring responsibility. And clearly what we are getting to is a point where our people trust that tool, because we need them to feel confident that that’s something that they can trust.

Then that info ‒ it’s a one page, the Manual of Me ‒ goes into a team session where the team come together, share their Manual of Me – ‘Here’s all our issues, here’s our project and our client and the purpose of the work we do, but alongside that we’re going to blend in all of us and respect each other and everybody’s circumstance,’ and land that with a team charter, a project charter, then, which becomes the fabric of the work we do, the work every single day. And within that as well, we are signposting our people: ‘Here’s all these other really important things. Don’t forget about our mental health champions, my wellbeing app, our Headspace signup, and please don’t forget – use all these things as well.’ So that, I think, is hopefully going to be a very powerful tool to support our people work through this, and again we’ll take feedback and test as we go, but so far it’s landing well.

Jolawn Victor
I love it. We might borrow. You’re a step ahead of us, so we might borrow that, but two things you said that I really appreciated, Jackie, the first was awareness of what’s important to each person on the team, and at Headspace we talk about awareness without judgement, so it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. And then the other piece that you talked about what boundaries, and I find that lots of times boundaries are crossed simply because you don’t know that there was a line there. So whether it pertains to return to work or how you spend your time, or how you manage your diary, if somebody schedules a meeting over a time that you wanted to preserve for yourself, they’ll never know, right, if you haven’t communicated that. So I think that that’s so powerful and we’ll put that in our toolbox.

Ethan Worth
I’ve used that a couple of times on my projects, the Manual of Me, and I like that it blends both the performance and career aspect with some of the personal and the wellbeing, because I think the two are so interlinked now. And speaking on that topic of wellbeing, Jolawn, our resident expert, you must have seen a huge spike in interest over the last year as the spotlight has shifted to focus on wellbeing to mean everything from physical health all the way through to mental health, with mental health in particular, I think, rising up the agenda. Can you tell us a bit more about what you’ve been hearing from businesses, if you have seen an increase in interest over the last 18 months?

Jolawn Victor
Yeah. Unfortunately, mental health has become at the top of the agenda and there’s so many challenging things that have happened – the impact to mental health, I’ve been calling it really the ‘silent pandemic’. It’s been happening all around us and it seems like, now, there’s an improved vocabulary, there is more acceptance, there’s more understanding. The problem is vast. There’s a billion people in the world that have mental health disorders and 75% are not receiving treatment, so if we think about that gap and what’s causing that gap, is it lack of accessibility? Is it lack of resources? Is it cultural barriers? There’s so many reasons. And so this past 18 to 24 months, we’ve seen a 500% increase in organisations reaching out to us to say, ‘It’s massively important for us to take care of our team’s mental health.’

And so while obviously we’ve appreciated the willingness to have the conversation about that, what that looks like and how we bring that to life is so, so important, and so we’ve seen some organisations where leaders are setting the example, which is tremendous; even having a boss to say, ‘There is now a tool to take care of your mental health,’ or, ‘Here’s how I take care of my mental health,’ or, ‘Have you thought about how you’re taking care of your mental health?’ I know it seems so small, but even just having a conversation about it is literally the difference between step zero and step one. So that has been really exciting, having conversations with organisations and asking them, ‘How are you doing? Like, really, really, how was this pandemic for you? How was it for your team? How do you lead compassionately? How are you kind to your mind?’

At Headspace, we have what we call a mind day every fortnight on Fridays where we don’t work, and it’s for you to take the time to work if you choose, to exercise, to take the day off, to really sit and reflect, or to do things that you enjoy. And so there’s some things that have been built into the fabric of Headspace that we have had the privilege of then sharing some of those with organisations, and now we have organisations saying, ‘Hey, what can we do? We want to do more.’

George Parrett
And Jackie, as someone on the organisation side who – we’ve recently allowed all of our 20,000 people in the UK access for free to the Headspace app. How are you finding it?

Jackie Henry
Yeah, so it’s brilliant, actually, and, for me, Headspace has been most helpful. So I have this waking up in the middle of the night issue which has been going on for quite some time, so I really enjoy Headspace in getting me – I think it’s the rain in particular. I like the Headspace rain to get me back over, and that works a treat, but there’s so much more to it than that, of course, and the feedback is that our people are really appreciating and starting to use, making sure though that our leaders at all levels are leading and checking in with our people, and encouraging our people to look after themselves and their wellbeing and their mental health, alongside, I guess, the work that we do, is massively important, and it’s really important that our people leaders themselves also feel supported. It’s the old oxygen mask on first analogy, that, actually, are they feeling good and who’s looking after them to really lead from the top and role model? So that’s also an issue for me that I think is important, but yeah. We’ve lots still to do, but I think we’re starting to make good progress.

George Parrett
I personally never managed to get to the end of a Sleepcast before nodding off, so it must work on that front, I think.

Jolawn Victor
I love when I look at my phone in the morning and it tells me my minutes meditated and I say, ‘I surely fell asleep to this Sleepcast.’

George Parrett
Exactly, so yeah, it definitely works.

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George Parrett
Jolawn, it’d be good to get an example from you about a meeting in this new world which has gone particularly well or perhaps one which hasn’t gone quite so well, and what did you learn from that? Could you share an example there?

Jolawn Victor
Yes. I’ll share what hasn’t gone well first and then what has.

George Parrett
That’s what we’re most interested in, I think.

Jolawn Victor
Obviously, there’s a stigmatism around mental health, and so sometimes employees will ask for tools and resources, and there’s sometimes a lack of understanding of why that’s important and what it looks like. There might be a misconception that mindfulness and meditation is sitting cross-legged and going ‘om’ all day long, and so those are some of the barriers they’re breaking down and having those conversations to say, ‘You can be mindful while eating. You can be mindful while exercising. You can be more mindful with your time and your energy management,’ and these are all tools that lend themselves towards increased engagement, increased productivity, increased fulfilment for employees in those situations. Of course, the fact that Headspace is science-backed for an engineer like me is super helpful. We’ve got a ton of clinically validated research surveys where we can say, ‘After 10 days, you feel 11% less stress, and after just 30 days of Headspace, you feel 32% less stressed.’ So I love that there’s medicinal evidence that Headspace works. So that’s the first bit. There’s getting over that hump in those preconceived misconceptions about what meditation and mindfulness is and why it may or may not be beneficial.

On the flip side, the conversations that go really well are when, as we’ve talked about, the leadership is supportive and brought in, either when leaders already are functioning with some state of mindfulness routine or using Headspace, or one sales leader did a mindful eating session and took a team through eating a raisin and taking 20 minutes to eat one raisin. I know it sounds really crazy – you smell it, you listen to it, you taste it, and by the time you actually bite into it and chew it, the level of anticipation is so exciting. So there’s the difference between talking about it and then experiencing it, and so, as we all know, of course, we have tons of ways to experience it for free, but it’s not until you actually have a problem, you wake up in the middle of the night and you need to listen to the SOS to fall back to sleep, that you realise, ‘Okay, wow, this really did work. Okay, I probably can be more deliberate with thinking about how am I caring for my mind.’

Ethan Worth
Next podcast, George, you’ll have to take us through eating a biscuit.

George Parrett
Yeah, easily, yeah. Cookie Monster.

Ethan Worth
I think – so when I was researching for this podcast, one of the statistics that shocked me was that apparently 41% of employees have experienced mental health issues caused or worsened by work just in the last year, and I think one of the things that I was thinking is if that was physical health or physical harm, that would just not be acceptable, but because it’s mental health it seems to be more of an accepted fabric of our work life. And you mentioned the stigma, Jolawn, just then. Do you think the way we’re thinking about mental health has shifted or is shifting and is that a good thing? Is that one of the keys to addressing this?

Jolawn Victor
We’re definitely on the journey. Our brain is a part of – everybody has one, and so just like you wake up and you brush your teeth, taking care of your mental health will hopefully become part of more and more people’s routines. And so there’s, number one, being aware of that; number two, acknowledging it and talking about it, and talking about it without judgement, right? To say to your team, ‘Do you need to take a mental health day today?’ I tell all of my teams, ‘You can take a mental health day anytime and you don’t have to explain it. You can just say, “I’m taking a day.”’ And so I think having that permission – also being vulnerable as appropriate. We say, ‘Bring your whole self to work.’ I say, ‘Bring your best self to work, or bring the person that you’re most comfortable.’

And so, in that, there’s the willingness to talk about the challenges that you’ve personally experienced, and I know that can be tough to open up for some teams and for some leaders, but there was a season of my life when my husband actually worked in consulting and he would travel Monday through Thursday, and so I got a bit of what we call the Sunday scaries, on that Sunday evening, right, when he’d be packing the suitcase, thinking about, ‘Wow, I’ve got four days.’ And so being honest about the anxiety that you feel about what Monday looks like and the challenges that you have at work and saying, ‘Hey, you know what? I have taken medication for this before,’ and there’s probably many other alternative paths. There’s nothing wrong with taking medicine. However, there’s therapists, there’s coaches, there’s meditation, there’s exercise, there’s better eating – there are so many different ways where you can be kinder to your mind, and it’s not about sitting cross-legged, right? I think that’s the huge change, is that reframe, that nowadays taking care of your mental health looks very different than maybe what you thought it is.

Jackie Henry
It’s such a great overview, Jolawn, and for me, that I guess is where in Deloitte we’re absolutely clear we need to get – to really get that conversation into the very heart of our everyday, rather than to have that sort of something to the side or some support where people can access, which is perhaps a little bit disconnected from the work. And I guess that’s why I think through Deloitte Works’ implementation and what we’re going to do in the next month, and alongside that these really practical tools which are really just all about having that comfortable conversation, let’s be honest and clear, and having it and pulling it through with your team. That’s what’s really important and I think that’ll be a major step for us. I mean, if I think, for me, of my own wellbeing and what’s really important for me in work context is that I feel – the work that I do, I feel respected, I feel included, and that I’ve got – I’m working with a core team that gives me energy and resilience and I can have those conversations with. So, for me, that’s where I really want to get to across the whole of Deloitte.

Jolawn Victor
That’s the opposite of burnout. You’ve got all of the right pieces of the equation. That statistic that you talked about, Ethan – obviously, burnout is a huge, huge popular topic right now, again not for the right reasons, but when you have that mental or physical exhaustion, when you’ve got kind of a sense of cynicism about what it is that you’re doing, and then maybe you’re less effective at it, that combination, you can have one or all three of those things, but, Jackie, you sound like you are in a great spot. And so, yeah, we want to avoid burnout.

Jackie Henry
Well, that’s where I need to get to and stay there. Not every day, but yeah.

Ethan Worth
And do you think it makes it more difficult to make mental health central with the shift to virtual working, or a greater shift towards virtual working?

Jolawn Victor
I mean, it depends. I think, obviously, face-to-face, in some cases, is really amazing, and, at the same time, having digital tools makes it so much more accessible. If you think about the reduction in our commute – a five-second commute from the kitchen to the office. Sometimes, it doesn’t get any better than that, and so the fact that you don’t have to travel and try and fit in an appointment, or obviously if you are office-based there’s probably a whole set of privilege that comes with that. If you think about – there are communities that are time-poor or time-negative where there’s not even enough hours in the day to do the essentials, so how do you find five minutes to listen to a meditation when you might be working multiple jobs, taking transportation, trying to do drop-off and pickup, caring for the food and the nutrition in your household? And so all of those things add up, and so to be in a position where you can download an app and listen to something that will take care of your mental health without having to schedule an appointment, without having to travel, without having to go through some of the barriers, that can be a good thing. And then, of course, seeing people in person can be a great thing, as well.

George Parrett
Yeah, I used to commute five days a week, and it was about two and a half hours a day on a train, pretty much, and I think I worked out that I spent 21 days a year on a train when you added it all up, and that was assuming that it wasn’t delayed and things like that, so that’s my anecdote. I’ve managed to gain that time back. Yeah, from my perspective, I think on balance my wellbeing has improved a lot from that, and it sounds like, Jackie, you’re on the path for making work improve your own wellbeing, and I just wanted to explore whether your wellbeing has improved, both of you, over the last 18 months or so.

Jackie Henry
Yeah, it’s a great question, isn’t it? It’s absolutely the core question. So for me, yes, I think I have had an uptick, actually. So in terms of me actually using the support referenced, using Headspace – thank you, Jolawn and colleagues, for that – but also importantly then on the daily routine. That point you make, George, of quite often a – what, two years ago, my routine was really being in Belfast City Airport at 5.00 on a Monday morning, and that was the start of the week, and then a mix of London and Belfast, but really between those two locations, 100% in the office. And whilst my commute in Belfast is nowhere near your two-and-a-half-hour, I guess I didn’t see much of family during the course of the core week. And so, overall, yeah, I think I’ve had really some good benefits. I think I’ve got better in terms of the Zoom fatigue point and the work blending into the entire of my home life.

One of the things we did last year which really helped me was to, for instance, stop meetings after 25 minutes on Zoom; take those five minutes in-between to get a cup of tea or even use the facilities from time to time ‒ always good ‒ so creating boundaries and putting those into the day routine. So yeah, on the whole, I really have had a much greater blend and I’m feeling more positive on my wellbeing, and I’ve kept my running up, so running three times a week – not very far, but that’s been good, too.

Jolawn Victor
I think for me it’s been up and down. There’s definitely been the benefits of spending more time with family. I used to travel quite heavily, so the fact that now the suitcases are super dusty, that’s definitely been a positive for the family, but these different seasons and the different rule changes have been tough for me to figure out the routine in that new season. So when gyms were closed – I need a gym that will pay me a no-show fee in order to motivate me to get there, so the fact that I didn’t have that and it was just me to wake up was really tough, and so I’d find myself not exercising, which counterintuitively gives me the energy to get through the day. And so the days when I fell off of that, because the calories didn’t come down, there was still lots of snacking. So I definitely have a new wardrobe as a result of that, and so it’s been hard for me.

It’s been really, really hard coming in and out of these different seasons and resetting my routine, because I pride myself in taking breaks, and Headspace is great. We have twice-a-day meditation times and blocks, we have meditation together as a team. There’s so many things built into how we function, but that doesn’t matter if you’re not individually adopting it. And so that’s, for me, definitely been harder than you would think, right? Leading a mindfulness business, I should have it all together, so I’m working on it.

Ethan Worth
And finally just looking to the future: why do you think hybrid working and an increased focus on wellbeing, why do you think this is going to be important to attract people, and important for companies going forward in order to be attractive to employees?

Jolawn Victor
I think ‒

Jackie Henry
Go, Jolawn. Sorry, go ahead.

Jolawn Victor
We’re so eager. Yeah, I think hybrid workforces, obviously, especially when you listen to the feedback of employees and it’s what they want, that, number one, you’re taking into account the needs of your workforce and you’re designing around preferences that will increase engagement. You also will hopefully have a more diverse workforce, because the different challenges and barriers that commuting or coming into an office, or living in sometimes high cost of living cities, you’ve removed that barrier. And so for individuals that are single parents and don’t have the same support system as different households, will now have more flexibility for individuals that felt different barriers in terms of their advancement in the office, whether it was due to race or gender or class.

A lot of those things obviously haven’t been erased, but there have been some improvements in hybrid working in terms of not seeing who’s on the phone call, not seeing a disability. I have a co-worker that worked in the dating industry and has said that online dating has surged because you don’t see a person’s disability first before you meet the person. And so some of these things that you could’ve not ‘hidden’ – even things like hearing disabilities. As I’m aging, I realise that my hearing is going, but when you guys are six inches from my ears, I can hear everything that you’re saying just fine. So there’s so many different things that sometimes hybrid working equalises.

Ethan Worth
Yeah, and one of the things I read in researching for this podcast is that it’s important that the performance management reflects that, and so it’s not that people who come into the office get the benefits, get the promotions, get the face-time, because then that could entrench some of those diversity differences that you laid out even worse. So I think it’s that two-way thing of making sure that, as you said earlier, Jackie, that we’re authentic in hybrid working being equal for everybody.

Jackie Henry
And that’s right, and it needs to go through the whole spectrum of how we support people and develop our people, and develop their careers, and performance manage as well. So all of that’s really important, Ethan. And just to – what you’ve said obviously resonates. Attracting diverse, brilliant people to Deloitte is absolutely key, and, really simply, people have choices and preferences, and that’s what we need to make sure we’re offering people, a great choice in Deloitte where they can explore ‒ they themselves can explore their preferences, and then hopefully we’ll thrive and deliver that brilliant work to our clients.

George Parrett
Well, Jackie and Jolawn, it’s been a fascinating conversation. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well, but I think we’ve covered quite a lot of ground there, and yeah, thank you so much for joining us today and talking us through this. But just before we go, perhaps in a nutshell, a sentence or two, could you answer this week’s big question which is: how do we create work that’s good for our wellbeing?

Jackie Henry
So I’ll jump in on that one first. So yeah, for me, then, have the conversation and then agree the boundaries that are important to you, and see how then we land those in our teams and in our client work. So have the conversation first.

Jolawn Victor
Yes, I agree. I think compassionate leadership, creating an environment where individuals feel psychologically safe, where you are listening and then you are taking action in situations where you need to support people or to change the environment so people can thrive.

George Parrett
Fantastic. Well, Jackie and Jolawn, thank you again so much, and stay well.

Jackie Henry
Thank you. You too.

Ethan Worth
Thanks, both. It was great to have the conversation today.

Announcement
Thanks for listening to this episode of The Green Room, by Deloitte. We’ll be back next time with another big question. This podcast is produced by our very own pod squad and hosted by George Parrett, Lizzie Elston and Ethan Worth. Thanks to our creative studio for their technical support. Original music by Ali Barratt from our consulting team.

Further reading

If you’re interested in any of the topics we talked about during this episode, you might find the links below useful.

Hybrid working-mental health tips - some great tips from Mind, one of our charity partners

What If Your Job Was Good For You? - interesting report from Business in the Community. It includes a case study on what we learnt about wellbeing during lockdown.

Designing work for employee wellbeing - some good insights from our 2020 Human Capital Trends Report

Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes - a TED Talk by the founder of Headspace

Headspace Guide to Sleep - a new series on Netflix

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