When was the last time you found yourself with a free hour, all to yourself, during the week? A whole 60 minutes for that yoga session/art class/Shelter volunteering? If only. Because, let’s face it: life is one gigantic work whirlwind. From waking up phone-in-hand to the minute we crash out in bed, we’re never out of office any more.
It wouldn’t surprise us if you’re considering joining the four million people who’ve shunned the traditional workplace to go freelance. It’s not just a radical social shift – it’s actually sending today’s employers into a tailspin as some of their most valuable staff members clock-off for a more carefree life. It’s why, in 2019, they’re willing to go to extreme lengths not just to keep their staff, but make them happy again by acknowledging that they are not just cogs in a machine, but real people with goals and aspirations outside of their work life. And you are set to benefit.
Welcome to Workplace Wellness: the new office trend where your bosses want to help you smash your personal goals, not just your career ones. Recently, mindfulness company Headspace launched a meditation programme for work – with Google, Roche and Adobe already involved. Companies, such as Facebook, are also embracing the idea of creating a better work/life balance for their staff, with a practice called ‘vision writing’, where employees are invited to share both their life and professional goals – and ask their bosses to help them achieve them (yes, really).
Think swapping that desk lunch for a rock climbing session, taking time out of your work day to volunteer at a local charity, or working a nine-day fortnight (for the same pay) to give you time to set up your illustration business on the side. Sound impossible? Just read on…
Bring your life to work
Inviting your personal life into the office might sound a bit cringe, but the whole point of this new work/life integration drive is to make even the most typically awkward conversations normal and guilt-free, sending happiness rates soaring. “We’re in the middle of a workplace evolution,” says Gabrielle Bosché, founder of The Millennial Solution, an organisation that advises companies, such as Audi and Microsoft, on how to maintain multi-generational workforces. “Smart businesses are realising that to meet their goals, they need to help employees meet their own ones, too.”
So, what does this mean in reality? It starts with asking employees to create three separate lists – personal goals, professional goals and charity goals – and then adjusting their working week to make time for them. “We have an employee in Australia who wanted to learn how to swim,” says Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP for global marketing solutions. “At each appraisal meeting, she discussed with her boss how she could fit in swimming lessons, and they restructured her work schedule. She’s just completed her first Open Water championship.” Talk about life in the fast lane.
To hit those goals, bosses are collaborating with their staff by inviting them to write a ‘vision letter’. Think of it like a mission statement, where you list your aspirations alongside a time frame, detailing how many hours you need and when you want to achieve them by. Then you share it with your friends, colleagues and bosses to see how they can help. Why? First off, we’re 42% more likely to achieve our goals by writing them down*. Secondly, there are logistics involved with, for instance, booking a conference room every Tuesday to practise your Tai Chi. Either way, everyone knows about it – and your colleagues (who’ll have their own goals to achieve, too) won’t be passive-aggressively clock-watching when you head out.
Everyone’s quids in
OK, so it’s easy to see the benefits for us, but where’s the plus side for your boss when you’re having to skip a meeting to compete in a netball match? “Companies that help their teams find their purpose and live it out at work will see fewer sick days, more fulfilled employees, high productivity rates and lower staff turnover,” explains Gabrielle. The stats agree. A recent Headspace report showed that insurance company Aetna saved £2,300 per employee, per year, on potential lost productivity by introducing a mindfulness initiative.
In some cases, companies will even pay for you to pursue your side-hustles if they understand the benefits. “I work across health and fitness brands for a PR company in London, which started an initiative to support employees in pursuits outside of work,” says Alice, 26. “I’ve always wanted to become a qualified personal trainer and after presenting my case to my bosses, they supported the funding for my training, which would have cost me £2,000. The course was online (with practical tests at the end) so it didn’t interfere drastically with work. I feel much more motivated at work as a result, plus holding a PT qualification adds credibility with clients.”
The idea of being paid by your company to pursue your dreams isn’t as crazy as you might think. Another study by Headspace found employees who felt more engaged in their jobs were 43% more productive and generated around £57,000 more revenue than non-engaged workers.
How to get Project You started
Got a super-supportive boss? Ace. If not, don’t let that stop you. Practise vision writing with a letter to yourself on what you want to achieve by the end of the year to help focus your mind – and your priorities. Saj Jetha, founder of The Smarty Train, a talent advisory service that has helped companies such as EY and HSBC adapt to the changing needs of millennial employees, has this advice for writing one. “First, rid your mind of ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that haunt everyone’s daily work. No more ‘I’m not good enough.’ Secondly, ask yourself: what matters to me? What are my skills? What will leave me fulfilled? Thirdly, list everything you want to do, see and achieve in the next year, alongside a date you wish to have done it by. Keep it concise and clear.”
And while that life-drawing class might not exactly blend seamlessly into your office job, the fact you’re also putting effort and time into something not career related will allow you to switch on at work without resentment. This renewed enthusiasm might just persuade your boss that it’s worth the compromise, especially if you don’t pack it all in and go freelance. Because if we’re still chasing that elusive work/life balance, we really should work just as hard on the ‘life’ bit. Don’t you think?
*Based on results from a study on goal-setting with nearly 270 participants at Dominican University in California.