An interview with this year’s Breaking the Silence Award Winner; Jo Newman
Jo Newman is a budding wellbeing advocate, who is fighting for the workplace to be a place that helps individuals achieve peace and happiness.
Jo has enhanced the wellbeing of colleagues by quite simply listening to them. At a previous organisation, Jo noticed that whenever staff were given the opportunity to leave feedback, they kept asking for training to help them better handle stress, and training for managers to better recognise and support team members who were experiencing said stress. Jo recognised the consistency of the message, stepped forward and started to make change happen.
By continuing to listen to and support her team members, Jo has been the driving force for a number of wellbeing initiatives and support for countless individuals.
“I would dearly love for others to enjoy their lives and experience peace in their hearts, life is precious and so short, …..and our experiences in the workplace have a HUGE part to play in that,” she said.
Jo is on a continued mission to inspire businesses to make their employees’ wellbeing one of their priorities and to help businesses implement new practices that will help both them and their employees make workplace wellbeing business as usual. And all of Jo’s work and passions have not gone a miss - as we spotlighted Jo at this year’s Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards.
We caught up with Jo to ask her what winning this award meant to her, find out more about her journey with workplace wellbeing, and what we can expect to see from her in the future.
“Winning this award felt very validating,” she said. “Because I went into wellbeing organically, rather than doing a specific degree, or setting out on this career path, it was extremely validating for me to get the award and know that what I’ve been doing was right, and is making a difference.”
One of the stand-out things about Jo is her passion for the topic of wellbeing, and as she explained how this was an organic transition, we were keen to know more about her journey with workplace wellbeing. How she ended up on this career path, and where her initial passion came from.
“I was working as a PA and the MD who worked there at the time said that they weren’t utilising my skillset as best they could, which he noted were interpersonal relations and engagement with the workforce. So we introduced workplace wellbeing into my job role, which had never been done before,” she explained. “The main driver to this skillset I would say is years of varied life and work experiences, not all good, and not all bad. I have dealt with my own mental health struggles, and I truly believe mental health shouldn’t be treated differently than any other spectrum of health.”
“Long before there was a conversation around mental health, it was very apparent to me that the physical health spectrum is so wide, so why would our emotional spectrum be any smaller?”
“Life is short, we only have one life and until we retire the majority of our hours are spent in the workplace, and if that workplace doesn’t feel good, and is causing you stress and anxiety, then it’s a real waste of the life we have - and I don’t believe workplaces should have the right to make you feel that way,” she said.
Jo has shown that she knows the importance of individuals’ well-being, and the work she has put in to help improve this subject in the workplace is truly inspiring. She has already done so much to help break boundaries for people, and improve the way employers support their employees. So, we were interested to find out what’s next for Jo, in both her personal and professional wellbeing missions.
“In my personal wellbeing journey, im committed to doing things that benefit me. I don’t own a car so I walk everywhere, I do yoga roughly three times a week, and I practice meditation - so im very committed to bettering my own wellbeing,” she said. “Im a true believer that one of the best ways to achieve happiness is by giving, so I volunteer with the Samaritans. I think you get to a stage in your life where giving back to society is important, and I think the Samaritans help me use my own skill set to help others - doing all of these things helps me have a really full, but positive life.”
“In my professional life, I would love to have my next workplace wellbeing role in a setting where I can take it to the next level. I want to be in a place where my input on the subject is reaching the boards, so that strategic decisions are being made with wellbeing in mind, in the same way that health and safety are considered,” she said.
“Time and time again on surveys with CIPD, two of the most common factors of stress is workload, and line-manager relations. So we know where the problems are, but now it’s time to put our money where our mouth is and make these things better. The free fruit and the weekly yoga sessions aren’t enough, they don’t change the workload and demands, so we need a real step change to take place.”
“30 years ago in the workplace, it wasn’t so frenzied, if you were away from your desk, or in the middle of something no one else could get hold of you. Whereas now everyone has multiple email accounts, a work phone, company intranets, communication channels, and much more - and that’s just for work. When are we going to acknowledge that this is too much?”
Jo explained how it is no wonder the advancements in technology are a contributing factor to stress and burnout in the workplace and expressed how in her next role she is on a mission to create more work-life harmony. Jo also explained how it is crucial for line-manager relations to see improvement. “We all know that people don’t leave a job, they leave a line manager,” she said. It’s crucial for businesses to take a hard look and make sure the line managers treat everyone equally and respectfully to maintain a positive working environment.
Lastly, with her extensive knowledge and experience, we asked Jo if she had one piece of advice for increasing positive wellbeing, in both professional and personal lives, what would it be?
“My main message to businesses would be that feeling valued is a fundamental, core, human need. If business leaders could fully embrace and embody this, I believe we would be on the right path to getting workplace wellbeing right,” she said.
“In terms of individual wellbeing, I would say it’s absolutely essential for people to make sure that they take time for themselves, even if this is just once a week. Do something that is mindful, and this doesn’t have to be something like yoga or meditating it could be as simple as watching your favourite football team or going to the cinema. Make sure you have time where you’re not responsible for anyone or anything else, and you can truly nurture your soul.”
Are you a business looking to put wellbeing at the top of your priority list, and need the right person to do it? Contact Jo here.