International Women’s Day 2021


International Women’s Day, on 8th March,  is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.  But it is more than that, it’s a rallying cry to all that we have still not achieved gender parity or equality. It’s no secret that during the past year, women’s equality has been challenged by the stresses and pressures of Covid-19 and lockdown. Young women and working mothers have been particularly challenged financially, socially, physically and mentally. You may disagree but we firmly believe that at no point in time has the wellbeing of women been as important as it is now.

At Your Employee Wellbeing, we have the great pleasure of working with some incredible women amongst our clients and speakers. We reached out to three of them to ask what wellbeing meant to them as individuals, to their families and to the businesses.

Vicky Gosling, OBE

Victoria has had an outstanding career to date with many achievements, including being the Chief Executive Officer for Invictus Games 2016 in Orlando and the Military Project Lead for the first Invictus Games (London 2014), inspiring 14 nations and over 400 athletes to compete. A mother of 3 children, Victoria was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2004 following her deployment on Operations and for her commitment to RAF Waddington. She was subsequently appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2014 for her commitment to RAF Benson and to adaptive sports.

In my experience, wellbeing starts with you as an individual. Before we can help others, we must be in a good place ourselves. We all have a slightly different model of managing our wellbeing – for me; it comes down to three simple things. I start every day doing some form of exercise be that running, cycling or pilates  – this gets my energy levels flowing and certainly clears my foggy mind for the day ahead. Secondly, I always feel better sharing my concerns and wins with my husband on a dog walk – this ability to download and often rationalise what I am thinking helps tremendously. Finally, I always feel better if I avoid drinking on a school night – something that has certainly taken a great deal of will power during lockdown.

Being a parent of three fairly young children and a puppy, whilst managing a high-profile career can be challenging.  An essential cog in my wellbeing model is providing a happy, secure and fun loving home environment for the family. Work/life balance is particularly tricky at the moment given the office, home, and school are all the same place! That aside, ensuring weekends have a different feel to the weekday routine, and making sure the time spent with the kids and my husband is quality time where I am fully present is key to all of our wellbeing.

At work and as a leader in an organisation, I feel it is critical for me to create and foster the right culture to allow the wellbeing of the team to thrive.  My focus is on ensuring an environment where people have the psychological safety to be their best self.  I also strongly believe that you need to have a clear vision, shared values and a strong sense of purpose to truly generate positive wellbeing and a feeling of belonging among the workforce.

Leigh Lafever-Ayer

Leigh is HR Director, UK & Ireland for Enterprise Holdings, one of our clients. Enterprise has been part of The Times Top 50 Companies for Women and in the Top 10 Social Mobility Index since its inception. It received the Business in the Community Race Equality award for Recruitment (and were shortlisted again in 2020) and BITC Race Equality Leadership award in 2017. Leigh advises Enterprising Women, sponsors their Lean In Circle and is editor of DRIVE magazine. Passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, she holds  leadership board positions in the Business in the Community Gender Equality Campaign, Global Diversity Practice Advisory and the Bridge Builders Mentoring Advisory Board.

The term ‘wellbeing’ has taken on many personas over the past year.  For some, its focus is mental or physical health.  Others include other aspects of wellbeing alongside.  For example, financial wellbeing, good work practices and a sense of community can foster wellbeing. So can inclusive leadership that creates a culture of diversity and inclusion where everyone feels they can belong.

With our diverse and widespread employee base, at Enterprise Holdings, we try to embrace as many aspects of wellbeing as possible to ensure people get the support that they need to feel their best at work. We have been very committed to getting our mental health first aider programme up and running and the course is now very popular. We have trained over 100 employees: a huge milestone. 

We created a Wellbeing space on our internal systems to sign post employees to useful resources, like the Your Employee Wellbeing portal, EAP and other helpful lifestyle, personal and professional development tools and financial wellbeing services. 

My own personal wellbeing, over the past year has been about micro-changes that make big differences.  Sleep is a good example.   As the pandemic unfolded in March and April, I realised that I needed to improve my sleep patterns in order to have the energy to deal with the rapid pace of change in the business and to deal with my responsibilities as a parent at the same time. I used the time that I would have spent on the commute, business travel and late evening, sometimes overnight, business events across the country to put a plan into place that gave me a sense of clarity and calmness during a time of uncertainty to promote good sleep. 

This micro-change made me realise how important a topic such as sleep can be to a business and improved productivity.  There are other areas that sometimes aren’t discussed and that can bring value to a business when they are addressed. 

As our patterns have changed around how we use technology, and our lives have become more blended with many of us working from home, I have started thinking about how we can make some small changes that can have a big impact on employees, particularly women.  Giving people the time to talk and genuinely listen about micro-changes, whether it be in wellbeing or equality is one way we can #ChooseToChallenge. 

Sarah Boddey

Sarah is the Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, EMEA and Asia Pacific at one of our clients, Northern Trust. With over 17 years’ experience in the banking, insurance and legal sectors, she is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development). She is a DE & I champion and regularly talks at HR and DE&I industry events on topics such as Gender bilingualism, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) equality and Disability inclusion. She is also an approved Mental Health First Aid instructor with Mental Health First Aid England, teaching their Adult Mental Health First Aid courses.

As we approach a full twelve months of working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is an interesting time to reflect on what wellbeing has meant to me over the last year. Wellbeing plays an ongoing, critical role as we continue to manage the challenges the pandemic still brings and as we begin to consider what the future of work will look like. 

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our wellbeing and mental health over the last year are well known. In many ways the pandemic has been a great help in accelerating the conversation about what we individually and collectively need to do to look after each other and ourselves.  Northern Trust already had a multi-faceted wellbeing strategy in place before the pandemic which meant we could quickly tweak and repurpose elements of it to meet the new and urgent challenges that everyone was facing.  We started by reminding staff of all the wellbeing and mental health resources they already had access to. As the days and weeks progressed and we listened to what our staff were telling us we were able to offer webinars and virtual session on all sorts of topics and issues that were affecting their wellbeing, from the pressures of home schooling to the feelings of isolation and loneliness that some were experiencing.  We continue to this day to offer this ongoing support and listen to our employees’ needs.  For example, upcoming in March we have a focused month of sessions on COVID-19 wellbeing support, offered globally on topics such as avoiding burnout, managing personal and professional relationships effectively, and children and teenagers’ mental health.

For me personally the pandemic has forced me to consciously think about my own wellbeing in ways that I never had before – even though I’m a Mental Health First Aid instructor with MHFA England!  I was always sharing tips and advice with everyone about what they should do to protect their mental health and be proactive about their wellbeing and not always taking my own medicine.  I am now spending significantly more time outside than ever before.  I’ve discovered little streets and pocket-parks that I never knew existed and that has ignited a real interest in learning more about local history which I’d never really thought about before.  So I would really encourage everyone to give themselves the space and time to consider what wellbeing silver linings have come from the pandemic so far and plan for how you can make those permanent habits moving forward.

Thank you…

…to all our contributors to this article: Victoria Gosling, Leigh Laver-Ayer and Sarah Boddey. They are key examples of women who have chosen to challenge the status quo and make a difference for men and women in their industries. We all have a choice in life. We can all choose to challenge and make a difference not only to our own lives but those around us.

Your Employee Wellbeing works with businesses to support the wellbeing of their employees. Focusing on dealing with life’s challenges we are here to help your employees

We do this through our bespoke programmes for larger businesses and through our new service PC Employee Care for smaller businesses with up to 100 employees.

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