Time Out - It's Not Me First, It's Me Too! by Kelly Swingler

And Why Leaders Need To Allow Their People To Put Themselves And Their Families First (Sometimes).

Putting our people first is vital for their wellbeing, and aside from the fact that it makes good business sense, it's the right thing to do. With stress, burnout, mental health issues, health problems, debt, and addiction on the increase, a stressful workplace or toxic workplace culture can play a huge role in the mental, emotional and physical health of our people.

Some employers (although this seems to be decreasing thank goodness), still don't really see why they should invest in the wellbeing of their people. They don't see it as their responsibility, and feel that people should be glad just to receive their pay at the end of the month. And we all need to do more to stop this from happening.

There are then a lot of employers out there, who invest in wellbeing initiatives and benefits, they have a policy in place and they are paying for Mental Health First Aiders, yet when their people need a bit of flexibility to juggle family, personal or home commitments, if there isn't a policy for that, well then they don't what to do, and this is where we need to do better.


Some roles will of course, require you to be at your 'workplace' in order for you to do your job. Surgeons can't put pop up theatres in their living rooms, teachers can't use their dining room table to teach a class of thirty kids and bus drivers can't work from their summer house.

But that doesn't mean we can't be flexible. If a member of your team wants to be at a school play or a doctor's appointment for themselves, a friend or relative, then allow some flex - particularly if they are already working over and above what they need to be doing. The added stress and pressure on the person of feeling that they need to be somewhere else other than work for a short period of time, will cause them to be distracted whilst they are at work and not giving it their full attention, or being particularly productive - so why insist they sit at their desk if you could allow some flex?

If they are likely to be ultra productive during the hours they are at work, knowing they can do what they need and then come back or take an early finish, doesn't that make more sense - for you and them?

And yes, some people may take advantage - and if they do, you have an adult conversation with them. If they keep expecting more and more flexibility, but are giving little back in return, then that's not on, and you should speak to them - but also find out why they are starting to take the Micky a bit. They could have a legitimate reason.


Which brings me on to my next point - we each need to be taking some time out for ourselves. Not to catch up on study, or housework, or DIY, or to take other people to medical appointments, but time out for ourselves - a Mental Wellbeing day if you like. Because time out for ourselves isn't selfish. It's not saying it's about yourself first (although that's ok too), it's about saying, I deserve some time and attention too.

If we're each giving 100% at work, and then doing the same at home, and juggling working hours with home life and all of the things we need to do in our daily lives, it can be hard to find the time for ourselves. But if we don't take the time for ourselves, then we can't keep giving 100% at home or at work.

As an introvert my 'Mental Wellbeing Days' usually involve my alone time. I might read, I might listen to music, watch a film, do Yoga, meditation, sit in silence, sit in the garden, go for walk, or I might just sleep. I might however, choose to spend it with family or friends, but whatever I do, I make sure it's my choice. I don't plan anything in, I just give myself permission to use the time as I want to use it. And that's the joy of it.

And I know that if I don't take these days when I need them, I can't be Mum, or boss, or Coach, or cook, or taxi, I can't write, I can't read, I can't lead, I can't be effective for myself, or for anyone else.

So as leaders in business, we all have busy lives - but if our people are working flat out for us five or more days a week, in early and home late, should we really expect them to take a 'holiday' to visit a doctor, or attend a school play - when I can assure you that a large group of singing to you for hours is not relaxing!


When my sons were young their Dad and I, my parents and their Grandma would juggle school holidays between us - but with so many holidays to cover, I had no days left for myself at all, which is perhaps why when I did burn out, and could have done with a Mental Wellbeing day (or week), I crashed so spectacularly.

Shouldn't we be encouraging our people to put themselves first sometimes? And shouldn't we be supporting them a little more with tasks that they need to get done during the week outside of work?

And it's not about taking a sick day. Call it a duvet day, call it a Mental Wellbeing Day, call it a self day, or a selfless day, or a giving back day, or a recharge day, or a lazy day - call it what you want, but give it to your people, or allow them to take it when they need it. And yes, again, some people will take the Micky. They might want one weekly. They might want to use all of their holiday for holidays on their own to the Bahamas and then still want days for deliveries to their home, or hair appointments, or to watch the footie - so of course, set some parameters if you need to.

But be flexible - because this is how you start to change the world of work!


The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Chrysalis Consulting.


Kelly Swingler is the Rule Breaker and Founder of Chrysalis Consulting, The People and Change Experts and was appointed as the UK’s Youngest HR Director.  Kelly is passionate about helping people find bespoke people solutions to suit the needs of their business and is driving our mission of inspiring and empowering 10,000 HR professionals in 2018. She is the author of Fostering a Mindset for Career SuccessAGILE HR and what’s your excuse for not Overcoming Stress and speaks at many events on the Future of Work.