Spotlight Userlane: Franziska Terzer, VP of People Experience
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Franziska draws on her experience of burn-out and how to avoid it
We caught up with Userlane’s VP of People Experience to discuss her personal and professional approach to staying motivated.
Watch the interview here…
Or read on to hear what Franziska had to say…
Here at Userlane, I am responsible for all topics related to People Experience, and one of those areas in particular I am passionate about is exploring how employees can find a healthy work-life integration.
Importance of integrating work and life
Although, I’m not really a big fan of the phrase ‘work-life balance’, as it gives the impression that your work and life are somehow competing. I prefer to talk about work-life integration. Looking more at how these two aspects can complement each other.
Why is work-life integration so important? Well, if we don’t find a healthy integration, this can lead to us feeling stressed. Especially in the long run, negative stress damages physical and mental health.
Recognising burn-out & taking action
I grew up in a family that ran their own business, which meant weekends or evenings away from work did not really exist. This approach of not switching off from work or separating it from life, informed how I treated work for myself as I started my career. When I started my first job in recruitment, I ended up working 70 hours a week and found it difficult to find a balance.
For approximately 1.5 years I was in a vicious circle of working long hours, and then taking vacation breaks where I just felt exhausted. I knew it was not sustainable.
At the time, I was very good at preaching to friends and colleagues about taking time for themselves and recharging their batteries to avoid feeling too stressed. Yet, I was not able to practice what I preached. I am very passionate about what I do, and I get a lot of satisfaction from my work. But I didn’t have a personal life, and needed to address the problem.
I decided to look at coaching, and completed a two year training program to become a certified business coach. This training gave me perspective on my own self experience, and what I wanted in life and what I was aiming to reach. I learnt that for me, it was really difficult to say no, so I often ended up with a huge overload of work.
I would not say that I now know perfectly how to integrate both life and work. Life is not constant, but that self experience really helped me find balance.
Embedding learnings at Userlane
In my master’s degree, I graduated with an empirical analysis and as part of this, we analyzed the correlation between employee retention and performance and health, especially mental health in the workplace. Interestingly enough, with this broad study we were able to prove that the direct workplace climate as well as the tasks performed by the employee have the largest impact on health as well as performance. Many would probably expect that the company culture would have an impact on mental health – however, we were not able to identify a correlation.
These findings have significant impacts on my work and especially so at Userlane. We strongly emphasize that what people do, and the environment in which they do it, has a significant impact on health as well as performance. What we all want to build is an environment where people are willing to perform intrinsically and where people feel safe.
We put a strong focus on leadership development, and will be rolling out a program for holistic leadership development in the beginning of 2022. We know it can really help when leaders are mindful of their employees’ time and health, and are providing support. We also implement a lot of concepts that are commonly known in the era of ‘new work’. For example, we allow people to work from wherever they want or need to work. This gives our employees the freedom they need in order to get their job done.
The culture and environment we foster at Userlane is not focused on the amount of hours we work, but rather on the outcome. For instance, I personally don’t mind if a team member finishes early if they have their job done.
We have also implemented the ‘Userlane University’ which offers employees the opportunity to find training and coaching courses that are suitable to their career path.
I truly believe that a healthy working environment, where you can openly communicate concerns, ask questions, and talk openly about any issues, will foster a healthy feedback culture.
Top tips for an integrated work life
My first tip is to take time to reflect on who you are, and what you want in life.
Ask yourself, what really drives satisfaction in my life? What am I willing to sacrifice?
I have never seen a colleague in top management who has worked only eight hours a day through their career. Realistically speaking, you have to put in the time and effort to succeed in most jobs. It all starts with setting the right expectations. Do I want to become a Team Leader or Manager? Probably, at least for a certain time, I will have to work more than the contractually agreed working hours.
My second top tip is about finding out what energy drainers you have in your life, and what gives you energy. Knowing what can recharge our batteries, even if it is something really small, is going to help you when you are feeling stressed. For example, my horse gives me a lot of energy, and I have a picture of one of them on my desk. If I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed, he is a reminder of positivity for me.
A final tip is to watch your emotions. Life is not constant and we always end up in situations where we feel more stressed. Pay attention to your emotions in those moments. Take them seriously and take time to reflect on them. Ask yourself why is this happening? We can learn from these situations and develop.
There is a saying in Japanese; “Be like the bamboo bent gracefully and you will never break”. If we learn to be flexible in life, and if we are aware of how much we can bend, we’re able to stay healthy and avoid breaking.
That’s how I want to shape the Userlane working environment; creating a field with a lot of healthy bamboo so they can grow and develop.