By: Jo Sweet, Global HR Director at Smart Communications

Over the last few years, business leaders and HR teams have become more curious and conscious about the many factors that contribute to a positive employee experience. In seeking out how to create better employee engagement and retention programs, leaders have recognized just how important these two factors are to the company’s overall success. What’s more is that research shows that retention and engagement can both be strengthened by fostering a workplace culture that allows for flexibility, wellbeing (both mental and physical) and work/life balance. 

At Smart Communications, we believe it’s important to foster a culture that encourages employee wellbeing. We love that so many of our employees around the globe prioritize their health and wellness, and are happy to highlight five individuals  who embody these attributes in this post.  

Three Peaks Challenge: Andreas Neocleous, Corporate Project Manager 

1. What is the Three Peaks Challenge?

The UK National Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales. Although achievable within 24 hours, realistically, it’s very rarely accomplished due to the distances between the mountains and the necessary driving involved. People normally attempt this challenge for personal achievement and to raise much-needed funds for charities. It is also a great event to catch up with friends and colleagues or to meet new people. I was also joined by our CEO, James Brown, as well as many other members of the Smart Communications family, including: Abbi Pollock, Amir Shurrab, Charlie Kassel, Chris Childs, Carlos Mendez, Graeme Wright, Richard Ward, Waseem Malik, Zaahid Bharmal, Yuri Kogun, and Byron Harper.

2. What motivated you to take part in it? 

I first heard about the National Three Peaks Challenge more than 30 years ago when I was participating in a different challenge, the Three Peaks of Yorkshire. Though competing in the national challenge has been on my bucket list ever since, I didn’t have an opportunity to attempt it until 2009. This event helped us raise funds for Hospitallers, a relief organization that provides aid to Ukrainian paramedics. 

3. How has working at Smart Communications impacted your work/life balance?

When I joined Smart Communications in Oct. 2006, I was able to cycle to the office every day. The on-site shower facilities allowed me to have a workout on the way to the office, and then again on the way back home. I found cycling a much better way to exercise than going to the gym. Since the pandemic, I’ve rediscovered running, so I’ve replaced the commuting time with running instead of cycling. 

Bike Ride for Breast Cancer Research: Mel Burns, Senior Director of Global Demand Generation 

1. What was this event and what motivated you to take part in it? 

Women V Cancer, Ride the Night London is a charity ride to raise vital funds for three important charities at a time when they need it most; Breast Cancer Now, Ovarian Cancer Action and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Riders began at 10:30 pm and needed to complete the 100-kilometer (6 miles) route by 7:00 am the next morning. The route followed a ‘palace to palace’ circular ride, starting at Windsor, riding through London (passing Buckingham Palace) and returning to Windsor. If you fancy the route for yourself, you can view it here. 

So many people have been touched or impacted by these devastating diseases, and personally losing my maternal grandmother to breast cancer drove me to this challenge. This event really resonated due to the potential impact and funds we could raise. I’ve also really enjoyed cycling and have been taking it more seriously at club level since lockdown. 

2. How has working at Smart Communications impacted your work/life balance? 

Since my role has a global scope across a vast number of time zones, I enjoy the flexibility of being able to connect with colleagues with the occasional late or early morning call. In turn, I give myself time once a week to get a ride in, or to engage in my other passion, Pilates. Having this flexibility works well for me since I ensure I carve out time to balance the needs of my role (being flexible and accommodating to time-zone differences) with the importance of personal time. 

3. As a leader in the business, how do you/will you encourage your team to engage in healthy habits? 

To me, having a healthy work/life balance and adopting healthy habits are imperative for success, performance and a person’s mind and wellbeing. I try to lead by example, encouraging and supporting my team to enjoy their own activities. We also have a rule that when you’re on vacation or taking PTO, it’s a digital detox from work. We do this because we believe that a healthy mind is more motivated and recharged to succeed professionally. This is something I feel we’ve all benefited from learning during the pandemic. 

Peloton Club: Mary Featherstone, Director of Global Campaigns and Content 

1. Tell me about the Peloton Club 

The Peloton Club at Smart Communications started about two years ago and consists of team members from around the globe, from nearly every department, including marketing, sales, product, customer success and more.  

We meet every Monday at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET/ 5 p.m. BST in a pre-determined class to compete, have fun and get in a little workout 

We have an internal Teams channel where we decide on upcoming rides and share fun workouts we’ve done on our own, thoughts on Peloton news and more. Our tag is #CCMInnovators and we welcome anyone to join us! 

2. What about Peloton motivates you to exercise/challenge yourself to meet new exercise goals? 

I was fortunate enough to have purchased my Peloton in Dec. 2019 – just a few months before exercising from home would be the norm! It’s probably one of the best purchase decisions I’ve ever made. 

Two of my favorite things about Peloton: 

  • They focus on being strong and feeling good instead of anything appearance related. 
  • The content is always new and fresh! It’s impossible to get bored. 

For me, it’s fun to compete against myself and always push myself to achieve something new and I am able to do that with Peloton. 

3. How has working at Smart Communications impacted your work/life balance? 

One of my favorite parts about working at Smart Communications is the room we have to prioritize health, family and more. I joined the company in July 2020 when most of the world was still locked down, so Peloton Club became a way for me to “meet” and connect with colleagues from other areas of the business. I recently celebrated my 600th ride and several colleagues joined me for the milestone class – I love the camaraderie and support!  

Whether it’s Peloton Club or another athletic endeavor, prioritizing healthy lifestyles is encouraged at Smart Communications – and that’s a sentiment that starts at the top. There have been many days where I step away from my desk to either get in a Peloton workout or take a walk outside and come back feeling more creative and inspired to work.  

7-Day Bike Tour Through Italy: Karen Oakland, VP Financial Services Marketing  

1. What brought you to Italy for this bike ride? 

I originally got into distance cycling by training for some charity rides and have completed sponsored rides for local MS, breast cancer and AIDS organizations. However, this one was purely for fun. I find bike trips to be a great way to tour a new place.  

Northern Italy and the lake district have always been on my bucket list. I started looking at possible group bike tours and found this 7-day trip hosted by Vermont Bicycle Tours (VBT).  We rode about 25-35 miles per day – fueled by a lot of amazing Italian food and wine!  

2. How did this trip impact you as a person and in your role at Smart Communications? 

First, I was grateful for the opportunity to add a holiday onto a business trip to support some key Smart Communications events in London, and happy to have the chance to travel internationally again after the past few years.  

Second, it’s always amazing to experience a different culture firsthand and get out of one’s bubble.  

Third, it’s been an incredibly busy year at work, especially with events coming back, so it was just nice to get away and have a rest and be offline.  

3. How has working at Smart Communications impacted your work/life balance? 

Working from home enables that balance. Some days, I’m on phone calls at 7 am or before, so morning workouts are often difficult. But I enjoy the flexibility of being able to take a break when needed in the afternoon. I also appreciate that I’m able to adapt my schedule to both personal and company needs, without a lot of challenges.  

Corporate Step Challenge: Jo Sweet, Global HR Director 

1. What is the corporate step challenge? 

We launched a mileage challenge to kickstart the year with our first global wellbeing initiative. The goal was for us to collectively walk, cycle, run or swim around the world (24,901 miles!). We used an app that could sync with employees’ fitness devices or phones, highlighting the top contributors for those who are competitive. It was also to encourage employees to step away from their laptops each day and focus on fitness, health and/or mindfulness.  

2. When thinking of employee culture/wellness, what are the three priorities for your HR team in 2023? 

  • Work/Life Balance. We will continue to focus on work/life balance as we evolve our hybrid approach to working, which allows employees the flexibility to work from home and encourages those employees near an office to make the most of their in-person interactions using the offices as a hub for creativity, collaboration and socializing.  
  • Communication. Better communication leads to better employee wellbeing.  We need to ensure business leaders can identify what their employees need/want and have regular check-ins to see how their team members are feeling and that employees are able to raise any concerns they are facing inside and outside of the workplace. Ensuring employees are communicated with, listened to and appropriate action taken is critical to business success. 
  • Wellbeing. We will continue to add more of the health and wellbeing events we have highlighted in this article for employees to be able to participate to encourage time to focus on their health and wellbeing. But of course, it’s not just about exercise; we also provide all employees with access to an Employee Assistance Program to ensure they can reach out to professional counsellors to support any issues they may be facing and allows for some free face to face counseling sessions throughout the year. 

Smart Communications Encourages a Work/Life Balance 

We believe that people are most productive and do their best work when they feel renewed, both in mind and body. For some, that begins with exercise, time out of the “office” and/or having the time to make charitable contributions to causes that are close to their hearts. According to one source, having a healthy work/life balance has been shown to: 

  • Improve motivation, focus and concentration 
  • Create better teamwork and communication 
  • Reduce stress levels and improve overall health 

When it comes to exercise and mental wellbeing, having time to step away and disconnect from work is imperative. Whether an individual is working from home, in an office or a combination of both, companies that allow their employees to make time for healthy habits will elicit the above benefits and so much more. 

Like what you read about the work/life balance and overall corporate culture at Smart Communications? Check out our open roles and consider joining the team!