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Workstyle Stories 016 - 'Jo'

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Welcome to Workstyle Stories because life changes and every life is different. And work needs to respect that. And this week, we are talking about how our assumptions around work shape our careers, and how workstyle can help us, perhaps be more aware of some of those assumptions and use that awareness for our benefit. And there's nobody better to talk to us about that than Jo Wong. Hello, Jo. Hello, Alex. Thank you for inviting me. It's an absolute pleasure. It's great to have you here. Jo, for the benefit of everybody tuning in, would you mind just telling us a little bit about who you are, where you are and what you do? Yep, my name is Jo Wong. I'm a chartered occupational psychologist. And I have spent most of my career working with business leaders and specialising in the area all around leaders and what makes them effective. I live in Bristol, I have two little boys who are six and four. I'm married to my husband, who's a lawyer. That's me. Amazing. That's brilliant. And obviously, your background and your profession will help us hugely, I think, with this conversation. So it's my turn to be the one in the chair and asking the questions. I'm going to start by going back before work, to your childhood and your upbringing. Tell me a little bit about how that was. Did your parents work traditional jobs and how did that shape your perceptions of work? This feels really weird Alex, you're basically sitting in my psychologist chair now, which is great. So I'm going to go all the way back. And it is interesting, because as psychologists, we're interested in where we've come from, and how that informs our decisions and what we do. So my background is that my family were all quite atypical in some respects - none of them had a conventional nine to five job. So I grew up in rural Shropshire and my dad was self employed - deals in old cars but more widely in the family of that generation, people hadn't necessarily gone to Uni, and they had their own businesses - so artists, antiques dealers, and so on. So I didn't grow up with the model that looked like parents going off and doing the nine to five. And instead, really, work happened very much as part of life, and customers sat around the kitchen table probably from about the age of six, I was picking up the phone to customers. And because it was all in one place and also, it's interesting, because it meant my parents' roles were quite entwined in the sense that yes, my mum was a traditional 'looking after the kids' kind of mum, but also, I probably didn't realise until later, was doing a huge amount in the business as well. But it was just very meshed together. So you didn't necessarily see a sort of division as such, between work and life, the two are kind of much more integrated within the household, for both your mum and dad. Absolutely. That's great. Completely! I remember going to my best friend's house and being really surprised when there was a moment where her dad came home from work and joined in with tea, and I was like: oh, actually, my dad, would often be very busy - don't get me wrong - would work long hours into the night and so on, but there was a presence there that meant that he was around for a lot of things growing up, and it would be quite normal in the daytime for him to be there at lunchtime, and so on. Fantastic, so workstyle pioneers then - you were raised by pioneers of this way of thinking about work. Well this is it, it wasn't until we booked in this conversation Alex, that I sat and reflected and I thought, oh my goodness, my parents were workstyle pioneers, they just didn't know it! That's amazing, good for them, and if they're tuning in, thank you, that's obviously had an influence on your daughter and how she thinks about work. So let's talk about that, so how did that then shape the way you pictured your own career and the decisions that you made along the way? So what's really interesting about this is that it was on some very implicit level. I perhaps wasn't explicitly aware that I was carrying this with me, but it did mean that, for example, when I went to Uni, I wasn't that excited by the prospect of engaging with the milk round and the idea of going and working in a really big company. I was quite, almost rebellious, in the sense of rejecting that and deciding to very much go off and do my own thing. And what that meant is that I went and joined more of a startup early in my career that was a startup headhunting company and it meant that my assumptions going through my career were that probably I'd work in smaller boutique-type environments, rather than naturally finding a home in a big multinational, or seeing that as being where I'd go. Yep, that makes a lot of sense. So how has that changed now then recently, so preparing for this call obviously made you a bit more aware of your parents' role, and them as workstyle pioneers. And the role of workstyle now in your life - has that changed anything? How has it made it clearer? Yes, so what was interesting is I sort of ended up in a situation where I accidentally ended up in a really big multinational environment, because the small boutique that I'd grown up in was acquired. And that was great and actually with that came huge opportunities and I got to do wonderful global work. I worked with senior leaders all around the world, so I can't complain at all. I sort of in my heart knew that ultimately, I perhaps wanted to work in a different way, so I did exit that environment and set up on more of a flexible basis and I work with a range of fantastic companies, of which Hoxby is one. But what's fascinating is that the whole idea of workstyle, and the way that Hoxby has brought that to the fore, for me is very interesting, because it's made me think much more explicitly about the choices that I make around what work I choose to do and what I love to do, and being able to do that according to a timetable, if you like and perhaps be better boundaried around that as well. Love that. So, the idea of workstyle, and making a conscious decision about when or where you work, make some of the decisions that would otherwise have been implicit, explicit. So when they start to become explicit decisions, you do that with more of a conscious motivation, right? So, what do you find are the things that drive your conscious decision-making then and drive your workstyle to be the way that it is? I think what it's helped with, is to be much more explicit and aware that when I do choose to flex workstyle, that is my choice and I own that and respect it. And that comes from a place of what feels like control and empowerment, which is fantastic that means when I am doing my work, it tends to be work that I love to do. But I also have a kind of almost more mature relationship with it, in the sense that because I've been really explicit with my workstyle, I'm better at going, well I've chosen this and that ups my own personal accountability in some respects. Not that it wasn't before but it's a different relationship with work, and I think that is really powerful this idea that you craft your work experience for yourself, and you make some really explicit choices about that, rather than it being more implied, which perhaps it had been earlier on in my life/in my career. Amazing, and so we're all about working around life so what does that enable then for you, in terms of life outside work and your sense of self and wellbeing. So one of the things that getting more explicit about workstyle's done for me, is to change the intention to do a bit more exercise and look after my wellbeing, into a reality. Into an actual thing! Before this call I actually did my Monday morning run and I'm in the smug zone! But this point is true you know, I now regularly maintain that, and I've been able to be part of a community as well, where that's reinforced. So I've enjoyed the Hoxby Loop 365, where we're running around the world, and there's social support with that. But I think beyond that - that kind of ability to create the right sort of space for wellbeing has been a really important shift. I think that's so true and particularly with fitness and a focus on wellbeing, we're always full of good intent, aren't we, but very rarely do we follow through. And it's almost that same thing of having an explicit and more mature relationship with that thing that enables you to then go and do it and whether that's going for a run or saying no to a piece of work that contradicts with other things going on your life. Jo, that's been just so deeply insightful, as you might have expected I would find it. We've run out of time for this episode, but I think we will have lots to talk about again in the future, I'm sure. Thank you very much for sharing your workstyle story with us. We've been Workstyle Stories, we'll see you next time. Bye bye for now. Bye, thank you.

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Duration: 9 minutes and 27 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Posted by: _kim_nguyen on Dec 5, 2020

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