Fighting the January Blues with Matt Kwiecinski

Blue Monday

For Blue Monday, we discuss with Matt Kwiecinski, UK CEO of Journey Further, about the ‘three hours free’ initiative and how taking time away from work can actually be more beneficial.

Your company Journey Further has a ‘three hours free’ initiative, can you explain more about what this entails?

We’re asking everyone in the business to take time away from their screens on Wednesday afternoons in January and February to aid their well-being. We’ve blocked out between 2 pm-5 pm in everyone’s calendars so that employees can effectively switch off. There’s no expectation to be online (of course if you need to, you can be).

We’ve been running this initiative for two years now and know that it’s more effective when it’s a shared experience. So, we encourage everyone to take the same time out if possible.

The winter month in the UK can be a challenge for all so it’s important to empower our employees to take off the time they need to de-stress.

Our approach to flexibility is, and always will be, that each individual has control over their schedule to work whenever works for them, but we also understand that it’s not always easy for everyone to take the time they need, so we’ve received fantastic feedback internally from the initiative.

How can employees use their ‘three hours free’?

It’s up to each employee to choose how they want to improve their well-being – employees have used the time to see friends and family, go bouldering, exercising, baking, or even run errands that have been on their to-do list.

You say that ‘trust works both ways’. In what ways does the employee need to trust the employer?

It’s crucial that employees trust their employer to deliver on their mission and values. You can’t just talk about why you exist and how you’ll make that purpose a reality – you need to act accordingly. ‘Three hours free’ is a great example of Journey Further acting according to its mission and values.

The way that senior employees in the business behave and remodel the culture is pivotal in creating high trust. It’s important that senior team members join in with initiatives like this and encourage employees to get involved.

What more can employers do to help those particularly vulnerable, like sufferers of depression and anxiety?

Employers should strike a balance between preventative measures to both maintain and improve employee well-being, and early intervention when employees require more support.

Alongside trust, an open culture and a considered approach to managing workload, employers can implement initiatives like this to support their employees.

When more support is required, employers should look to get the support of external partners who specialise in therapy and coaching. We have two key partners who assist us: Chakra, which is an amazing organisation that provides employees with access to various therapies, and employees can self-refer in confidence. This is supported by our partner, Vitality which provides additional access to talking therapies and, when needed, private healthcare.

Have you seen a negative impact in productivity during January and February?

No, there hasn’t been a negative impact on productivity. For me, it’s about trusting our employees to handle their own schedule and workload. If something that is time-bound needs delivering, of course it’s delivered.


As featured in Business Leader