An internal study shows that a mere three percent of IG&H consultants experience a lot of stress at work. The vast majority claim to have found a good work/life balance, including those who have children. Managers at IG&H, who are ultimately responsible for projects, have a jam-packed schedule. How do they experience job stress, and how do they deal with it?
IG&H’s internal figures are remarkable. On average, 16.7 percent of employed people in the Netherlands feel stressed, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Another recent study shows that the stress level increases rapidly when people work on different projects in changing teams.
As a retail manager, Joost Verver has a challenging job. He is responsible for the successful completion of several client projects. He is also the father of a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old. He rates his average stress level at 7.5. “When things get overly hectic, I can always rely on one of my co-workers. At IG&H, we really work as a team. Furthermore, friendship is incredibly important within the company.”
His co-worker Merel Koster-Broek agrees. Recently, she got promoted to health manager. She is also the mother of a nine-month-old daughter. Her situation is similar to Joost’s: her partner, too, has a demanding job. “This means we can’t just fall back on each other, so we have to organize everything really well,” she says.
At IG&H, managers have several targets, such as the firm and sales contributions and the number of billable hours. Furthermore, the personal development of employees is taken into account. All these things contribute to the allocation of the end-of-year bonus.
Managers are free to choose how they spend their firm contribution. Merel focuses on the introductory program for new employees. “I like teaching people new things, and I’m really the person who puts energy into it and innovates the program. I’ve done this ever since I started working at IG&H. Like Joost, I also work on the product-owner process from the Technology Team, which is very important for the successful implementation of platforms.”
Strictly define working hours
Officially, both managers work 32 hours a week. Although in practice, they both work a few hours more each week, they strictly guard their leisure time. “I prefer not to work evenings. If I’m still at my computer at eight thirty, I really don’t sleep well,” says Joost. “On Wednesdays, I’m always off. In the morning, my kids go to school, which means I can basically organize my own schedule. Sometimes, when work has gotten overly hectic, I use this morning to catch up. This is the case, for example, when I have to write a proposal for clients, which occurs approximately six to eight times a year.”
Merel, on the other hand, chooses not to think about work on her day off. “I spend my Thursdays with my daughter. When I work overtime, I usually do it in the evenings of my working days. Incidentally, I also worked overtime a few hours a week when I still had a 40-hour contract. The thing is, there’s never enough time to complete all your tasks. Fortunately, I really like my job, so I enjoy working.”
Avoiding traffic jams
Joost says he would have rated his stress level much higher in the past. “As a consultant, you travel across the country. If you end up in a traffic jam after working hours, chances are you’ll be late collecting your kids from the day-care center, which comes with a range of consequences. I’ve felt a lot more at ease since we hired a nanny. If we get home a little later in the evening, they’ve already eaten. That’s very convenient for everyone.”
Traffic jams turn out to be a controversial topic among a lot of managers who have children. That is why Joost isn’t the only one who has help at home to create peace and space. Some get help with cooking meals, others with taking care of the children. Some employees share care tasks with their partner or parents(-in-law). “One co-worker, for example, has four children, and her husband works close to home. He never has to deal with traffic jams, which means he can always be at the day-care center on time,” says Merel.
Merel, too, takes her child to daycare. “In principle, we always work at the client’s location or at the office. This benefits the quality of our work. Therefore, I try to schedule my working hours in such a way that I can avoid traffic jams. Fortunately, I often can. The most recent project I worked on was pretty far from home. That’s why I left at three in the afternoon every day – so I could avoid traffic jams. I’d continue to work for a few more hours at home, so I could collect my daughter on time.”
Get help where needed
Because of the close-knit atmosphere at IG&H, Joost and Merel don’t have trouble discussing any issues with their co-workers. “There’s little we wouldn’t do for each other. By the way, that’s another crucial reason why I like working at IG&H. When necessary, each of my co-workers helps me out. If, for example, I experience a lot of stress, they’ll stay an hour longer to finish a task. Or they’ll reschedule an appointment.”
To lend new mothers a helping hand in finding a good balance, IG&H has hired ‘Proud Mum.’ This organization supports women during and after their pregnancy. Female co-workers can opt for three types of guidance: personal training, nutritional advice, and coaching from a psychologist. “A new mother’s life changes significantly. It’s a true gift that IG&H provides pregnant women with this kind of help. For me, it resulted in a lot of positive things,” says Merel.
Joost says that ultimately, finding a good work/life balance is mainly a matter of setting priorities. “As for me, my kids and partner take the first and second spots on my priority list. I don’t live for my job, which is why it takes the third spot. Setting priorities means I have to drop other things. For example, I no longer go to the gym three times a week. You have to accept that you can’t do everything.”