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We sat down with Aubrey Sonnenberg from SeventeenHundred to talk about work-life balance and what it means in today’s rapidly evolving global marketplace.
Hi Aubrey, could you please tell us about your business? What is SeventeenHundred?
You know when you are running out the door to go to work, or perhaps you’re already there but you arrive stressed about the loan that you are about to take out or an expense that is due soon? Or perhaps you are worried because you have to make a decision about where your daughter is going to go to school or who will look after your 5-year-old from 3.15…and this is before your day has even begun! Has that ever happened to you? These are just some of the many examples of stresses facing employees today. SeventeenHundred as a business is built to provide assistance and help these people.
Whatever the reason for our stress, it usually falls into one of three categories: health, happiness, or security. When we have those cups adequately full, we bring our best selves to work and home again. This is why employers globally are further investing in businesses like SeventeenHundred. Our ability to help their employees strike a work-life harmony directly correlates to greater business results.
How do we do this? SeventeenHundred is a digitally-driven, employee-value proposition solution for employers of all sizes. It enables us to engage directly, one-on-one with each employee in a very personalised way around topics that are relevant to themselves with the primary focus on assisting them in ways that help them bring their best selves to work, have a great working day, and leave with enough gas in their tank so that at the end of the day, they can go home and continue to enjoy their lives. The concepts of a work-life balance have recently become more about work and life harmonisation, as articulated by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.
“It actually is a circle. It’s not a balance. If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy, and if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy. You never want to be that guy – and we all have a coworker who’s that person – who, as soon as they come into a meeting, they drain all the energy out of the room. You want to come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step.”
We assist each employee with personalised content, life actions, gamification and support groups or services, so that the things which may limit their ability to be at work or from being fully present at work can be supported or scaffolded through support services and by helping them learn new skills and habits to compensate.
This might be as simple as helping a client to consciously manage their sleep in order to be fully energised at work – something most Australians are struggling with. Many people do not realise that lack of sleep can be a trigger for stress, anxiety and depression, resulting in poor productivity. As a simple example, the small things that one does each day make a huge difference. Done repeatedly, they become habits.
SeventeenHundred is a distinctive name. What does it mean and how did it come about?
Many people quickly realise that “1700” represents 5pm, i.e., the traditional “knockoff” time. However, 9-5 is not always the working norm today. More importantly, 1700 links into the concept of how employees can manage the 9-5 part of their working day and then how they transition to the 5-9 part of their home life so, that at all times, they are able to be present and bring their best selves both to work or home.
What are some of the services that SeventeenHundred offer?
We have a great and increasing ecosystem of value-add and synergistic partners providing unique and relevant services for our employers, ranging from concierge services like Sittr and UrbanYou, through to clinical and psychological services like REMinder Health and Uprise.
Who is a typical client? And who would you really like to see take up your services? What sorts of businesses do you think would see the benefits?
Any employer who is trying to build trust with their employees and add authentic value in the areas of health, happiness and security will be able to use SeventeenHundred in a beneficial way for their staff and their business. The size of a business is not a factor.
SeventeenHundred has partnered with some impressive companies. Can you tell us about some of these partnerships?
We are extremely privileged to service many Australian and global businesses in multiple verticals with different workforces – from manufacturing, to telcos, to legal, to retail and more. That’s the beauty of our digital platform – no matter the profile of the workforce, the three core drivers of health, happiness and security remain applicable.
It’s only been recent but there’s a definite shift of late towards workplaces striving for flexibility and balance and the movement seems only to be gathering momentum. What do you see as the main reason for this shift?
A flexible workplace is one that is trying to adjust to the complexities of urban life. The concept does present its own challenges including, for example, the transition of employees in and out of the workplace because of parenting and carer obligations, or due their own changing/flexible career choices.
In many environments, the mix of full-time to part-time employees has changed dramatically over the years. Supporting these workforce scenarios, and helping build new skills to cope with this, is an increasing and important requirement by employers – things like managing job-sharing, remote-working because of paternity or maternity leave, to maintain business expectations around employee deliverables.
Why do you think a good work-life harmonisation is so beneficial to an organisation? Why is it beneficial to society as a whole?
The concept of work-life balance has evolved, just as Jeff Bezos suggested. This balance is more about work-life harmonisation and it requires a more mindful approach by employees to understand that the things that they do at home set them up for success at work and vice versa. And so, creating new habits is the key to further success. The three core drivers – health, happiness and security – underpin the SeventeenHundred methodology, providing a foundation for “the little things you do each day, which in turn become your pivotal habits”.
Improved habits start with the individual and have obvious benefits for family, friends, employers and societal relationships.
As a CEO, has your view of leadership changed with the changing nature of the workplace? Do you think that enough modern business leaders are as concerned with employee wellbeing as they are with the bottom line?
Yes, all CEO’s are concerned about their employee wellbeing and productivity as there is a direct link to the bottom line. In many cases, HR professionals and CEO’s are looking for new-age ways to stay relevant and engaged with their employee group. For example, CEO’s may be grappling with the movement and awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workforce. The issue at hand is how to implement it in a meaningful way that creates more equal opportunities in the workforce.
Where do you see the modern workplace in five or ten years’ time? What employee needs are CEO’s and business owners going to be tasked with meeting in the future? How do you see SeventeenHundred evolving to support these needs?
With rapid urbanisation, the stress of getting to work and the high cost of office space, workplaces are becoming more decentralised. This puts additional pressure on employers and individuals to adapt to the environment and maintain the same levels of expected productivity.
The opportunities for the modern workplace will be around how technology (particularly mobile) enables more remote, co-working environments, and supports the challenges this new work environment places on individuals and how they manage their personal lives and lifestyles around that.
Anything else you want us to know?
We have a passionate and enthusiastic team at SeventeenHundred who believe that SeventeenHundred can make work a better place to be.