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Win4Youth (W4Y) is the Adecco Group’s wellbeing initiative that encourages employees, associates, and clients to keep active and clock hours spent exercising to benefit our global charity partner, Plan International.
Allie Knowlton is one of Pontoon’s 2022 W4Y ambassadors. In this role, she encourages peers to pursue wellness activities, build resilience, and increase their overall wellbeing. Together with Sampa Ghosh, Allie represented Pontoon at the annual Lanzarote W4Y triathlon.
The support of physical exercise in fighting burnout
The Covid pandemic accelerated the risk of burnout and mental health issues, and it has since been topped by military conflicts, soaring inflation,
hiring freezes, and spiking living costs. We live in uncertain times – regardless of age, nationality, or gender – workers are anxious and struggle with their everyday realities. It has a massive impact on productivity and morale.
One quarter of workers admit their mental health has worsened over the past year. – Adecco’s Global Workforce of the Future
Latest Adecco report shows that 40% of workers turn to sports to maintain mental wellbeing and support work-life balance. I am one of them. I suffered from work burnout in the past and struggled myself. When that happened, I focused on physical exercise and mindfulness for relief. It worked.
Staying active has always been my thing; it kept me going. Still, I’ve never imagined that one day I’d have a chance to become a triathlete – not in a million years. I was barely a long-distance runner before training, let alone a cyclist or swimmer. But I quickly discovered that you don’t have to be a pro to benefit from exercise. This is what W4Y is all about. The programme encourages our people to take a breather – be that yoga, chess, meditation, hiking, fencing, volleyball (my thing!) or gardening; the only rule is to find what feels good and do it often.
In this brilliant TED talk, watched by over 15 million people, Wendy Suzuki explains that exercise has an immediate positive effect on the brain, including mood and focus. The long-term benefit of keeping active is the reduced risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. These are all the advantages of just moving your body, not necessarily as part of a triathlon – a simple walk is enough. My team at Pontoon has developed a habit of taking microbreaks throughout the workday to help us focus and maintain productivity. In addition to the individual mental and physical health benefits, these activities build a sense of belonging and reduce isolation anxiety when working remotely.
How sport helps with managing work challenges
It’s a bit ironic, but triathlon training was a source of anxiety for me. Physical activity generally benefits the body and soul, but starting any new routine is difficult. Was it challenging – yes; did I have a motivational slump midway – also yes; would I do it all over again – absolutely! Why? Because what I got out of the experience is truly invaluable.
The training sessions relieved me from everyday struggles, including the mounting workload. The start was difficult, but I trusted the process and embraced a growth mindset, and with time, the training started getting easier. I received much encouragement from Pontoon and Adecco colleagues, and these meaningful connections kept me going.
The best thing was that I could implement what I’ve learned as part of the triathlon preparation into my everyday work life. As a recruiter, I often have to fill challenging roles in remote locations. Of course, time to fill is of the essence, and it often gets stressful if talent is nowhere to be found. So, as with the training, I now take these challenges one step at a time – first assessing the market and where to look, then enabling the pipeline with the first candidate, then expanding the pipeline, and so on. It helps me focus and eases the pressure. Becoming a pro in time management is an additional benefit – the training had to be combined with my everyday job, and skipping the sessions was not an option. I needed to MAKE time for sports, so I had to organise myself and reduce work overtime to a minimum. I plan to keep this habit post-triathlon, as sticking to the routine helped me develop a healthy balance between work and personal life.
The importance of wellbeing culture at work
I have learned a lot throughout this experience, but the most important thing I realised is how critical it is to take care of one’s wellbeing. I’ve heard many times that to be able to give to others – as a colleague, employee, partner, or family member – one has to focus on individual energy levels first, but never have I felt it more than this year. I’m delighted to work for an organisation that recognises this, investing in the W4Y programme since way before the Covid pandemic. I’m also thrilled to see that the programme has evolved to align with the new world of work and the additional challenges faced by workers across the globe. While in 2022, the ambassadors focused primarily on preparing for the triathlon, next year will be all about driving initiatives aimed at the holistic wellbeing of our people. I cannot wait to make a difference, encouraging more Pontoon colleagues to participate and take care of their physical and mental health.