6th July 2023

Summer Fridays are back! Taking care of business by taking care of your people.

By Pollyanna Puddephat, Head of Marketing at Mortgage Brain

The past few years have been a challenge for sure, with those in the mortgage industry often finding themselves dealing with pressures that can, at times, seem insurmountable.

Balancing these pressures with a healthy work-life balance becomes an essential part of not only maintaining mental health but also providing the best possible service to our clients. According to the Mortgage Industry Mental Health Charter (MIMHC), an alarming 23% of mortgage brokers have recently self-rated their mental health as poor or of concern.

Given these conditions, it becomes essential for industry leaders, like us at Mortgage Brain, to pioneer measures supporting mental health at work. As a company, we are a signatory of the Mortgage Industry Mental Health Charter, committed to supporting our employees’ mental health and well-being.  But, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and so we are actively encouraging our staff to take some well-earned time off, with the return of Summer Fridays! This successful initiative allows our colleagues to conclude their working week at lunchtime on Fridays throughout July and August, providing them an opportunity for rest or fun (depending on your mood!) before the weekend officially begins.

The novelist, Anne Lamott, once said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Wise words indeed.  Which is why Summer Fridays, when we introduced them last year, went down a storm with the Mortgage Brain team.  Friday afternoons became our special time, to down tools and enjoy the moment.  Some of us did unplug – off went the emails and the social media and along came a snooze in the garden.  We knew our users were covered as we had a plan in place so that they would receive exactly the same level of excellent service that they always do. The pressure was lifted and it worked. We felt appreciated and seen (and rested!).

Man on beach with arms spread wide towards the sun welcoming Summer Fridays back

We can’t over exaggerate the importance of this, particularly in our industry, where overworking and sleep deprivation are unfortunately common issues. These contribute significantly to stress and burnout, with figures from MIMHC revealing that 55% of brokers are working beyond the recommended hours, and a quarter are failing to get the required amount of sleep each week.

Our Summer Fridays initiative is a proactive response to this pressing issue. By promoting opportunities to disconnect from work, we aim to combat the stigma around rest and relaxation, encouraging our team to recharge and prioritise personal activities and quality time with family and friends.

As shown by other industry giants, such as PwC, Kelloggs, and Citigroup – who introduced ‘zoom-free’ Fridays along with extra holiday allocation – flexible work incentives like Summer Fridays not only offer mental health benefits but also enhance morale and productivity.

Sceptics may argue that an afternoon off during summer could sacrifice productivity and revenue. But research says otherwise. Studies, including those from Captivate Network and Opinion Research Corporation, suggest employees are more productive, more motivated, and staff turnover reduced when provided with some flexibility or shorter work weeks.

Studies, including those from Captivate Network and Opinion Research Corporation, suggest employees are more productive, more motivated, and staff turnover reduced when provided with some flexibility or shorter work weeks.

Our experiences from the previous year mirror these findings. An overwhelming percentage of our staff stated that Summer Fridays allowed them to engage in personal hobbies, spend time with loved ones, volunteer, and take time for themselves. It was clear that the positive impact extended well beyond the office, as families enjoyed time together, individuals de-stressed with a favourite pastime and everyone was happier. Some took the opportunity to volunteer their time to helping others, passing on the benefit to the wider community and instilling a sense of personal achievement.

Jim Whiteside is a volunteer as a Community First Responder for the East of England Ambulance Service, and Search Manager/Team Leader for Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue. Last year, he said, “I’ll be making the most of Summer Fridays to catch up on reading and generally enjoy some ‘me time’, while being available to respond to any local medical emergencies or missing people that I wouldn’t normally be able to help with.”

Cloë Atkinson, COO at Mortgage Brain, used one of her Summer Fridays last year to indulge in a luxury spa treatment. Cloë said, “As a busy working parent, I struggle to make time for myself. So as soon as I had the opportunity, I booked an afternoon with my local beauty therapist and thoroughly enjoyed a few hours of relaxation. Such a great way to start the weekend.”

Ade Susman liked nothing better than to unwind by the river, commenting, “Summer Fridays are a great opportunity to head out for a spot of fishing but, whatever I decide, it’s a great initiative and the time won’t go to waste.”

As for me, I dedicated a couple of afternoons learning to paddleboard with friends at a local open water lake. It was great fun.

We realise that Summer Fridays may not be practical for all organisations, and we feel incredibly grateful (and loved) that we’re able to enjoy this wonderful perk. But, the important message is that, as an industry, we need to recognise that there are those who are struggling – burnout, stress and poor mental health is not only bad for the individual but also for the industry. We need to focus on making sure we’re finding the right work-life balance and that we are champions of self-care, prioritising well-being by taking care of each other. Because when we take care of our people, we take care of our businesses.

Summer Fridays are back, and we’re ready to make the most of them!

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