Renae Joseph is the National Director of Operations & Marketing for Initiative Australia, part of the global Initiative communications agency. Her responsibilities at work include deepening client engagement and ensuring operational efficiency, alongside her most important job of raising two toddler boys.
We spoke about supporting mental health at work, life as a working mother and how culture affects the workplace.
Mental Health at Work
Media is a fast paced, non-stop industry, so managing personal life and mental health is important. Initiative has a focus on mental health as part of a program making work a safe and inclusive place for all.
The agency has trained a number of people through Mental Health First Aid training and their forward work in this space was recognised with gold certification for their processes and participation. The training provides tools to recognise when people may be suffering or having problems, skills for addressing early stages of mental health issues and how to get professional help for people who need support.
Initiative have implemented and are continuing to refine formal processes to help people maintain a healthy work life balance and manage the pressures of their day to day jobs.
Working Mum Life
Renae told us she doesn’t tend to meet a lot of part-time mothers in media, but Initiative are working on ways to keep mothers in their workforce.
“Everyone's aware that we have to change the way we're working so we can retain this incredible talent in the industry.”
Renae works four days per week and leaves at 4pm to collect her kids from day care. Colleagues are respectful of her day off and she highlighted that work practices need to support policies to truly enable flex.
“It’s not just mums. I have male colleagues who leave loudly at four o'clock, talking about their need to collect their kids. I think it has to do with our culture that they’re so open about it.”
Becoming a working mother was a big learning curve, and Renae faced mother guilt – like so many of us working mums! She says,
“Much as you want to, sometimes you just can't do everything to the best of your ability”. In the early survival days of babies Renae had to set career goals and said, “just doing my job, getting home and ensuring my children survive, that was my goal”.
Renae talked about the mental load of juggling children and a career. She’s naturally organised, but realised,
“Going back to work and becoming a mum, sometimes no matter how much you want to be, you just can't be organised.”
The result is she’s become more flexible and able to respond to the unexpected (you never plan for sick children!).
Flexibility in Both Directions
The culture of flexibility and trust at Initiative has been crucial in helping Renae manage her young children.
At Initiative, “everyone's empowered to get their work done the best way they can”. Renae comes in early to get ahead and leaves early to collect her children. She occasionally logs on at night or works on her day off, but she told us;
“I don't feel resentful because I'm really appreciative of the flexibility.”
Non-parents use the flex options as well and different work styles are recognised and accepted. “It’s an environment that allows you to be the best version of yourself.”
At WORK180 we are seeing a rise in progressive employers enabling people to work in ways that best suits their work style and life-balance. Our Flex Able certification is awarded to organisations that walk the talk on ensuring flexible work options are a reality.
A Killer Culture
A recent Media I survey asked “Do you enjoy your agency’s culture?”. Initiative employees scored 100, 100, and 96% - YES across the three states in their network! Initiative recently won the Media Federation of Australia’s Best Agency Talent & Culture award and earlier this year was awarded Small Agency of the Year at Australian Workplace Equality Index Awards. Renae thinks that resoundingly positive response is due to a range of things;
- Passion around creating positive culture for themselves and their clients
- Regular town halls and other national team meetings
- Development opportunities, such as high-performance training calls
- Strong psychological safety, making it safe to make mistakes and learn
- Great personalities
- Industry perks and events
As well as, “The office vibe, it's a really fun place to work. Every day I come to work, I walk in and I've got a smile on my face. I want to be here. I love being here and I am enthusiastic about coming to work.”
Three Parting Tips
Renae signed off with three tips for mothers returning to work;
- Win the morning, win the day. Get up and get organised in the morning and start positively.
- Take time for yourself. I do Pilates once a week and I love that time-out for me.
- Have confidence in yourself. Returning to work can be daunting and doubts can creep in. Have faith that if you bring the right attitude you can do anything!!
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