With a little help from my (work) friends

Sophie Gane

04/09/2017
Categories: Wellbeing, Culture, Employee experience

This year I went through that rite of passage that all people have to go through at least once in their adult life: the break up. Stick with me; I promise I’m making a professional point. Now, even the most amicable break-up (as this was) is an incredibly difficult thing to go through after five years, and on top of the emotional strain, I hadn’t considered the financial complications to come. Despite having no shared property (except a TV and a family-sized jar of Nutella), no children, and no joint bank account, there were still monetary repercussions…

I didn’t realise how expensive adulthood is

Now, at the age of 29 I realised this was the first time I would be solely responsible for rent, utilities, and food shopping without a flatmate to share it with. Did anyone know that, for the first 6 months, you pay double TV licence? Who knew that pillows can cost £40? I certainly didn’t. Fortunately, in times of struggle, if you’re lucky; you’ll find that friends and family rally round you, and that was the case with me.

With a little help from my friends

As well as the rum-soaked emotional support everyone gave me, many people chipped in to make this as easy as possible. My parents helped me out with the deposit to rent my own flat, and with some kitchen stuff. My best friend doused me in caffeine and bought me a whole bunch of stuff I hadn’t thought about – from tea towels to a toilet brush. My brother and sister-in-law gave me a duvet. And my ex kindly bought me a TV to replace the shared one I was leaving behind.

But what amazed me even more was the kindness of my colleagues…

You don’t choose colleagues, but dammit, they can be wonderful

Colleagues are much like school friends. You get put into a room for 40 hours a week, and you forge relationships because you have to. However, I’ve found that these relationships often result in inspiring friendships:

The day after the unpleasantness, a close friend at work sent me a care box containing things like hair treatments, pillow spray to ease sleep, and waterproof eyeliner. Ironically, I was so overwhelmed by her kindness and how much she had cheered me up, I shed a tear at my desk.

My manager – as well as being a source of personal support – alleviated any concerns I had about how this might affect my work. In the immediate aftermath, I was pretty drained, and I found it really difficult to stay productive right up until 5:30, so she let me be flexible with my working hours when needed. We were creating a new brand and a new website at the time, so I was happy to be keeping so busy, but she made sure my stress levels were manageable, and helped me to fit work around finding a new flat. My team (one of whom bought me an R2D2 bowl!) and countless other close colleagues regularly checked in on me, and they threw in a few pub, restaurant, theatre and cinema visits too. After posting on Twitter about grating cheese with a potato peeler, a friend came into work the next day with a new grater for me. How lovely is that?!

Employers can be pretty wonderful, too

But here’s the incredible thing… Benefex itself really helped me out, too. You could argue that the aforementioned support I got from colleagues is down to Benefex fostering a caring culture and employing wonderful people, but the company helped me out money-wise too (aside from my monthly payslip). About a month before the break-up, we had one of our quarterly updates. The morning rounds off with a celebration of our peer-to-peer recognition. Those who have received a lot of thanks from colleagues are called up to the stage, given a round of applause, and a £100 voucher.

I’m terrible with money. I don’t have one of those “cushions” to fall back on that I’ve heard so much about. So, after spending a whole heap of money (with some assistance from a credit card) on the basics: a bed, a wardrobe, and those pillows, I had to be frugal and selective with any extras I got for myself.

The comfort of a kettle

This was a potential issue for me. When it comes to being British, there are three clichés I allow myself: football hooliganism, crying at the John Lewis Christmas advert, and an irrational love of tea. I can’t help it; it’s my mum’s answer to every problem (the tea, not the hooliganism), and 99% of the time, it really helps me feel better.

But, alas, in my quest to reserve my cash for the essentials, I had neglected my caffeine habit. Each morning, I would look around my new flat – my own little sanctuary just a 12-minute walk from work – and I wouldn’t feel 100% at home yet. But I remembered I had this £100 voucher...

I had been saving it to put towards something big. But other than weddings, babies, and funerals (and I have no intention of doing any of those) moving is one of the biggest things you can do, I think. So, what else was I saving this voucher for?

Within two days (thank you, Amazon Prime subscription that I forgot to cancel after the one-month free trial), I had a b-e-a-utiful red kettle. And matching toaster, set of knives, picture hooks, laundry basket, and three bins (kitchen, bathroom, and recycling). That weekend, I made myself a cup of tea, sat on my bed, and stared around my lovely little flat - my pictures were on the wall; my clothes were no longer in a pile by the washer; and the flat smelled of toast. This was my home.

Exceptional employee experiences, every day

Depending on the context, £100 can be a little or a lot. But whether you’re chipping away at a deposit for a house, or wanting to buy a new outfit, £100 is always a very generous gesture from your employer. Yes, you can measure how far £100 can go – it bought me a list of tangible things. But it’s gone so much further than that, and on a personal level. I know it's saccharine, but it’s turned a flat into my home.

You know those Mastercard adverts? The ones that say “Gift - £50. Train ticket - £70. Coming home for Christmas – priceless.” Well, wherever I am in five or 10 years’ time (it’s a good kettle, so it’ll last that long) I’ll be reminded of that priceless gesture from Benefex.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn
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