Welcome to the Aligned and Thriving podcast. In this episode, host Judith Bowtell is joined by Marlo Newton, a Senior Manager of Major Gifts at the Alfred Foundation. Marlo is an accomplished fundraiser, manager, educator, performer, public speaker, and author. She shares her insights on how the values of Gen X support their approach to work-life balance. The discussion explores the influence of early life experiences and family values on work life balance.
Podcast Episode Summary
Connect with Marlo Newton in LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marlo-newton-48431434/
Work Life Balance - https://www.kumanu.com/defining-work-life-balance-its-history-and-future/
Gen X Values - https://www.upworthy.com/what-is-generation-x-rp5#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20generational%20differences,and%20motivated%20by%20%E2%80%9Cfreedom.%E2%80%9D
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Episode 04: How the values of Gen X support our approach to work-life balance with Marlo Newton
[00:00:00] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Aligned and Thriving. I'm your host, Judith Bowtell, and it is my pleasure to speak with you today about the idea of how our values really do affect our approach to work life balance.
[00:01:29] And with me today is somebody who I know so well that I don't even need to look up their LinkedIn profile to write their introduction. So Marla Newton is our guest today, and she did her undergraduate studies at University of Melbourne, which is where we met, as well as her master's in English literature.
[00:01:49] And she later completed a graduate diploma in education at Monash University, which is also in Melbourne, with a focus on English and history. She lived in the San Francisco Bay community in the early 2000s, and returned to Melbourne with her imported US born husband. And they now live in Melbourne with their three children, which includes their twins.
[00:02:08] She describes herself as an accomplished fundraiser, manager, and educator who has held senior positions in major communal institutions in Australia and the US, and she has significant experience in building relationships for personal and communal growth. Her day job is Senior Manager of Major Gifts at the Alfred Foundation, raising funds for the Alfred Hospital, and her current part time community work is as a board member for the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, whose mission statement is empowering women and girls for a better world. She's also an accomplished performer, a public speaker and an author. And she's been writing regularly. Writing regularly for Jewish women of words on topics from micro financing for development and what my craft can teach us about community. She loves her family. She loves her friends. She loves Richmond football club, writing and literature of all sorts and life in general. She throws herself enthusiastically in all sorts of adventures and activities. Most recently a foray into Bollywood dancing.
[00:03:10] She's one of my best and dearest friends. And I'm honoured to have her to be with the first guest of my podcast, Aligned and Thriving. So Marlo, welcome.
[00:03:20] Thank you, Judith. What a touching and moving introduction.
[00:03:24] Thank you. Thank you. So tell us, what have you done lately to improve your work life balance?
[00:03:30] Well, it being January, one of the first things I do is meet With a group of women, one of whom dates back to university with whom I go away leave my family. Thank you for suggesting, I love them and I do dearly, but one of the first things I do each year is plan four weekends away with my girls.
[00:03:56] And this group of women is special because they don't touch most other parts of my life, which means that it's a bubble of joyous positivity. No one who points out when you tell a story from your perspective that They were there and they actually thought of a different way of looking at it. You are entirely the champion, the, the one supported and uplifted.
[00:04:25] And they're mostly women who share my deep love of books. So we bring books, we share books, we talk about books. And we talk about silly things and popular culture, and we eat too much cheese, and we drink too much wine, and we eat a great deal of chocolate. And we laugh so hard that my stomach muscles hurt, like I've done a stretch time class.
[00:04:53] Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. We're going to talk today about work life balance and how values shape that experience. If you have listened to the first three episodes, you will have explored my theories of how neuroscience has shown that values actually support us to feel rewarded when we do what we call the right thing.
[00:05:14] And values often point us to that right thing. But values just don't arise in our consciousness from nowhere. They come from somewhere. And often they come from our early life experiences and that includes our parents. So, Marlo, what did you learn as a kid about work and life?
[00:05:31] Oh, dear.
[00:05:32] Well you and I have spoken before Judith about being proud members of Gen X. So part of what we learned was. Learning from absence that our parents were busy, they often weren't around or they weren't around in our faces the way we are often with our Children today. So part of what I learned was that people did go out to work.
[00:05:59] I probably learned that mum being a woman of her time who did not work outside the home for the first. 16 years of my life that made her dependent on an allocation of housekeeping money from dad. And while dad is a very generous and open hearted person I knew from a young age that I didn't want to be in that position, that I wanted to be the person out Making a living and I did not want to be the person at home, although there 1st value I learned was that it was a joy to go out and work and that it secured your.
[00:06:44] Independence and some measure of financial freedom. I think I also learned that part of our core values as a family was that you can't purely exist for yourself. That you also need to be doing something for other people. So one of the things my mom did was. She was part of a volunteer program that matched her with a young mum of similar age who was a new migrant and who didn't speak English very well and who was stuck at home with small children and without the opportunity to learn English in the workplace as her husband was doing.
[00:07:25] And we would do very mundane things, go grocery shopping, go Clothes shopping come over for a cup of tea, but the point was that they were just Making friends and introducing her to basic English phrases. Yeah, great.
[00:07:41] So a couple of the things that I'm picking up there in terms of values is independence, the importance of independence and financial independence in particular, and also giving back, doing something for others, being contributing to community.
[00:07:55] And also, I guess that we said your dad's, you know, generous and open hearted. I think that generosity may be there too. I don't know if that's particular to Gen X or not, but I do think that that's something that I can say that you would have picked up in your family. But the independence and the giving back to community, they do seem to be part of the Gen X.
[00:08:14] There's a Gen X ethos or values. One of the things that I wanted to look at in this is as well as the idea of it being part of Gen X actually let's just keep going on that thing.
[00:08:25] So this is a chance to explore how values can shape our experience of our working life. So do you believe that your values do shape your experience of your working life and that alignment is important?
[00:08:37] That's a great question. I have had the great. Luck and joy that my entire career has taken place in the not for profit sector. I'm not sure how much my values would have been impacted by working in the corporate world, but I never have. So from the beginning, my working life has been fairly congruent with my value system.
[00:09:04] My first gig was In the university system which I loved my first adult job after university was in community development and fundraising and I've Swapped between education and fundraising ever since, sometimes both at the same time. And they're both things that are an easy sell for me because I believe in them both.
[00:09:33] So you've recently started working the Alfred hospital, not so recently, but it's a move. It's been a while. Yeah, it's been a while, but a move away from education and a move away from perhaps some of the other community work you've been doing. How has that been in terms of values alignment as well?
[00:09:52] Well a key value for me is lifelong learning. And I think one of the dangers for me in any. Employment situation is boredom. And if you were going through my LinkedIn profile, you'd see that an average of four years is my tenure at most workplaces I've yet to hit long service leave in any workplace.
[00:10:16] I'm really gunning for it this time. And this new opportunity at the Alfred allowed me to learn healthcare in a way that I'd never encountered before. So I have an absolute ball hearing clinicians talk about their latest discoveries and projects, hearing the infrastructure group talk about the next step.
[00:10:39] Building or piece of equipment that's required to make the hospital work and that fires me up to go out and find someone who can fund that. And it is wonderful because my parents always wanted me to be a doctor. And now I spend my time talking to them and trying to put their medical terminology into words that.
[00:11:03] We can understand and then ask others to support.
[00:11:06] Great. So, lifelong learning, you say, is one of your values. I've, ploughed the internet for Articles about Gen X and Gen X core values. They describe some of our core values as skepticism, fun, and informality. So Gen X, by the way, I'm taking a sort of mid to late 40s up to about 60, maybe just above. Very, very borderline there. But basically, if you don't have a living memory of the Kennedy assassination, But you do remember when Kurt Cobain died and were personally affected by that. I call use Gen X. Okay. So some of the core values are skepticism, fun and informality, as well as self reliant, independent. Unimpressed with authority and motivated by freedom.
[00:12:00] They're spot on. I would add resilience, which I think we were the first generation to be children of divorce, which had been a much rarer thing for every generation above ours.
[00:12:12] And I think that while every generation thinks they went through traumatic events, I think that coming of age. Into an AIDS epidemic coming into wanting to buy a house during a global recession, coming into all kinds of experiences at a time that seen the whole world was going through a challenge.
[00:12:35] Has forced resilience upon those of us who have survived and, you know, we haven't all survived or thrive but certainly the the lack of respect for authority or the skepticism that goes along with our view of authority. I don't know how much of that is Gen X, how much of that is Australian, how much of that is a combination of the two, but it has certainly probably been the other reason that I have moved jobs every four months.
[00:13:03] Okay. Do you want to tell us any more about that? Let's just say that I have always been better at managing down than managing up. And even when I was, The CEO or equivalent I still had to manage up to a board that, that is the toughest thing for me to do. And it's something that I've been on a new learning curve in this current job and hopefully growing in my ability to do it, but it is hard because as every manager I've ever had from the age of five.
[00:13:42] Has said I should not play poker because I am not able to lie or suffer fools gladly. And you make quite a few of them. So given that this is a part of your learning, not just the technical stuff about how to, you know pitch for a new hospital building, a new piece of equipment, but learning how to work within an institution and I would say a hospital is a very big institution. I mean, you've worked within large education institutions.
[00:14:12] This is another institution.
[00:14:14] Do you believe any of the values of Gen X or of your own values are supporting you to develop new ways of working with others?
[00:14:27] That's a really good question. I don't think the values of Gen X are of great assistance here, I think except for the fun and informality, I do usually bring both of those things into a workplace and people are often relaxed, sometimes too relaxed when we work together, but what has grown over the past 20 years that I don't think I had in my twenties at all is empathy. Because I live with three people who have various communication challenges I have developed almost against my will, empathy. And I've been able to take that empathy and that, how is it that you view this situation that we're both in so differently. Where are you coming from to get your point of view and where on earth might we meet? Wow. That's
[00:15:28] huge. Really? It's a big learning curve to come from. Sort of the arrogance of our twenties, you know, when we were right. Everything we knew was right. We were cool. We were cool, you know, others might look the same, but we thought we were, and it was all great. But yes, . I'm learning to live with other people who and do see the world from a different place and you want to keep these relationships going and you, as you say, love and adore them, it's a for growth and learning. But what I loved what you said is how you are able to accept the others as they are, but also there's a self acceptance in that as well. This only can really happen when you're feeling okay within yourself to be able to be with other people in their differences as well.
[00:16:16] Possibly. I think it's also to emphasise being kind rather than being clever. I was raised to be clever, to be sharp, to be cutting, to be witty. And I love all of those things, but they're occasionally cruel and to be forced to choose kindness rather than wit is another crossover skill that has occasionally helped me not say the verbal jab that occurs to me that I am finding hysterically funny inside my head, but might not be received or that well out loud.
[00:16:54] Hence the need for the safe space with your girly friends every quarter, will appreciate the jabs, I'm sure. Another thing I wanted to touch on with you You said we were the first children of divorce and I, I, I agree. We were the first generation after no fault divorce became more common in the west. It definitely in Australia. But we were also, I guess, the first generation to really benefit from the introduction of the term work life balance into the workforce.
[00:17:28] As a concept and as a platform for the women's movement. So this was something , that they people campaign for and it equated to two main things, which was paid maternity leave and then So part time work so this was what work life balance kind of was in the eighties as a parent as a working mother, did you benefit from these policies?
[00:17:56] Marlo Newton
[00:17:57] One of the things that imprinted on me deeply was the trope of working girl, of the fact that you could get to the top, that there was no glass ceiling if you were prepared to put in the time. And one of the sad truths of my thirties was that there was still a glass ceiling, which was such a shock. I genuinely thought, along with my girlfriends. We'd done the time we'd broken the barriers and all that was behind us and that we were free to work as long and as hard as men. And then once we did that, not only were we not always rewarded for it, but along the way, and I talk about this a lot with a particular girlfriend who. Worked in journalism, and it was usually surrounded by men, whereas I worked in the not for profit sector, so I was often surrounded by women, except for the CEOs, and she said that when you work alongside men for a very long time, You often see other ways to do things that haven't occurred to them.
[00:19:05] And so one of the emerging truths of work life balance in my 30s and 40s were that yes, you still had to put in a great deal of time, but you didn't necessarily have to put time in the same way and that you could be vastly more efficient and that a lot of the mechanisms That made men enjoy the workplace so much was that there were built in inefficiencies, I think, that allowed them to have a great deal of their social life at work, particularly in the 80s and 90s before shall we say fringe benefit tax took all the fun out of it.
[00:19:42] So. Women, in a lot of ways, made the workplace is less fun. I don't know that we've been forgiven for that. So I, as you know, Judith, but for your listeners benefit, I have a very non traditional situation where my husband prior to our meeting was in the early childhood sector. So when we had.
[00:20:03] Children together, we decided that I would go back to work and he would stay home with the kids, which was despite being possible was still unusual and it was very unusual for it to last more than a year. So there were a number of blokes of my circle who made the experiment or who took a gap year to be a new dad, but it didn't last.
[00:20:26] For us, it was less ideological than financially prudent, to be brutally honest. The early childcare workers are heroes, but they're not paid very well. So it made sense for him to stay raising the kids and he had far more patience. While I was still developing my empathy, he had far more patients than I did with small children.
[00:20:48] As a high school teacher for 11 years I had more patients with teenagers, I thought, and I volunteered to take over once they were teenagers. So the work life balance maternity leave was certainly valuable especially with twins where we weren't sure what day it was for about six months.
[00:21:08] But I didn't really avail myself of a lot of the other things that our sisters had fought for because I was leading a reverse traditional life of being a full time worker. Although in some ways that is actually of part of the benefit is that society, the social pressures weren't would allow a moment to say this, but this was more accepted, I guess, in at least in your circles where the idea that you were working and your husband was at home looking after the kids. It seemed fine, in the terms of the not for profit sector or the people you worked with, probably to a degree. There may have been some questions about it,
[00:21:51] but Yeah, to a degree. I think everyone was theoretically in favour, but they hadn't actually experienced it in practice. Yeah. I know that Tal was occasionally hurt by letters that came home addressed to Mummy for primary school.
[00:22:08] You know, can Mummy please make sure that we have everything we need for our excursion or, or, you know, sign this? And, he'd be like, yeah, Mummy doesn't know the kids have an excursion. I'm looking after and that was challenging from time to time. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:22:23] You've talked about the developing empathy, how you have the time out, the safe space, the bubble with your friends. We've talked about how Your work has often aligned with your love of learning. It's also aligned with your community values.
[00:22:38] What other strategies have you used to develop work life balance in your working life? And how has that changed over the years? Think that I've always been a little bit out of step with my peers in terms of life goals. So, I was single for longer than most of my friends. I was child free for longer than most of my friends. So, I wasn't doing things together. I wasn't in a young mum's collective with anyone I knew. I wasn't in a, oh, thank God. We're empty nested. It's my friends now are becoming empty nesters and downsizing and my kids are 10 years younger than that. Yeah. So because I've always been out of step, I couldn't find.
[00:23:31] Easy things to do with my close friends, because we were at very different places. I could arrange to catch up with them, but we couldn't naturally all take our kids to the park. Or naturally all have, you know, a stay at home New Year's Eve because everyone's got little kids. So some of the interests I developed were, interests to get that kind of work life balance.
[00:24:03] So one of them is Scholastic. I'm a participant in a global Jewish study cycle called Dafyomi, D A F Y O M I, which is a page a day for seven years. You cycle through the entire Talmud, which is the codification of Jewish law. So again, out of my comfort zone, it's legal argument. It's written in Aramaic, although don't think I'm That much of a genius, I'm reading it in translation in English with a few Aramaic words here and there.
[00:24:41] And you basically are on the same page around the planet with people who are studying this. But it is a solitary endeavour. I was part of a Jewish study group for 20 years and we still get together socially. But again, we were out of step to continue doing it. As a formal study group, the other thing, which you did allude to in your intro is that as a consequence of a midlife health crisis and getting fit.
[00:25:12] I needed to find an activity that was that was something I would stick to. I am not a person who naturally exercises. I would rather be curled up with a book than be out doing just about anything. I do not have the coordination for most. Sports like tennis or skiing and I don't like most sports.
[00:25:34] I've always been unfit and snarking from the sidelines, but I needed to find something that would work. So I went back to my childhood love of theatre and thought, I would like to dance. I didn't do ballet as a kid because my mum agreed that I had zero coordination and I'm quite clumsy.
[00:25:56] So I found a non dancers dance class and I go to it with a group again of women I don't know in any other way of middle aged women. There are women older than me, there are women younger than me, there are many women my age and we learn Broadway routines or Beyoncé routines. And we have an absolute ball.
[00:26:22] Yeah. So I have incorporated and again, no one I know was able to do it at the times I can do it, you know, so I'm doing it separate from my peer group, but finding. Incredible joy for the first time in
[00:26:39] exercise. Wow. In movement. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's, the key, isn't it? If you find something you enjoy, you'll keep going and movement when you're only experience of movement has been reps at a gym or.
[00:26:53] Something where you're going to be laughed at or not feel confident in, it's really challenging. So finding something where there's support and fun. And again, I'm just looking at the Gen X core values, the value of being self reliant and independent doing something for fun. These things can actually come through again in this part of your journey as well.
[00:27:13] So I applaud it. I think it's great when you find something that you love to do in terms of movement. I've just started reconnecting with swimming, which as you know, was part of my childhood. So yeah, but I haven't
[00:27:28] swum for years and years for various reasons, and I'm just starting to come back to it, but I'm not doing it in terms of how many laps up and down a pool.
[00:27:36] It's much more in terms of going out and experiencing. I now live in Sydney. I live within, you know, a short distance of some great swimming areas. So natural swimming areas. So, it's really interesting how those things come back. And I guess for me, that's one of my core values. I say when I work with my clients as a career coach, that your values do change over time. Like we all share a whole bunch of values, but we prioritise different ones at different stages in our lives. And in my 20s, my values are very much independence, adventure, all of that. Like doing things differently, everything's changing. We don't give them up, but sometimes we do need to prioritise other things like family, like financial security. So one thing that I'm curious about is you were saying how in your twenties and thirties, you could work very long hours. Or you were kind of rewarded for doing long hours, or there was something about you could, give yourself over to a job wholeheartedly.
[00:28:36] Where do you think that changed for you? Okay, so part of it was societal expectation. Yeah. Are you someone who is still there until the boss is gone? Yeah. At the end of the day. So part of it is in your 20s and 30s you're often not the boss. So you are sometimes waiting out the boss or wanting to be seen to be diligently still on task from before nine till after five.
[00:29:04] The other was that value we borrowed from the corporate sector that you were keener the longer you worked, that you were getting ahead of things, that you were giving time over to planning. And then honestly, as anyone of my friends in education knows, you can't do most of your work during the school day.
[00:29:27] You are on the run from the moment students arrive on campus to the moment they leave. So all of your planning and assessment and creativity happens before 8am and after 4. 30pm. And so your day is extremely long. And again, I was partnered relatively late in life, so I wasn't.
[00:29:52] Reporting into someone who had dinner on the table and I always had a volunteer gig simultaneously. So there were frequently 2 to 3 weeknights where I would go from my day job to my volunteer meeting with nothing in between. And that was normal. What changed of course was marriage and children where there are other people.
[00:30:16] Who are legitimately competing for a slice of your time, but also as I got the opportunity to be in a senior managerial role and, and for a while a couple of executive director, CEO kind of roles to reframe how the days and nights work. For a lot of us in the nonprofit sector we have meetings out of hours and so part of our weekdays therefore should be free and available back to us.
[00:30:45] And once you're in charge of things, you can make that clear to the people with whom you work. So in my first gig as a CEO I had someone who it was really important to her to go home for two hours in the middle of the day. Make the preparations for dinner for her family and change the washing and then come back and it was a really bizarre concept,
[00:31:10] but we ran with it. It was really important for me to leave early on a Friday. And for most of the people I worked with Friday was a very negotiable day in the workplace, but we all knew that we often had a meeting on Sunday. Yeah. And so the idea that you could get your work done across a longer span of time than a traditional nine to five Monday to Friday. Was already happening.
[00:31:36] If you were a teacher, it was already happening. If you were in the nonprofit sector. So you just took it back into your work day and said, well, then it's ludicrous. To be sitting here at my desk for no good reason for eight hours between nine and five.
[00:31:52] Maybe not the people, but the systems that have, we've set up to manage work that has to be done for community, for students, for whoever we there's work that needs to be done, but it doesn't need to be done in the framework that's been set up for another purpose. So if you say that 9 to 5 is the product of post industrial work, and that is the best way to manage that, but it doesn't necessarily apply into a non profit space.
[00:32:23] That's right. And the danger, and that's where we are, the beneficiaries, I think, of third wave feminism, with the concomitant danger. That then we're never off the clock, right? And that's why carving those girly weekends into my calendar is one of the first acts of the year, of setting up dance classes that are going to happen at scheduled times, is a way of saying we are not always on the clock.
[00:32:52] Yeah. And also recognising the difference between urgent and important. I think that's a key learning that comes with age and experience and seniority. You're not allowed to decide what's urgent and important when you're the new kid on the block. Yeah.
[00:33:09] Yeah. True. Absolutely. You're not, you're in a responsive space. Yeah.
[00:33:15] We're both women with a degree of enormous privilege as white women, as middle class women in Australia with a degree of hegemony over our workspace and how we work. So, I am aware of speaking from great privilege when I talk about how I structure my day or my week.
[00:33:34] So, with that, what would your advice be for our listeners about work life balance or work life satisfaction?
[00:33:42] The life philosophy that has accompanied me for decades now is three interwoven statements that were made by a rabbi of the first century of the common era named Hillel. And he said, if I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? And those three questions.
[00:34:15] are my guiding principles. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I'm not actively advocating for myself, standing up for myself, representing myself, who do I think will do that? It is my job to do that. It is my job to put myself out there and sometimes put myself first. But only if I don't forget the second part, if I am only for myself, what am I?
[00:34:40] The danger of narcissism, the danger of. Self obsession, the danger of isolation from others or lack of compassion or lack of helping others. So, if I'm not for myself, who will be for me followed by, accompanied by, if I'm only for myself, what am I? In other words, you have to be part of the wider community.
[00:35:03] And the third one, which always brings a smile to my face is. If not now, when, which is you can sit and philosophise as long as you like. We've just done it for almost an hour, but what are you actually going to do about it? Right? You can have your exercise plan. You can have your life plan. You can talk about maybe, but what are you actually physically going to do about it?
[00:35:30] And that's where my slightly type A driven personality comes out and it's like, do it already. So that's the philosophy. If I'm not for myself, who will be for me? If I'm only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
[00:35:46] Great. That's the advice we all need.
[00:35:50] When I work with corporate clients about emotional intelligence and how to be more connected with your team at work, one thing I do suggest they do is employ the process of what's called critical appreciation, which is where you focus on what worked well.
[00:36:05] In a situation rather than going to what didn't because our automatic is often to go. That didn't go so well. So what didn't work so well, whereas actually into a critical appreciation, you can actually find your resources. You can find your strengths. You can actually find what you have and .
[00:36:23] As you say, choose to build on that, and then the things that don't work so well, make a choice to let go.
[00:36:30] Thank you so much to Marlo Newton, who is our very first guest here on Aligned and Thriving. I'm so pleased she joined me. She has heard me speak about this project for way too long, and go through various iterations of what it might be. So it is my thrill that she was able to join me for this very first interview.
[00:36:49] So thank you so much, Marlo. Thank you,
[00:36:52] Judith, for the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you and watch out for our next episode.
[00:36:58] Don't miss a single episode. So subscribe to Aligned and Thriving now to unlock a world of inspiration and practical strategies. And if you have subscribed, why not check out our IG account or join our community to navigate your own way to a happier and healthier working life.