We caught up with Riccarda Zezza, Founder of EdTech Company Lifeed, to talk about why it’s important for businesses to have a culture of care, and how people can use key life skills to develop in the workplace…
How did you come up with the idea for Lifeed?
I had been working for large companies in senior positions for 15 years before I had my first child. When I became a mother, I felt that my employer saw it as being problematic for the company, even though I felt that I had grown as a person and learned new skills through the experience.
After having my second child, it went one step further and I was demoted upon returning to work, so I decided to switch gears and find different solutions to this eternal challenge.
With Lifeed, I want to change the perception businesses have of major life transitions, like parenthood and caregiving, or going through the current crisis, from being seen as a ‘burden’ or a ‘problem’ to becoming a training ground for our soft skills. When we bring life and work together, rather than seeing them as in conflict, we stop talent and resources being wasted in society and in business.
We do this through our digital training program to help harness these very skills.
How do you think the skills that people develop during big life events can help them progress in the workplace?
Having more roles in life (as a parent or caregiver, for example) makes people more resilient and effective at work. For example, we know, through our extensive scientific research, that acting as a carer for a relative can significantly develop one’s stress management, patience, and self-confidence.
We should stop talking about ‘work-life balance’ because the level of stress people are experiencing is not sustainable. We need a new framework that views work and life together. Work has entered the private life, the boundaries are blurred, and the more roles we have – like being a parent or a carer – the stronger we become.
To give a specific example – we can find a powerful leadership model inside parenthood. Because mothers’ and fathers’ generative instinct makes them leaders of their families, they raise people who will hopefully leave them and outlive them. That’s the highest level of leadership imaginable, and they can take that same mindset into the workplace.
Why do you think businesses fail to understand the value of this kind of experience?
I think it, again, comes back to a misunderstanding of work-life balance. The traditional model likens us to being cakes – the more slices we try to cut up, the smaller the pieces have to be. Essentially – businesses think that by putting time into something else, it will make us less productive. We theorise that this way of thinking is actually one of the major factors holding women back from leadership positions all across the world, due to concerns about their potential commitments to raising children.
But we’re not cakes. We are concentric circles, so the more circles we have, the stronger we are. That’s the ultimate change that Lifeed wants to see.
What we should be talking about is life work synergy. Companies that work with us report improvement of their employees’ soft skills up to 35%, while 73% of our learners say going through our program has increased their engagement with the company. 90% report less stress and more energy and 87% say they acknowledge that going through life transition has given them greater confidence and a clearer vision of their future. It’s proof that reframing the work-life balance concept can have tangible results.
Why is it important for UK businesses to develop a culture of care?
Up until now, we have subconsciously accepted that working and caring are two separate entities. We had to talk about ‘balancing’ the two different areas, where care was pushed into the sidelines as something secondary.
Now, we are realising (in a painful way) that if we don’t care for each other, nothing is possible. If the pandemic has highlighted this concept, then our sacrifices have not been made in vain.
As I’ve mentioned above – we are looking to reframe this discourse and put the focus on bringing the two together.
What does the new partnership with the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) mean for the company?
We are thrilled to have partnered with the wonderful NICA team, who have lent their world-leading expertise in human experience to help us perfect our Lifeed Caregivers program – our digital training program for employees who care for a relative.
Millions of employees across the UK act as unpaid carers, which has grown by an extra 4.5m due to COVID-19. We hope to unlock the unique soft skills this experience has developed in people, and by bringing together complementary skills, expertise and intelligence between ourselves and NICA, we’re excited to bring a new product to market that will help create a culture of care within organisations.