A changed perspective, pension freedoms and flexible working
Steve Scott shares his story
The 17th August 2019, apart from being ‘World honey bee’ day and ‘Black Cat Appreciation’ day, also became ‘Glad to be Alive’ day for me and marked three years since I, unknowingly at the time, had a heart attack.
In an effort to try and lose a bit of weight and get a little fitter, I had rekindled an old love of playing badminton, this time with a few colleagues after work on a Wednesday evening at a sports centre close to the office.
On this occasion, after having played for about half an hour I experienced some pains in the centre of my chest and kept feeling the need to cough and try and clear something. I sat out for about 10 minutes but then carried on playing for the rest of the session.
Stupidly I brushed aside my wife’s concerns when I got home and said I probably had the beginnings of a chest infection, took two paracetamol, went to bed, got up the next day and went off to a meeting in London.
Bizarrely, whilst in the meeting, I missed a call from my niece saying that my brother had been taken in to hospital with a heart problem and they would be keeping him in for observation. On returning home, my wife, wisely, had booked an appointment with my GP who, on confirming this was no chest infection, sent me off to A&E for tests.
To cut an already long story short(er), the hospital confirmed that I had indeed had a heart attack and admitted me to the same ward that my brother was on! The next day I had a stent fitted and my brother and I spent the next four days in hospital in beds next to each other being looked after by the very brilliant heart team at Croydon University Hospital.
Now the purpose of this story is not to bore you with my family’s medical history but to tell you how some events in life have a very profound effect on how you view things and, very much, put things in perspective.
Fast forward a year and having long held a dream of owning a bolthole somewhere warm and sunny my wife and I, whilst on holiday in Spain, decided to free up some pension money, re-jig the mortgage and buy a second home.
This is, in part, possible due to the fact that you can access your pension fund and draw off tax free cash after the age of 55 and do not have to actually retire – thank you pension freedoms!
Whilst this may, to some, seem mad, it is something we would probably never have got around to doing without the realisation of how quickly things in life can change and how you should pursue your dreams if that is truly what you want. (Of course, taking benefits early isn’t right for everyone – so anyone considering this option should always take professional financial advice first).
Fast forward another two years and for us, it has probably been one of the best decisions we have ever made. Not only has it given us the bolthole we desired but has opened up a whole new way of living. With low-cost flights and car hire we can visit quite a few times a year and, with a very accommodating and forward-thinking employer in Punter Southall Aspire, I can even work from there, as we have a good internet connection. This allows me to spend time at the house and not have to use all of my holiday to be there.
Embracing flexible working
I realise that this would not be an option for a more manual worker but in a world where so much can be carried out online or over the phone it really does not matter where our base is any more. This means that we do not have to live in the middle of expensive cities, we can live further out and contribute to more local economies. We can reduce our carbon footprint by not having to commute each day and only travel when necessary, thus reducing stress - something which is particularly relevant now that far more emphasis is being placed on the mental health of employees.
You will have seen a couple of blogs recently from our CEO Steve Butler regarding his recently published book “Manage The Gap: Achieving Success With Intergenerational Teams" which, amongst other things, covers making remote working more effective. Being both an older employee and a home worker this option is a godsend and, I feel, improves my performance along with my mental and physical health.
So for any employer out there with staff who are office-based you should be giving this due consideration for your workforce; it could prove that not only is home really where the heart is but also pay dividends for your business as well.